Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Vulgar Translation


I read a news story today that both thrilled and boggled my mind.
The Jamaican people speak a creole language called Jamaican patois. 
For the first time,
the Word of God will be coming to them in their native tongue.
And they are overjoyed.

But not everyone is happy.
There are those who who call it a vulgar translation.
Some English-speakers object to it,
because 'creole is no substitute for English',
and 'it has to resort to coarse expressions to make its meaning clear'.

"Even those (Patois) words 
that we would want to use to fully explain what was in the original, 
are words that are vulgar."

Wow.
I guess that bishop must not have read Ezekiel very closely.
Even in English, that pure and holy language,
Ezekiel translates pretty coarsely.

The same objections were raised when God's Word was translated
into... um, English.
And German.
And any number of coarse, vile, low-born languages.

We are people, down here on earth.
People made of dirt.
And God in His mercy translated the Word Himself 
into the vulgar dirt of a human body.

I've birthed four children, and it was not immaculate.
God sent His Son into our world the same way I came in --
pushed out in a mess of vile fluids,
and put to the breast of a woman
who surely needed a bath after birthing in an animal shed.
He touched contagious lepers, and His feet needed washing.

It is odd to me that anyone is concerned
about the dirt of our language touching His word,
when He came -- the Word made flesh -- and touched the dirt of our sin.
He cooked breakfast for His disciples,
and stripped off His clothes to wash their dirty feet,
and offered His wounds to their probing fingers.
He, in His righteousness,
was sentenced to death and tortured by sinners.
That's pretty vulgar.
But it's true.
And that Truth sets those who believe it free.

Come to think of it, it is true:
creole is no substitute for English --
to an English-speaker.
And English is no substitute for creole to a creole-speaker.

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, 
and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 
And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, 
devout men, from every nation under heaven. 
Now when this was noised abroad, 
the multitude came together, and were confounded, 
because every man heard them speak in his own language. 
And they were all amazed, and marveled, saying one to another, 
Behold, are not all these who speak Galileans? 
And how do we hear every man in our own language, 
wherein we were born? 
...We hear them speak in our languages 
the wonderful works of God."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Before the Face of the Lord


"Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit,
and prophesied, saying:
'Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
for He has visited and redeemed His people, 
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of His servant David...
That we should be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us,
to perform the mercy promised to our fathers
and to remember His holy covenant,
the oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
might serve Him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to His people
by the remission of their sins,
through the tender mercy of our God,
with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.'"
~ From Luke 1

Personally, I love to read the prophecies spoken of His work,
of the Father's heart of mercy
and peace
and salvation
and love
and reconciliation
and good will toward men.
Oh, how it moves me.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.
And we mark our history by it.
All  the fullness of the Godhead bodily dwelling in Him.

How?!
How could He contain His glory in a dirt-body?
To be ministered to by sinners?
To be the visible show of God's requirements fulfilled,
the voice of His love to us,
the touch of the Father to the poor.
To the sinner.
To the leper.
To the lame and blind and to the women.
To the 'racially impure' Samaritans.
A friend to fishermen.
To tax collectors and zealots.
The political radicals and the cautious theologians.
The ruined whores of society.
He restored them all.
He put His calloused hands on the contagious outcasts,
and He stretched them out Himself on the cross.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

He Never Deprives Me


"But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1 Corinthians 6:17)

This falls in the middle of a passage about the Christian and his sex life.
It goes on to say, "Flee sexual immorality."
I've known that for a long time.

But the other day, I started thinking about this,
which is just a few more verses in:
"Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her,
and likewise also the wife to her husband.
The wife does not have authority over her own body,
but the husband does.
And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body,
but the wife does.
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time,
that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer;
and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you
because of your lack of self-control...
Now to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord:
A wife is not to depart from her husband...
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife,
and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband,
otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy."

The material part of this passage
has always seemed simple enough to understand to me.
But as I thought it over the other day, something else began to be clear.

In Ephesians 5 it says,
"Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies.
He that loveth his own wife loveth himself:
for no man ever hated his own flesh;
but nourisheth and cherisheth it,
even as Christ also the church;
because we are members of his body.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother,
and shall cleave to his wife;
and the two shall become one flesh.
This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. 
Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself;
and let the wife see that she fear her husband."

When the mystery is brought into it,
the rendering of affection takes on a whole new meaning.
How He ought to be adored is far more than I have ever given Him.
But Christ has given Himself body and soul to me.
To be joined in one spirit with me.
And He never fails to render affection to me, though it is certainly not my due.
But it is His due, with all certainty.
And how often I am cold and unresponsive to Him.
And oh, how to even think of the authority He allows me with Him --
and my failure to reciprocate.

He gives Himself to me to withstand temptation,
knowing my lack of self-control --
and He never deprives me of Himself.
He makes Himself provision for my failure.
How stupid for me to depart from Him,
seeing He is my sanctification.
I am the 'unbelieving wife' in this little life-picture.
He is the one who makes my fruit holy, my 'children', in a sense.
In departing from Him, they're all unclean.

In loving me, Christ loves Himself,
because He has permanently joined me to Himself.
And He ministers to my needs as though they were His.
He cleaves to me.
And shall I not worship Him?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Connections


"My days are like a shadow that lengthens,
and I wither away like grass.
But You, O Lord, shall endure forever,
and the remembrance of Your name to all generations...
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You will endure;
Yes, they will all grow old like a garment;
Like a cloak You will change them,
and they will be changed.
But You are the same,
and Your years will have no end.
The children of Your servants will continue,
and their descendants will be established before You."
~From Psalm 102

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them,
and they follow Me.
And I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all;
no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.
I and My Father are one."
~From John 10

"Fight the good fight of faith,
lay hold on eternal life,
to which you were called...
I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things...
who alone has immortality,
dwelling in unapproachable light,
whom no man has seen or can see,
to whom be honor and everlasting power."
~From 1 Timothy 6

"That which was from the beginning,
which we have heard,
which we have seen with our eyes,
which we have looked upon,
and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life--
the life was manifested,
and we have seen, and bear witness,
and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father
and was manifested to us--
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you,
that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son Jesus Christ."
~From 1 John 1

"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth,
for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,
and He will dwell with them,
and they shall be His people.
God Himself will be with them and be their God.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain,
for the former things have passed away.'
Then He who sat on the throne said,
'Behold, I make all things new...'"
~From Revelation 21

Sometimes I read one place in the Word,
and the connections form,
and it all grows clearer.
And brighter.
Even so, Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Geometry of Sound


My husband and I took my ten-year-old and his cousin
to the Boston Museum of Science over the weekend.
I took a lot of pictures,
but failed to take a picture of the thing that most captured me.

I came around a corner and saw (and heard) my husband using a bow
to stroke the side of a metal square with sand scattered over the top of it.
There was a round disk next to it for the same purpose.
I had no idea what he was doing, and stood and watched.
There was a video playing next to it, demonstrating what to do.
Basically, when you struck the right tone using the bow,
and the sound vibration was pure,
the sand formed a geometric pattern on the square.

Before my eyes I watched the chaos of the sand etch an x across the square.
Perfectly straight lines from corner to corner.
"Do the other one!" I said.
When the sound rang out, the sand obeyed it
and organized itself into six perfect spokes.

I have heard people talk about the relationship
between math and music and art before.
I'm not very mathematically-minded.
And I love and appreciate music, but am not at all a creator of it.
I like to dabble with different forms of art.
But the whole relationship between them had never been so clear in my mind.

I watched in wonder as the sound -- the tone  --
(dare I say 'the word'?) made music and math visible.
I don't understand it at all.
But it stuns me.

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
The earth was without form and void; 
and darkness was on the face of the deep. 
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 
Then God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light..." 
~Genesis 1

"For by Him all things were created 
that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, 
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. 
All things were created through Him and for Him. 
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist."
~Colossians 1:16,17

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, 
being understood by the things that are made, 
even His eternal power and Godhead, 
so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, 
they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, 
but became futile in their thoughts..."
~Romans 1:20,21

 You can watch a Youtube video of a cymatic experiment here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Meditation of Bread

A few weeks ago I was given a different brand of whole wheat flour
than I have been using.
Suddenly my bread recipe,
which I had tweaked for some time to get right, failed me.
I wasn't doing anything different other than using another brand.
I have to think about bread again.

Since I began making the bread we eat, I think about bread often.
Is there any bread?
Is there enough bread?
I had better make bread.
Will the bread rise?
Are the ratios right?
Bread is a daily thought.

But then recently, I decided to give a sourdough starter a try --
one I started myself, and didn't receive as a ready gift.
Now bread is an always thought.

I peer into the bowl.
Is it alive yet?
Any signs of life at all?
I smell it.
I watch it.
I feed it.
I wait for it.
I read for hours about it.
I study different schools of thought about it,
and make decisions about which care it will receive.
I plan ahead for its future.
I have hopes for this bread.
For a future of bread and more bread from it.
For pancakes
and cinnamon rolls
and boules
and rolls.
Maybe.
If I can only tell if it's healthy.

Last night I researched signs of health for my bread.
And I discovered I was starving it.
So I fed it an appropriate amount, and it liked it!
Oh, the joy.
I have been feeding it and watching it all day,
and I think it might be on the verge of being perfect --
for a young sourdough starter.
It doubled today.

So I researched 'proofing the sponge'.
Now I watch again anxiously.
Is it working?
Will it rise?
I smell it.
I wait for it.
I think about it while I do the dishes,
washing all the doughy mess from my bowls and utensils.
I wonder if I understand the Bible passages about leaven.
I wonder if in our buy-ten-loaves-of-bread-
and-stick-them-in-our-freezers culture
if I've understood at all.
I think about the feast of unleavened bread,
and I wonder what it means.
What it really means.
And about the purging out of old leaven,
and if it's what I just did when I dumped half the starter down the sink.

And I think about the kingdom of heaven,
and the womanly tasks He described it with.
About leaven, and about lost money,
and the thorough sweeping she did when she lost it.
I think about my Mom and the sometimes days
when she lost money in her checkbook,
and sent us all away so she could balance months' worth of transactions,
'thoroughly sweeping' until she found it.
Or when she maybe lost a check,
and how the entire office had to be ransacked
and set back in order until it was found.
And my mind goes back to the bread.

He put it into His teaching to His disciples on how to pray.
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...

And it makes me smile as I realize
that the meditation of the bread
has brought me full circle to His kingdom.
To His care for me and my bread.
To His holiness.
To the hope of justice and the concern for His will.
To forgiveness.
The asking for it.
The giving of it.
Because man shall not live on bread alone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Commending Ourselves To God


"Now concerning things offered to idols:
We know that we have all knowledge.
Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.
And if anyone thinks that he knows anything,
he knows nothing yet as he ought to know.
But if anyone loves God,
this one is known by Him."

It was an interesting approach to the discussion
about the eating of spiritually contaminated foods.
He goes on to say in a few verses,
"Food does not commend us to God;
for neither if we eat are we the better,
nor if we do not eat are we the worse."

But what gave me pause this morning
were the first three verses of 1 Corinthians 8.
Our knowledge is no way to come to God.
It is our love for Him that commends us to Him.
So that the heady apologist nitpicking doctrine
is not the one taken note of in heaven.
The woman with her broken inheritance
and the perfume in her hair has a name with Him.

Our knowledge falls short of what it should know,
and will as long as we inhabit these bodies.
But love never falls short with Him.
Knowledge will be humbled,
but Love is already prostrate at His feet,
forgiven, defended, and first to witness new life.

I want to increase in my love of Him.
Not to sit at the table disdaining Him and disdaining Love:
If He was really a prophet, 
He would know what manner of woman was touching Him, 
that she is a sinner.
There sits Knowledge,
judging the Judge and the recipient of His mercy:
a friend of God.
The greater of these is love.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

All Are Yours


"Therefore let no one boast in men.
For all things are yours:
whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world
or life
or death
or things present
or things to come --
all are yours.
And you are Christ's,
and Christ is God's."
~1 Corinthians 3:21,22

I read this the other morning, and it stopped me short.
Death belongs to us?
It's been something to ponder.
Death is mine.
I own it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

They That Worship


"Our fathers worshipped in this mountain;
and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."
Jesus saith unto her, "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh,
when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,
shall ye worship the Father.
Ye worship that which ye know not:
we worship that which we know;
for salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour cometh, and now is,
when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth:
for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers.
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:20-24

This is a passage which I have always read and passed, slightly confused.
I think it began to open to me today.

For some time, I have been aware of a "Christian" materialism
that seeps into our hearts.
It denies the spiritual in all but name.
It acts without regard to the leading of the Holy Spirit,
without hope in the active presence of God,
and without any attention to the Christ at all.
It's a deadly plague, in my opinion.

Some time back, in paying attention to Elijah's first spoken words in the Scripture,
("As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand..."),
I found myself praying that I would see the unseen.
Sometimes I have wondered if that was a well-advised prayer.
Because I start seeing Him best in sorrow, it seems.

"I heard, and my body trembled, My lips quivered at the voice;
Rottenness entereth into my bones, and I tremble in my place;
Because I must wait quietly for the day of trouble,
For the coming up of the people that invadeth us.
For though the fig-tree shall not flourish, Neither shall fruit be in the vines;
The labor of the olive shall fail, And the fields shall yield no food;
The flock shall be cut off from the fold, And there shall be no herd in the stalls:
Yet I will rejoice in Jehovah, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Jehovah, the Lord, is my strength;
And he maketh my feet like hinds' feet,
And will make me to walk upon my high places."
Habakkuk 3:16-19

Jesus said that the Father was seeking those
who would worship Him in spirit and in truth.
And true worship continues, though the material world fails utterly.
But I wonder if the Lord not only looks for those worshippers,
but in a sense builds them out of us?
So many of the Psalms express devastation in the midst of worship.
Or perhaps even as a prerequisite to true worship.
That passage in Habakkuk shows a turning of the heart
from the material to the spiritual, I think.
We become aware of our existence first here in the material world,
and we worship in the material.
We have to learn to see the unseen.
To be His when no fruit is on the vine and all the material fails.

The Samaritan woman asked Jesus where the right place was to worship.
But God is Spirit.
He isn't confined to Jerusalem or Samaria --
to times of plenty, and locations of holiness.
In declaring a major drought, Elijah said he stood and lived before the Lord.
"By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph;
and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff."
Hebrews 11:21

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Thirst


"They said therefore among themselves, 
'Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,' 
that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: 
They divided My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots.' 
Therefore the soldiers did these things..."

"After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, 
that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, 'I thirst!' 
Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; 
and they filled a sponge with sour wine, 
put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, 
He said, 'It is finished!' 
And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit."
~ John 19:24, 28-30

I read these things to my children tonight, and wondered as I read them.
Jesus said at another time that He did always
those things that pleased the Father.
He gave up His spirit when He had fulfilled
every jot and tittle of God's will for Him.
Right down to His thirst.
His thirst was in perfect harmony with His Father's plan.
Psalm 22:15 describes it: My strength is dried up like a potsherd, 
and My tongue clings to My jaws; 
You have brought me to the dust of death.

All His desires submitted to His Father's will.
Even those desires that were pain to Him.
He would not leave until He had suffered those, too.
God's hand was involved
in the distribution of His belongings to His persecutors.
This stuns me to think of.
And I wonder, are my desires the Father's desires?
Am I thirsting because He's dried up my mouth?
It seems like we assume if we thirst we're not doing His will.
But perhaps this thirst, this need, this dried up strength
is what the Father has for me.

My grandmother, in her last few days here on this earth,
was receiving hospice care.
Too weak to leave her bed, the hospice nurse asked her,
"What is it you would like?"
And in her barely audible whisper, my grandma said,
"To do the will of the Lord."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Beauty For Ashes



She was born in 1935 in Oklahoma in her grandmother's house in Love County.
Not even her own house.
The town is nearly empty now.

If you've read American history,
you know that Oklahoma in 1935 was an ecological disaster.
An unheard of catastrophe.
Her family joined the largest migration
in the shortest amount of time in U.S. history,
and moved to California.
They picked cotton when she was five.
They picked prunes.
Her father dug tunnels for the mines.
He worked on roofs and at carpentry.
Her grandfather died before she was four of TB,
leaving her father to provide for his own wife and children
and his family of origin.
He had three older sisters, three younger sisters, and two younger brothers.
Her grandfather's brother also died of TB.
My Grandma and her brother came down with TB.
It required 15 months or more in a TB hospital when she was six --
which is where she was first taught to knit by a nurse.
Two older women from the Assemblies of God church
traveled out to where she lived in Northern California,
and began a Sunday School.
She went with a number of other children from her neighborhood,
and in 1945 was baptized in the creek.

There were four children when her home was broken.
Her father remarried and moved to Alaska.
Her mother remarried a man with four children,
two of which joined their household.
Being the only girl in the home,
at 14 she had the responsibility of making breakfast for six,
getting lunches for them all, doing all the dishes,
making the beds, and getting them to school.
They were late.

In 1949 she came home from school one day and a neighbor said,
"You all's house burned down."
Her stepfather had the top of his head burned
by the fire that came under the door of the room he was sleeping in.
In 1952 Papa's family moved into the area.
She told me once when I asked her about Papa,
that he had asked her seven times to marry him before she said yes.
His final winning proposal was, "When are you going to marry me?"

Mother to five children, she took in two more while hers were still young.
She has so many grandchildren (both real and adopted)
that we have difficulty counting ourselves. 22?
And great grandchildren? I think 20.
But her habit of adopting those who might need a 'bonus grandma'
has spread to her own children,
and those have been accepted in just as readily as her own.

I doubt she has left any money to her heirs,
because she probably spent it all on gasoline and Motel 6 and postage stamps.
Every one of us has something she made with her own hands.
She gave up knitting when she learned how to crochet,
and her hands have been busy with it for many years.
I never saw her when she wasn't giving something to someone.
She opened her trunk as soon as she drove up
and came up with something for each grandchild.
If she didn't have something, she sat down and made something.
And if it wasn't finished by the time she had to leave, she mailed it.
She gave to her children,
and she gave to her grandchildren,
and she gave to her great grandchildren,
and she gave to old people in homes,
and she gave to homeless people,
and the babies of strangers.
And just this week, in characteristic fashion,
she made the plans final that she has always intended.
She gave her body to science.

Her life began in the ashes of what might be called a plague.
But it has been a life of love, and forgiveness, and thankfulness and praise.
A legacy of grace.
When she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she said,
"What I know is that the Bible says
'He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.'"

She had four generations of her family around her in her final weeks,
praying with her, singing with her.
She made videos for her children and grandchildren,
reminding them of the truths in Philippians
which she had been in the habit of telling them for many years.
"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me -- and that means you."

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; 
because the LORD hath anointed me to publish good tidings to the meek; 
he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, 
and the day of vengeance of our God; 
to comfort all that mourn; 
To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, 
to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, 
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; 
that they may be called trees of righteousness, 
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. 
~From Isaiah 61

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our Outward Man


I was not looking for what I found.
I was looking for the second passage.
But this one came up first:

But the LORD said to Samuel, 
Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; 
because I have refused him: 
for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; 
for man looketh on the outward appearance, 
but the LORD looketh on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7

I was looking for this one to contemplate:

So then death worketh in us, but life in you. 
But having the same spirit of faith, 
according to that which is written, 
I believed, and therefore did I speak; 
we also believe, and therefore also we speak; 
knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus 
shall raise up us also with Jesus, 
and shall present us with you. 
For all things are for your sakes, 
that the grace, being multiplied through the many, 
may cause the thanksgiving to abound unto the glory of God. 
Wherefore we faint not; 
but though our outward man is decaying, 
yet our inward man is renewed day by day. 
For our light affliction, which is for the moment, 
worketh for us more and more exceedingly 
an eternal weight of glory; 
while we look not at the things which are seen, 
but at the things which are not seen: 
for the things which are seen are temporal; 
but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:12-18

As our outward man perishes, our inward man is renewed.
The outward grows weak and frail, gasping for breath.
The inward grows stronger, breathing Spirit-life.
Outwardly too weak to sing, she makes a silent noise.
More frequently, she forgets herself.
But she remembers Him.
"Jesus."
She remembers that 'He who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it.'

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The End of Your Faith


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
who according to his great mercy 
begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 
unto an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, 
and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 
who by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation 
ready to be revealed in the last time. 
Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, 
ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, 
that the proof of your faith, 
being more precious than gold that perisheth though it is proved by fire, 
may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: 
whom not having seen ye love; 
on whom, though now ye see him not, 
yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 
receiving the end of your faith, 
even the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:3-9

From November 12th

Here I sit,
looking at pictures of family at grandma's house,
where I am not,
and feeling glum.
The blind next to me is closed,
but an inch of the edge of it has curled somewhat at the top,
and the moon is hanging in the crack,
reminding me that God is with me,
and He is with Grandma,
and He can see through my window blinds.
Thank You, Father.

Monday, November 14, 2011

But In Every Thing With Thanksgiving


When I asked for the comfort that the Lord had given my brothers and sisters
in times of suffering and grief,
a number of people responded, sharing their manna, so to speak.
Although many comforting things were shared,
two verses were given several times.
Often when the Lord has spoken to me,
it has been in the sharing of the same verse from multiple sources.
So I took particular notice of these:

For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the LORD, 
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, 
to give you an expected end.
Jeremiah 29:11

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

And my Grandma has so often repeated to me:

Be anxious for nothing; 
but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God. 
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, 
will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 4:6,7

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

But my God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Grandma made a video recently to remind her offspring of these verses from Philippians.
Chapter 4 -- her most-quoted words of wisdom to us.
It is fitting that the last verse in her favorite chapter of her favorite book says,  
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Amen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Will You Share?

 
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
Would those of you have suffered losses and griefs mind sharing with me and my family the comfort the Lord gave you? Some of you are aware that two people in our close family are suffering very much right now. Well, it isn't just two -- all of us are hurting. My mom's oldest brother has been stricken down for quite some time -- he was given just a few weeks to live earlier in the summer, and we were recently given a diagnosis of stage 3b or 4 lung cancer for my grandma. 
I'd like to share in the comfort you have personally received from the Lord, and I would like for my hurting family members to share it, too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Whatever Things


I had a child tonight whose antics were irritating me immensely.
Again and again I went upstairs to correct and rebuke
and finally shut his door and turned off the lights
because he kept getting up and keeping his brother up.
Within five minutes I heard more action, and prayed for wisdom and gentleness.
Gentleness is not mine by nature.
And parenting makes me feel bankrupt of wisdom often.
Oh, how I need His help.

I climbed the stairs wearily at 11 pm, saw the lights back on, and the doors open.
I went into the sinner's room and said quietly,
"This is outright rebellion. You are in complete defiance of what I asked of you."
He began to cry.
I sat down on his bed.
He apologized for it, but excused it because he was scared.
I told him it was wrong to obey fear and disobey his mom.

I asked him what he was thinking about.
At first it was 'I don't know,' but after a few minutes
he admitted he was thinking about scary things -- monsters and stuff.

And I think the Lord gave me wisdom.
I opened his Bible and turned to Philippians chapter 4.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, 
whatever things are honest, 
whatever things are just, 
whatever things are pure, 
whatever things are lovely, 
whatever things are of good report; 
if there is any virtue, 
and if there is any praise, 
think on these things. 
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: 
and the God of peace will be with you."
And then I talked to him about practicing those thoughts.

We began with thinking of and saying out loud things that were good -- 'God bringing Seth into my life'.
Lovely? -- 'looking out the window of an airplane and seeing the clouds brush the wings'.
Then I taught him the ABC game.
Naming something about God's character for every letter of the alphabet.
It's just an exercise in taking your thoughts captive. It gives you a framework for meditation.
You might even argue that David did it if you are a reader of Hebrew.
The Psalms several times use alphabetical acrostics.

My son's eyes lit up as he racked his brain for each word. We took turns.
'D' stumped him. I offered him a suggestion: Daddy.
He looked puzzled. "He's our daddy?"
I nodded, smiling. "The Bible says that the Holy Spirit puts it into our hearts to call Him 'Abba, Father'.
'Abba' means 'Daddy.'"

We read more of Philippians 4 together, and it ministered to me, too.
I wish I always seized an opportunity, instead of getting mad.
Maybe that's what redeeming the time is --
grabbing back the cause of anger or irritation or anxiety, and turning it into the right path.
I came downstairs at 11:30 edified and reminded to put my mind on things above,
and the God of peace will be with me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thee


'“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.
...What can be more astounding than the unfounded doubts and fears of God’s favoured people?
“How can I have forgotten thee, when I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands? 
How darest thou doubt my constant remembrance, 
when the memorial is set upon my very flesh?” 
O unbelief, how strange a marvel thou art!
We know not which most to wonder at,
the faithfulness of God or the unbelief of his people.

He keeps his promise a thousand times, and yet the next trial makes us doubt him.
He never faileth; he is never a dry well;
he is never as a setting sun, a passing meteor, or a melting vapour;
and yet we are as continually vexed with anxieties,
molested with suspicions, and disturbed with fears, as if our God were the mirage of the desert.
“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration.
Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling.
Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness
to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of his hands.

I have graven thee.
It does not say, “Thy name.”
The name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven thee.
See the fulness of this!
I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, 
thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, 
thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works; 
I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; 
I have put thee altogether there. 
Wilt thou ever say again that thy God hath forsaken thee
when he has graven thee upon his own palms?'
~From Morning and Evening, C.H. Spurgeon

Monday, November 7, 2011

And Who Is My Neighbor?


Yesterday at church we sang a song that included this:
"Praise to the lamb that was slain
Praise to the Father who gave His son away
The proof of love, the price of grace
You traded all to take my place
And died for me so I can be a child of God"


And I pondered Him.
That when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, 
and with all thy soul, 
and with all thy mind. 
This is the great and first commandment. 
And a second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 
On these two commandments the whole law hangs, and the prophets."

And then of course, the question from our representative of mankind, "And who is my neighbor?"

Have you ever thought about how the Father saw His enemies?
That seeing our condition --
our blasphemous iniquity,
our adulterous fidelity,
and our religious hypocrisy --
that He gave His Son away in order that we might be saved.

The Father did not write the Law, so much as He is the Law.
The Law reveals His nature.
He gave His Son because He is the Law.
The Law demands justice, and the Law commands love.
And He is both.
He is the justice of God, and the love of God.

All His motivations in His dealings with men fulfill that which we cannot fulfill.
Love your enemies.
Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you.
Pray for those who despitefully use you.
Do unto others what you would have them do to you.
Give to those who ask of you.
If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him a drink.

Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you've seen the Father."
And consider what we see when we look at Him --
a man who was reviled without reviling again;
a man praying for his persecutors;
a man feeding hungry people;
giving to those who asked of Him;
touching the untouchables;
who forgives not seven times, but seventy times seven;
whose obedience to the Father was unto death;
whose love for His brethren was until the end.

The Father gave His Son.
His Beloved Son, in Whom He is well-pleased.
Would I give my son for my enemy?
Not likely.
I would sacrifice my enemy for my son.

But not Him.
He loves His neighbor, and His neighbor is His enemy.
And He valued His enemy with the same value as Himself --
giving up His most precious possession to buy back haters.
And I was His enemy.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

He Fixed His Gaze


"Those who take no other guidance in the spiritual life
but their particular dispositions and feelings,
who fancy that they have nothing more important to do
than to examine themselves as to whether they feel devout or not,
such can have no stability nor any certain rule;
because our dispositions change continually,
sometimes owing to our own sloth,
sometimes by the ordinance of God,
who varies His gifts towards us according to our needs...
Our good brother, on the other hand, kept steadfastly in the Way of Faith...
Instead of watching his dispositions
or stopping to test the way in which he walked,
he fixed his gaze on God alone, the Goal of his race,
and sped along towards Him by daily acts of meekness and righteousness and love.
He set himself to do, rather than to reflect on what to do."

~From The Character of Brother Lawrence

Thursday, October 27, 2011

And Brings Up


"The LORD kills,
and makes alive:
He brings down to the grave,
and brings up."
~1 Samuel 2:6

A friend of mine put this verse up as a status update the other day.
It's not one of those verses that make you feel happy if you look at it wrong.
But for the first time, I noticed its order.
It doesn't say, "The Lord gives you life and then He kills you.
First you live, and then you're buried."
It says, "He brings down, and brings you up."

Jesus received word from friends that He loved:
"Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick."
It says He loved them.
And it is apparent that they knew He loved them.
They summoned Him on the basis of their friendship.
And He did not come.
He let him die.
And He told His disciples that the sickness was not unto death.

"Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep," He said.
The disciples thought that was a good sign.
I think it's kind of funny that they had the Author of Life with them,
and they're still trying to discern signs of hope when a friend is deathly ill.
So then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead."
Thomas's response: "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
Isn't that what so deeply wounds us when we face the death of our loved ones?
I'm next.
Death comes for us all.

Martha's first words to Jesus are, "If You had been here, he wouldn't be dead!
Even now, whatever You ask, I know God will give You."
God doesn't listen to my prayers... but I know He hears You. 
Jesus said to her, "Thy brother shall rise again."
She gives a theologically sound response: Yes, at the resurrection.
At that magical time at the end of the age... 
He wanted  her to understand that He is Life, He is Resurrection,
and faith in Him envelops us in His Life.
"He that believes on Me, though he die, yet shall he live; 
and whosoever lives and believes on Me shall never die. 
Do you believe this?"

Mary came, and had the same reproach for Him.
When I read Mary's words I think she was more accusatory than her sister Martha.
More struck down.
It says that when He saw Mary's weeping,
He was troubled and groaned in His spirit.
He didn't reason with Mary in her grief.
He wept, and He demonstrated.
He called her brother right out of the grave.
Out of the decay of four days' rotting.
"And he that was dead came forth,
bound hand and foot with grave-clothes;
and his face was bound about with a napkin.
Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go."

One day, we will each hear Him,
still calling us by name though we are dead.
"Come here!"
"I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob..."
And, bound in our death wraps, we'll obey.
And He will say, "Loose her, and let her go."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Forgive


My children told me the other night a story about my nephew and niece.
My nephew was running distractedly past his sister on his way somewhere
and accidentally hit her on the way through.
My niece, being a fury,
and determined to protect herself against her bigger brothers,
flew at him in a rage, jumping on him.

At this point, my son Silas told me
that one day when he was visiting his cousins,
he had been running through a bedroom and had fallen on my niece,
"and she didn't even get mad at me and jump on me!"

I keep thinking about it.
How a brother's failure that hurts you must be avenged for the malicious intent...
but the cousin who does the same thing is given the benefit of the doubt.
Surely it was an accident, and was not intended for my harm.

"Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another 
whenever any of you has a complaint against someone else. 
You must forgive one another just as the Lord has forgiven you."
~Colossians 3:13


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Light Walks With Me

'Be content with such things as you have.
For He Himself has said, 

"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
So we may boldly say,
"The Lord is my helper; I will not fear..."
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.'

~Hebrews 13:5-8

With such things as I have?
Wow. So often those things are not things that leave me feeling content.
Have you just had distressing, devastating news?
Be content with that?
With pain? With depression?
With a diagnosis of death?
Or a future expectation of loss?

I was speaking with my children tonight
about living as children of light, here -- in the dark.
That passage gives a reason for our contentment.
We have His promise!
Here, in the dark, He will not leave me alone.
Here, in the night, the Dayspring from on high dwells with me.
The Lamp to my feet, and the Light to my path walks with me-- the Word made flesh.

"I will never leave you, nor forsake you," He said.
"I am your God and will take care of you 
until you are old and your hair is gray. 
I made you and will care for you; 
I will give you help..."
(Isaiah 46:4)

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.
He has helped me.
He does help me.
He will help me.

For thou wilt light my lamp: 
Jehovah my God will lighten my darkness.
And He does not change.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In Our Weakness


"In the time of struggle
we ought to have recourse to God with perfect confidence,
abiding steadfast in the Presence of His Divine Majesty;
in lowly adoration we should tell out before Him our griefs and our failures,
asking Him lovingly for the succor of His grace;
and in our weakness we shall find in Him our strength."
~The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence

"Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory...
My heart and my flesh fail;
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever...
But it is good for me to draw near to God;
I have put my trust in the Lord God."
~from Psalm 73

"It is the schooling of the soul to find its joy in His Divine Companionship,
holding with Him at all times
and at every moment humble and loving converse,
without set rule or stated method,
in all time of our temptation and tribulation,
in all time of our dryness of soul and disrelish of God,
yes, and even when we fall into unfaithfulness and actual sin."
~The Spiritual Maxims of Brother Lawrence

"For we do not have a High Priest 
who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy
and find grace to help in time of need."
~Hebrews 4:15,16

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Handling These Themes

"Christ sends us into all the world to preach the gospel;
and every time we preach the Holy Ghost is present
to bring home the message to men’s hearts.
I confess that I am not sure if I preach on politics
or on the strikes that the Holy Ghost will bear witness to that teaching.
These may be important matters,
but the Spirit has been given to bear testimony to Jesus Christ.
I have not the sense of his presence in handling these themes,
if I ever venture on them; but I often do have it when preaching Christ,
even in the simplest way – the Holy Ghost co-witnessing
and bearing the message home to the hearts and consciences of men."
~ Adoniram Judson Gordon

The Word of The Lord

"Can I read you a Bible verse?" Talia asked.
"Yes."
She turned to Judges: "'Here is what you must do,' they said. 'Kill every male. Also kill every woman who is not a virgin.'"
"Thank you."
Another good reason not to play Bible roulette.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Thread Sewn Through

My niece wrote a letter to the Queen of England,
letting her know a little about her brothers,
and that she, sadly, lives too far from Her Majesty to come visit her.
Nevertheless, in a spirit of friendliness, she wrote her the letter.

The Queen's Lady in Waiting returned a very formal but appreciative letter
to my niece from Balmoral Castle,
expressing the Queen's pleasure at having received such a nice letter.
The Lady in Waiting's name contained a family name I recognized
(and was sent from a property I knew to have been associated with this family name),
and set me on the path of learning more about their migration to this country.
I remembered my Papa telling me they had settled in New England originally,
which surprised me to no end, since I was born in gold country.

Our earliest immigrant from Scotland did not come here of his own free will.
He fought against Oliver Cromwell,
and got shipped here as a prisoner of war in 1651 or 52.
Was sold as an indentured servant.
Was not released when his time was up, but sold again.
And was denied freedom when he sued in court for it.
Finally, he won his release years after he should have had it.
He moved to Exeter, New Hampshire,
where he married and helped found the town,
and began the American branch of the family.

I began to read more of his descendants, and my skin electrified.
An editor of two books of hymns,
who wrote at least fifteen himself -- one of which I have always loved,
and which 'has been included in nearly every evangelical hymn book
from 1876 to the present'.
My Papa sings. My mom sings.
My aunts and uncles and cousins sing.
My brothers and sisters and I and my children sing.
When we are gathered as a family, inevitably we sing to the Lord together.

A college founded to train missionaries to Africa.
A missionary who, with his wife, was killed in the Pacific islands.
My sister is a missionary in Africa.
Another spent a year in Eastern Europe.

A speaker in Dwight L. Moody's conventions.
There are a number of pastors in my family.

A book on the ministry of the Holy Spirit, endorsed by F.B. Meyer.
A quote: "You can do more than pray after you have prayed, 
but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed."
I have written before of the legacy of prayer my grandparents have left us.

And apparently, the valley my husband and I recently moved to
was also settled by descendants of this man.
My very town, even, has had members of his family
since one purchased land here in 1728.
In fact, I just reread a story of two brothers from the family
who were ambushed by natives within steps of where I explored
with my children the other day, in ignorance of it.
Near the same creek my son fell in.
It was like a whispered remembrance to me:
I have known you of old. And I do direct your steps.

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Produce Great Wines

I ate some wild grapes yesterday.
I read about them in a foraging book the day before,
and while my sister and I talked about foraging,
and looked at the plants and trees on the edge of the woods,
we looked up, and there they were.
It was an exciting discovery.
I saved a few seeds, because in my opinion, these were escaped concords.

I opened another book I am reading about homesteading last night.
I had reached the grapes section of the book,
and thought I would read a little about how to grow them from seed.

"All great wines have four important elements:
first, the grape; second, the climate;
third, the soil; and fourth, the skill of the winemaker -- in that order."

There I was, humming right along, when I came to this:
"To produce great wines, the vines must suffer."
I caught my breath.

"I am the Vine," He said, "and My Father is the vinedresser."
And it is His suffering that produces fruit in us.
"Abide in Me, and I in you."
And His Father's care for us--
to do the washing and the directing of the growth,
and the tending of the soil.
And fruit is what glorifies Him.
Vineyards gain fame when the wine is good.
What fruit does He want to see?
"That you love one another."
Because that is what comes of Him.

When I was a little girl, I visited people who owned vineyards.
We were allowed to run in the vineyards,
which to a small child appeared to stretch to the ends of the world.
It was a large-scale operation.
We were allowed to pick as many as we could eat,
and to make raisins in the sun.
It really was glorious.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Nearer To Us




"And Gideon said unto him, 
Oh, my lord, if Jehovah is with us, why then has all this befallen us? 
...but now Jehovah hath cast us off...  
And Jehovah looked upon him, and said, 
Go in this thy might, and save Israel ...have not I sent thee?  
And he said unto him, 
Oh, Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? 
behold, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, 
and I am the least in my father's house. 
And Jehovah said unto him, Surely I will be with thee..."

"But Jehovah had shut up her womb. 
And her rival provoked her sore, to make her fret, 
because Jehovah had shut up her womb. 
...When she went up to the house of Jehovah, so she provoked her; 
therefore she wept, and did not eat.
And she was in bitterness of soul, 
and prayed unto Jehovah, and wept sore.
...And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; 
and Jehovah remembered her."

"...And the women said, Is this Naomi? 
And she said unto them, 
Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; 
for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. 
I went out full, and Jehovah hath brought me home again empty; 
why call ye me Naomi, seeing Jehovah hath testified against me, 
and the Almighty hath afflicted me?
...And the women said unto Naomi, 
Blessed be Jehovah, who hath not left thee this day without a near kinsman; 
and let his name be famous in Israel. 
And he shall be unto thee a restorer of life, and a nourisher of thine old age, 
for thy daughter-in-law, who loveth thee, who is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. 
And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. 
And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, 
There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed..."

"Jehovah has cast us off."
"Jehovah has closed my womb."
"Jehovah has brought me home empty, 
testified against me, 
and afflicted me."

They were all perplexed by the trouble upon them.
And they were all in His direct view.
Loved and cared for.
He had their good in mind, although they could all ask,
"If God is with us, why has all this befallen us?"

"You need not cry very loud;
He is nearer to us than we are aware of."
~Brother Lawrence, from The Practice of the Presence of God

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A General Confidence


"We must serve God in a holy freedom;
we must do our business faithfully, without trouble or disquiet,
recalling our mind to God mildly, and with tranquility,
as often as we find it wandering from Him."

"Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules,
or particular forms of devotion,
but act with a general confidence in God,
with love and humility."

~Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Embroidering Color


"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true,
whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just,
whatever things are pure,
whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report,
if there is any virtue
and if there is anything praiseworthy --
meditate on these things."
~Philippians 4:8

I memorized this when I was ten. And was irritated by it. It seems so impossible in a world full of ugly. It requires a training of the mind. It isn't that ugly isn't there when you choose to look at beauty. But you can make a conscious choice to hope. To see light in His light. To suffer pain and sorrow, and still smile at your child's laugh.

In severe pain, when I saw no good future, and wondered if I was going to live, I could still see a lovely thing here and there. Just looking at the way the light falls on a rock wall, and the yellow leaves hanging over it, and noticing it, and absorbing its loveliness can minister to your soul. Choose to see.

Is it pretending to have a better life than you do? Not if it's true. The enemy would have us look at every dark corner, every squalid pain. I think of Corrie Ten Boom's book when she recounted the miserable colorless existence inside a cell. But she (or was it her sister?) pulled out colored threads and embroidered them onto her nightgown.

Lord, train our eyes to see and our hands to sew the colored threads You give into the drabness of our experiences.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

"Я дитя Бога"


My son was given a t-shirt by a dear friend's family who are missionaries to Ukraine. The shirt reads, "Я дитя Бога". A little over a week ago, we were shopping at Trader Joe's, which is a friendlier grocery store than we are accustomed to in these parts. It's delightful to be spoken to, helped cheerfully, and generally treated like we are valued customers.

An older man approached us while we shopped to see if we were finding everything we needed. He recommended a few items based on our likes. Then he spotted my son's shirt. "You have Ukrainian writing on your shirt!" he said. He seemed quite obviously excited to see it. He read it out loud. He said his family was Ukrainian. He struggled with the translation, although he could sound it out. He asked Isaiah if he knew what it meant.

"I am a child of God," Isaiah said.

Today I went back again, and as I walked with my four children and their two cousins I had charge of (so my sister could retrieve her husband from an airport), I heard a man say, "I recognize you! You had a shirt on with Ukrainian writing on it!"

I looked up and smiled and stopped to talk for a minute. He looked confused at the increase of children. I introduced my niece and nephew. I told him my nephew was born  in Ukraine. He spoke Ukrainian to him. My nephew looked back at him questioningly.

I explained, "He's been back in the states since he was very young. His dad's flying back from Ukraine today."

"Do you speak any Ukrainian?" he asked him.

"Yes," my nine-year-old nephew said, "just a little bit."

"Can I hear it?"

"Я дитя Бога," he answered. 

"Do you know what it means?" the man asked.

"It means, 'I am a child of God.'"

I did not plan that, but it's interesting to me that two Saturdays in a row this man has received the message "I am a child of God" from nine-year-old English-speaking American boys in the language of his family in a land far from their origins.  I'm going to add him to my prayer list. His name is Gary.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From the Journal


O my Father, O my Savior!
O my precious Friend and Lord!
You are holy, You are gentle,
and You save me by Your word.
Lift me up when I am fallen,
steady me -- my foot might slip.
Can I trust You're here beside me,
holding faster than my grip?
You alone are worth the trials --
You are prize enough for me.
You are Light in all this darkness;
touch my eyes so I can see.
When the suffering here is over,
when the losses cease at last,
I'll look up to see Your smile,
safe at home -- my hope held fast.
All the sorrows, all the losses,
every grief that e'er touched me
will have no power, no reminder,
to dull our joy in one degree.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When He Trusts


"Whosoever cometh unto Him, He will in no wise cast out.
Though dishonest as the thief,
though unchaste as the woman who was a sinner,
though fierce as Saul of Tarsus,
though cruel as Manasseh,
though rebellious as the prodigal,
the great heart of love will look upon the man who feels himself to have no soundness in him,
and will pronounce him clean,
when he trusts in Jesus crucified."
~C.H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, September 29

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something Jesus Would Never Want You To Do


When my husband and I were first married,
we were 'counseled' by Christians regarding the bearing of children:  
Yes, children are a blessing of the Lord, but God wants you to be wise.
As though receiving a blessing from the Lord could be unwise.

The problem, of course, is that those who give advice along these lines,
have made their wisdom the standard.
Setting our own opinions and preferences up
as the way to really honor God drives people from Him.

My son told me that years ago, a teacher told him,
"Tearing the papers off of crayons is something
Jesus would never want you to do."
Frankly, it made my heart hurt.
Because he said he believed her.
He thought he had sinned against God.
I wish I had known it sooner.

"If you really want to be a God-fearing person, 
you will wash your hands 
in the prescribed (but extra-biblical) manner 
before eating your food.
If you are truly a believer, you will keep a spotless house, 
so that others can see the cleanliness of Christ in your dust-free home.
If you are sold-out for Jesus, you will forfeit marriage 
in favor of communal living in an elder-dictated community.
Jesus would never walk with a cigarette-smoking sinner.
Give up your tobacco so Jesus will speak to you.
My preferences are God's preferences, 
and I can show you how to please Him."

Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."
And He didn't say a word against the tearing of crayon wrappers.
But He did have a few things to say against teaching men's opinions
in the place of God's requirements.

It causes a conflict when we read what God's word actually says.
We attribute evil to God when we see Him doing the things
men have told us are wrong to do.
But He is good, and He does good.
Or we hide ourselves from Him (and from our brothers and sisters in the Lord)
because we think He's angry.

And when it cost Him so much to give us access,
I don't think we're doing His work when we push others away from Him.
Furthermore, it trains the consciences of those we teach
to dismiss real evil as inconsequential
while carefully obeying worthless edicts.

That's not the Gospel.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Making More Sins Than God


My husband made a delicious dinner tonight.
The conversation was good, too.
We asked our kids a bunch of questions which weren't planned,
but which I think were important.

Do people ever dishonor marriage in the way that they live? (Yes.)
Should we, then, say Christians shouldn't get married?
Can we do evil things with money? (Yes!)
Is money evil? (No!)
Can we honor the Lord with money? (Yes!) 
If people might do evil things with money, maybe we should ban money.
Can we do evil things with our bodies? (Yes.)
Does that make our bodies evil? (No!)
Can we honor the Lord with our bodies? (Yes!)
Can we do evil things with meat? (Yes.)
What kind of evil things could you do with meat?
(You could take it away from hungry people! You could be a glutton!)
So is meat evil? (No!)
Can we use meat in a way that honors the Lord? (Yes!)
Maybe, since people can use meat in a way that is evil, all meat should be destroyed.

There is an interesting passage in 1 Timothy 4:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times 
some will depart from the faith, 
giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 
speaking lies in hypocrisy... 
forbidding to marry, 
and commanding to abstain from foods 
which God created to be received with thanksgiving; 
for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 
If you instruct the brethren in these things, 
you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, 
nourished in the words of faith 
and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. 
But reject profane and old wives' fables, 
and exercise yourself toward godliness. 
For bodily exercise profits a little, 
but godliness is profitable for all things, 
having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.

Reading the whole thing in context makes it plain
that the forbidding of the gifts of God,
which He has given us to be received with thanksgiving,
and which are made holy by His word, and by prayer
is a teaching of deceiving spirits, 
a lie, 
a doctrine of demons, 
a departure from the faith, 
and a profane old wives' fable.
Pretty strong words.
Good ministers of Jesus Christ reject such teachings.
The 'discipline' of abstinence from these things
(which are holy if done in holiness)
profits little.
But godliness is always profitable.
And godliness comes by faith in Him, and in His work.

"Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated
by destroying the object which is abused.
Men can go wrong with wine and women.
Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?"
~Martin Luther

"Thomas Shepherd, pastor and friend of Governor John Winthrop  
(Puritan governor of Massachusetts),
advised against forbidding a temptation.
He wrote Winthrop to argue
that forbidding a temptation provokes God
because it makes 'more sins than (as yet is seen) God himself hath made.'"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Like a Child


Mundane chores, when done alone, are such a perfect time to meditate.
And tonight, while I washed the dishes, I thought about being a child.
When I was seven I wrote a very concerned letter to the president.
He wrote me back a two page letter.
But this isn't about that.

Sometimes I think about Jesus telling His disciples they needed to become as a little child.
Why?
What about that?
What do they have that we lose?
Or what don't they have that we pick up?

My mind wandered back over the letter I wrote,
and I thought about the boldness.
About the lack of concern for what power thinks of them.
About the singular focus on the problem at hand,
undistracted by worries about protocol.
In a library, loudness.
In a church service, they don't sit like ladies.
In a hurry, dawdling over wonder.
In distress, howling.
No stuffing it down until it manifests in illness.
In joy, laughing uproariously.
They're real.
They don't pretend that good is bad and bad is good.

I don't think God is as fond of our niceties and protocols as we are.
I think He isn't afraid of reality.
I think He likes us to interrupt Him,
to cry on Him,
to notice His handiwork,
and look at the ants.
To yell out louder when the ones surrounding Jesus tell us to leave Him alone.

My children have screamed me from the far corners of the house when they needed me
and I wasn't responding.
They have hollered me out of a sound sleep.
They don't give up.
But they're more persistent at it when they're littler.
As they get older, I find out about problems sometimes hours or days later.
"You were busy. I didn't want to bother you."
As they get older, they let me sleep.
The youngest one still bursts into our room in the morning
to shove paper into his dad's face and demand a paper airplane.
Such a lack of respect for boundaries.
My body is mine, and your body is mine, too.

Is there ever more intimacy in the relationship between a mother and her child
than when he's living inside her?
And after birth, when the baby is nourished from nothing but her body?
Is that what You want, Lord?
For me to live in you?
To eat from You?
To let You wash me with Your living water?
To be clothed by Your hands?
Comforted only in Your arms?
Obsessed with where You are every second of the day?
Watching You?
Wanting You?

Eventually they will have morphed into the socially apt adults we all hope they'll become.
They'll give shy deference to the 'important' people in life.
They'll hold back their happiness so they won't look like fools.
They'll sew their mouths shut to keep from blurting out the truth.
They'll spend years without crying even though they're heartsick.
They'll ignore the moon, and look at their bank statements.
I hope they revert to their childhoods with Him.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

To Eliminate the Need

Industry Decayed
'Then some Pharisees and teachers of the Law 
came from Jerusalem to Jesus and asked him, 
"Why is it that your disciples 
disobey the teaching handed down by our ancestors? 
They don't wash their hands in the proper way before they eat!"
Jesus answered, 

"And why do you disobey God's command and follow your own teaching?"'

Can I make a list of things to do
and refrain from doing
that will create in me a clean heart?

Can a kosher diet cleanse me of the internal dirt?
If the Spirit of holiness living in me does not make me holy,
all the teetotalism in the world leaves me
morally bankrupt and condemned.

The sufficiency of Christ is a crucial doctrine.
If Christ is sufficient,
there are no second class citizens in the kingdom of heaven.

When we add to the righteousness of Christ,
we trample Him,
and we trample His children.
We say, "Jesus, You aren't enough --
Your holiness is not as holy as my list."

The scripture says, "Be led by the Spirit
and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh."
But we want to eliminate Him from the equation.
We want to remove the need for the gifts of the Holy Spirit,
and the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When we make our list of extra-biblical rules for the truly holy to follow,
we are attempting to rid ourselves of the need for God's Spirit in us.
We set ourselves up in His place --
where we ought not to be.
Wherever we begin to preach ourselves,
we cease to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Christians are the workmanship of God.
Individually handcrafted masterpieces.
And we attempt to wrest the work from Him,
patent it,
and machinate the work.

If the blood of Jesus Christ
and the power of the Holy Spirit
are not enough to make me holy,
what will?
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