Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Long Before It Does


I am still mulling over restoration.

Having lived in many an unfinished house, I am familiar with the lifestyle.
You rejoice over what is done.
You look forward to what's to come.
You bear with the mess and inconvenience.
And you work on another corner.

What is finished is worth taking pictures of and sharing. In fact, sometimes what isn't finished is worth posting. I like to record the whole process -- the horror, the demolition, and the renewal. When we ripped our rotten front porch off, I was excited. Because rot is always better gone. But it wasn't done.

We dug holes around our foundation, and yanked loose stones out of it. I took pictures of that, too. And then we formed and poured support. But we still had no porch. When the porch was done, but not painted, I was too eager to share the beauty of it to wait for paint. And because my family appreciates potential, they enjoyed the pictures as much as I enjoyed sharing them.

Sometimes you have to look past urine-soaked shag carpet, or missing flooring. Someone with no imagination, and no sense of investment in your home may walk in and see nothing but dirt-stained plywood floors, and hideous drop ceilings. But when you look with the eyes of a renovator, you can see it sparkling long before it does.
  
"Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, 
and to present you faultless 
before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To the only wise God our Savior, 

be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. 
Amen." 
~Jude 1:24, 25 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

He Restores


"He restores my soul."

I like to watch House Hunters. But most of the people on that show are not looking to buy heaps and to renew them to beauty. They want perfection. They reject wrong paint colors.

It has become a tradition in my family to buy homes that need to be restored. You can buy them cheap, because they lack so much. My sister once bought a house that had to be completely gutted  -- because it had a sweet corner cabinet and a beautiful old window in the living room. Every member of our family helped to rip out the bad, to clean up the serviceable, and to build back what could not be repaired.

When you are buying a property to restore,
you aren't looking so closely at its flaws, its failures.
Because you intend to make it what it should be.

Is it ugly?
Yes, but it will be beautiful.
Is it smelly?
Yes, but it will smell good when I am done with it.
Is its foundation sagging?
We'll pour in support.

The skill of the workman is the most important factor.
Can He do the work?
Can He afford the materials?

But what a joy to see restoration.
And our Father, the Master Builder, sees the value of our souls.
When He takes ownership, He sets to work.
He knows how to do it, and He can afford to fix it.
And as much joy as I get in thinking about my house being a beautiful little home instead of the tired old hole it was when I bought it -- I think He is truly delighted to restore our dirty, mold-saturated, maintenance-neglected lives with weak foundations and faulty wiring into the very temple of the Holy Spirit.
And He lives there while He works.

For it is not ourselves that we preach; 
we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, 
and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
The God who said, "Out of darkness the light shall shine!" 

is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, 
to bring us the knowledge of God's glory shining in the face of Christ. 
~2 Corinthians 4:5,6

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Directed His Transportation


1 Samuel 5 and 6, there is an intriguing and sobering story.
In seven months, without an army,
the Lord wreaked havoc on five cities of the Philistines.

They 'captured' the ark in a battle, after killing over 34,000 Israelites.
The Lord's people mourned that His glory had departed.
The Philistines were persuaded by their victory
that their god Dagon had more power than Yahweh.
The ark was placed in the temple of Dagon, as though to serve him.

In the morning, there was Dagon,
fallen on his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord.
They picked him up and brushed the dirt off him
and put him back in his place.

But in the morning, his face and hands were broken off on the threshold,
and his stump was face-down before the ark.

It says the Lord's hand was heavy on that city -- so they gave it to their neighbors.
Destruction came to the Philistines in every city they sent the ark.
Who captured whom?

To escape Yahweh's hand they provided the ark with undirected transportation.
They gave unwilling but available labor
in the form of milk cows with babies at home --
and the cows pulled the ark all the way back to Beth Shemesh,
ignoring the cries of their babies,
and the pleas of their own bodies.

For seven months the Philistines directed the transportation of the ark --
and destroyed themselves by it.
(Which thing, I might note, the Israelites had also done the day they were so utterly defeated.) 

Their own god Dagon required their direction --
their muscles to move him when he had fallen and couldn't get up.
But of the ark, they finally said, 'Let it go back to its own place.'
And the ark of the Lord went back to its own place.

I think that it is safer, when accompanying the Lord,
to be following His direction,
and not giving Him directions.
Safer to follow Him than to lead Him.
When Israel followed the ark,
there was safety through the sea
and through the desert
and through the river
and in battle.
But when Israel directed His transportation,
it ended in destruction.

O Lord, please help me to follow.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shall be Mine


"Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
'They shall be mine,' says the Lord of hosts,
'On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.
Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.'"

I often listen in when my children are talking together. They amuse me.
Sometimes I hear something that requires correction,
but quite often I just listen,
and pull out my journal and write what they said down.
I want to remember it -- either for its sweetness, or its funny-ness,
or its insight into their minds, or its childish profundity.
I love to pull out my old journals and laugh over their past antics -- or share them with other people.

This passage is so moving to me. The Lord listens in, too.
And those who fear Him are His special interest.
He has it written in His journal.
And He says, 'That's My girl.' Or, 'That's My boy.'

Friday, March 18, 2011

And Stay Upon His God


"Who is among you that feareth the LORD,
that obeyeth the voice of his servant,
that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?
Let him trust in the name of the LORD,
and stay upon his God.
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,
that compass yourselves about with sparks:
walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled.
This shall ye have of mine hand;
ye shall lie down in sorrow."
Isa 50:10,11

I read a little further in Edith Schaeffer's book Affliction this morning. It was a chapter about affliction and guidance. "Guidance? The Lord so often gives it in the midst of what looks like hindering affliction."

"He wants us to walk along with our hand in His, waiting for Him to give our hand a little tug when we are to go a bit to the left on a path hidden by leaves, or a bit to the right and past that fern-covered rock. We are not given a map and then left to run ahead on our own. We are meant to stay close and wait for His tug on our hand or His push away from a pitfall."

"Here is the warning, the clear, negative promise that trouble will result if we rush for help away from God. There is an impatience pictured here, a specific walking in the opposite direction, going somewhere for help and advice from a source that is neither the Bible nor the Lord's guidance in answer to prayer."

"The rushing-to-Egypt for help is a pushing aside of God, a decision that prayer is too slow a way to go about anything, a disregarding of the truth that God is able to give guidance, and an unbelief that God can communicate His plan or that He can lead in any practical way."

"Here we are in our deep trouble and great need, without a clue as to what to do next. The command is to take this opportunity to trust the Lord. The command is to stay, to wait, to not move until He leads us through all the fog, cloud, darkness... We may choose to wait for His direction and leading, His plan to be unfolded." (all Edith Schaeffer quotations)

Or, we can kindle a fire with our own sparks, walk in the light of our own fire, and lie down in sorrow.

I love that phrase 'stay upon His God'. I keep thinking of the passage where the Lord is chiding Israel for turning to Egypt instead of to Him.
He wanted to be their help, but they said,
"No! We will flee on swift horses!"
So He said their enemies would be even faster.

Waiting, staying upon our God is counter-intuitive.
Our hearts say 'RUN!'
But our God says, "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord."

What is interesting to me about that, is that they were leaving Egypt when He said it to them.
Trapped between a pursuing army and the sea.
It wasn't a permanent inactivity the Lord was asking of them.
They were on their way out, but they were not to flee.
The Lord went before them, and was their rear guard,
and they needed to choose to trust Him -- with the enemy on their heels.
To stay upon their God.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

So That Your Trust


"Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to knowledge...
So that your trust may be in the Lord;
I have instructed you today, even you."
~Proverbs 22:17-19

So often Proverbs is used to bring 'financial peace' and 'wise stewardship'.
There is in a sense, an investment guide for us in God's word.
But it doesn't pay in gold.

"Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day;
for surely there is a hereafter,
and your hope will not be cut off."
~Proverbs 23:17, 18

I don't think in this case being zealous for the fear of the Lord means waging war against the enemies of God. It is directly contrasted with 'not letting your heart envy sinners'. It has something to do with MY heart. Instead of envying sinners, I ought to fear the Lord.
I ought to trust the Lord.
That's wisdom. That's wise investment.
And my hope will not be cut off.

The purpose of the 'wisdom and knowledge' given in the scriptures is that our trust may be in the Lord. Not in myself, my diligence, and my financial planning.
Trust in the Lord.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Coming and Going


The LORD will preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for ever.
~Psalm 121:8  

It's a comfort.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

River Squash


My great grandmother was poor her whole life, as far as I know. I think in some ways, it is the poor who see God's tender care most visibly.

My mom told me last night about a conversation she had with her grandma years ago. Grandma was telling her about God's faithfulness. She told her a story about a time when she had hungry children and nothing to feed them. Nothing. So she prayed. She prayed, and squash came floating down the river. She fished it out, cooked it, and they had dinner.

My grandma, her daughter, has told me so often I hear her voice saying it to me: "Philippians 4:19 says, 'My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus!'"

My mother gathered us together to read God's word and pray for our needs. And we saw the squash, too.

So now I pray with my kids. They are learning to wait upon the Lord with us, to hope in His mercy, to trust in His grace. And they see river squash.

When I get to heaven, I'm going to make my great grandma tell me whose faith she caught.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tritisms

Tritism. That is a home-made word. A word for something I cringe at.

"Don't worry. Nothing's ever as bad as it seems."  
Um, sometimes things are even worse than they seem.
"God won't let anything bad happen."  
Can you explain the Holocaust using that philosophy?
"It's all good."  
No, it's not. Some things are evil through and through.  
God is good. And He loves us. But some things are just rotten.
I could add misquoted out-of-context scriptures to the list, but I don't want to give anyone the impression I don't love God's word.

I think sometimes we use trite little sayings as a way to say to hurting people: "Stop complaining, I don't want to think about your pain." I have seen people who are suffering try to do what the scripture says and get prayer, and be slapped with a tritism for it. So the pithy little phrase has effectively been used as an excuse not to pray for them, and to blame them for their pain, and to disobey the scripture that tells us to weep with those who weep.

The other day I read a bunch of 'advice' for the heartbroken, and was disgusted.

"Stop being a moron and realize that emotions can be controlled. Proceed to control emotions and never feel bad again for rest of life. Not that hard."

"Broken hearts, makes you learn to be stronger. Without pain, we won't know how strong we are today. However, its the person's choice to put themselves back together again. If the person doesn't then of course they won't learn..."

The heartbroken are morons?
People who are weak and emotionally out-of-control?
They've just got to get it together?
What miserable comfort.

We have really bad reactions to other people's distress outside of Christ.

The Bible says the Lord is near to the broken-hearted;
He heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds.
Wound care is such a labor of love.
Deep festering wounds are a whole other subject than skinned knees.
They take gentleness and patience, and a tolerance for the disgusting.
They require care for the whole person.
They don't heal overnight: there are bandage changes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Distilled in Silence


"As the Spirit of God descended upon the Lord Jesus, the head,
so He also, in measure, descends
upon the members of the mystical body.
His descent is to us after the same fashion
as that in which it fell upon our Lord.
There is often a singular rapidity about it...
Yet is there none of the hurry of earthly haste,
for the wings of the dove are as soft as they are swift.
Quietness seems essential to many spiritual operations;
the Lord is in the still small voice,
and like the dew, His grace is distilled in silence...
Blessed Spirit, as thou didst rest upon our dear Redeemer,
even so rest upon us from this time forward and for ever."

~From Morning and Evening, C.H. Spurgeon

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Signs of Life


 Yesterday my children sniped at each other all day. Every other minute it seemed I was saying, "Stop talking like that to your sister! Don't talk to your brother like that!" I decided deafness is a reward for years of parenting. It was not very pleasant.

At dinner tonight, I realized that they had been speaking politely to each other most of the day. Saying 'please' and 'thank you', and playing cheerfully with each other. Very little sulking and stomping and snapping, and not demanding things from me, but asking politely and waiting patiently.

"So, you guys are being much more polite and pleasant today. What changed?" I asked.
"We had a talk with each other last night in our bedroom," one said.
"About what?"
"About how we were acting to each other," another said. "We think it's boring to be so rude. And we were hurting each other, so we decided to stop."
"And we apologized to each other," he said.
"How did this talk start?" I asked.
"It started because we were crying. So we talked about how it made us feel to be left out. And how we feel when bigger kids are mean to us."
"And I was leaving her out a lot," he confessed.
"And I was leaving myself out of having fun with them," she said. "I prayed that I would stop being mean to my brothers and sisters."

Quieted


"Then Haggai, the Lord's messenger,
spoke the Lord's message to the people,
saying, 'I am with you, says the Lord.'"
~Haggai 1:14

For many years, I have been reminded of the Lord's love and presence through what might seem like silly things to some. The last few days, a mourning dove has been hanging around this house. Whenever I see a dove remaining near where I am, I feel quieted.

I am with you. 
Be at peace.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

At That Time

Summer's Coming
"Behold, at that time
I will deal with all who afflict you;
I will save the lame,
and gather those who are driven out;
I will appoint them for praise and fame
In every land where they were put to shame."
~Zephaniah 3:19
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