Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Divine Romance


I was reading this amazing poem in the category of marriage,
and it blew me away.
Surely its author was referring to our Jesus.
I loved that it so beautifully described the interchange of love.

"...Nor time, nor place, nor chance, nor death can bow
My least desires unto the least remove;
He's firmly mine by oath, I his by vow;
He's mine by faith, and I am his by love;
He's mine by water, I am his by wine;
Thus I my Best-Beloved's am, thus he is mine.

He is my altar, I his holy place;
I am his guest, and he my living food;
I'm his by penitence, he mine by grace;
I'm his by purchase, he is mine by blood;
He's my supporting elm, and I his vine:
Thus I my Best-Beloved's am, thus he is mine.

He gives me wealth, I give him all my vows;
I give him songs, he gives me length of days;
With wreaths of grace he crowns my conquering brows;
And I his temples with a crown of praise,
Which he accepts as an everlasting sign,
That I my Best-Beloved's am; that he is mine."
~Francis Quarles (1592-1644)

I've been reading through Nehemiah with my children lately.
I read chapter 12 in a children's Bible -- I'm not even sure what version.
But its simple language really caused the thanksgiving and praise
that His people put out to stand out.
I started thinking about the place thanksgiving and praise ought to have
in our relationship with Him.

I like how this poem pictures Him crowning me with grace,
and me crowning Him with praise.
Let's praise Him more.
Let's not leave His love unrequited.
He is our altar.
We are His holy place.
Let's be all His.

We Need

I was happily listening to my Patsy Cline radio station
on Pandora earlier today
when a song came on that sent me spinning.
Still I am struggling with a chest that wants to collapse,
and breath I can't quite catch.
And I've been crying off and on for hours.
I feel like being sick.

I carried my son inside me when this happened,
and I think put it away from me as much as I could.
I was beginning my childbearing,
and the horror of bearing a child into this cesspit of a world
was too much to think about.
I wanted to give him a better world than this.
A world where mothers don't have to
choose to leave a child behind to die
to save her other starving babies.

How many times do we wonder how bad sin really is? 
Letting sin in let in death.
People ask often how a God of love could...?
Did He?
Or did we?
We let the intruder into our inheritance to rampage through our history.
But He sent His Son,
who became a man,
able to inherit it.
He entered into our death that we might enter into His Life.

"He will swallow up death forever,
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth;
for the Lord has spoken.

And it will be said in that day:
'Behold, this is our God;
we have waited for Him,
and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
we have waited for Him;
we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.'"

O Lord, come quickly.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
We need a Savior.
All our saviors make it worse.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is Over


Today we wait out a hurricane.
And when I opened my Bible, this is what I read:

Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, "Glory!"

The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, 
And the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.

It seemed appropriate today to remember that His voice is over the waters,
that He sat enthroned at the Flood,
and He sits as King forever.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bydand

I was looking up the surname of my mother's father's mother,
and came across the motto of the Highlander family name.
Bydand. 
I didn't know what it meant.
Do you?

There are differing theories about its meaning.
My favorite is that it is a corruption of a Gaelic term
meaning 'steadfast, abiding, faithful'.
In Him we have an abiding hope,
a steadfast anchor within the veil,
a faithful High Priest.

I think I like it better than the motto from my father's father,
which translates 'One king, one faith, one law.'

Monday, August 22, 2011

You Again?


Guess who showed up this morning while I read my Bible?

"Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Who may  stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
who seek Your face.
Selah."
~Psalm 24:3-6

I wonder why David put him in there?
He gets the whole generation of God-seekers named after him.
Think about that.
Selah.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wilted Tops

My husband bought me a book at the Goodwill.
Gardening in Small Spaces.
I didn't expect anything profound as I flipped through its pages.
But in the chapter titled Vegetable Growing in Small Space,
I looked at an ugly bucket of dead stuff, and read the caption:

Sweet potato production in a 5-gallon container. 
Wilted tops indicate that the crop is mature.

Now there's a thought to ponder.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Those Who Wrestle And Don't Let Go


There are others, you know.
Others with trophy scars and injuries 
they received wrestling God, or His agent.

Abraham: 
I counted my son a loss, but held tight to the Living God.

Job: 
"And now my soul is poured out because of my plight; 
the days of my affliction take hold of me... 
He has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes... 
You have become cruel to me; 
with the strength of Your hand You oppose me."

My wife told me I ought to curse Him and die. 
Our losses had piled up one after another. 
There was no end in sight, and I was covered in excruciating boils.
Our children were all dead.
I hadn't done anything wrong. 
But I held to Him when He gave me good.
I had to hold to Him in this, too.
"...Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."
"Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in all the earth?
...And still he holds fast..."

Esther:
"...And if I perish, I perish."

David:
"I will not offer to the Lord my God whole offerings that have cost me nothing."

Daniel:
"When Daniel knew the writing was signed, 
he went home...
And with his windows open toward Jerusalem,
he knelt down on his knees three times that day, 
and prayed and gave thanks before his God."

Moses:
"If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here."

Ruth:
"Your God will be my God,
and where you die, there will I be buried."
In the face of loss,
death,
bereavement,
misery,
and threats,
each of them essentially said, "I will not let You go except You bless me."

You Win


Jacob.
The patriarch we all wonder about.
How did he get listed?
Abraham: the friend of God;
Isaac: the long-awaited promised son;
and Jacob: the heel-catcher?
"Jacob I have loved," He said.
What did God see in him?

I think I am beginning to see it too.
And it's beautiful.
Everyone knows his stories, but the point of them is often confusing -- at least to me.

He was a man on the run:
from his brother;
from his father-in-law;
from Canaanites;
from famine.
But he did not run from God.
He wrestled Him.
And he wouldn't let go.
He halted upon his thigh the rest of his life because he refused to let go.
He preferred God's blessing to his own strength.
Even if it hurt him.

"Bless me! I will cling through Your maiming touch and not let go!"
He caught God's heel.

I've heard people use that passage to say,
"When you're in a wrestling match with God, give up."
I understand what they are trying to say,
but it seems to me that God was pleased with his -- (dare I say it?) patience.
His continuance.

"You have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed," He said.
Has that ever troubled you?
I mean, it says He did not prevail against him.
Is Jacob stronger than God?
Certainly not.
What the heck is that talking about?

In Hosea it says,
"[Jacob] took his brother by the heel in the womb,
and in his strength he struggled with God.
Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed;
he wept, and sought favor from Him."

God comes to struggle with us.
To contend with us.
To roll in the dirt and hold us down.
To wrestle us into exhaustion,
to wound us in the strongest part of our being.
To be held down by the grasping of our faith.
To be clung to, and torn at, and dirtied in the struggle -- sweated on and wept to.
If we hold fast to Him, we will carry the scars and the injuries with us.
And when we don't let go, although it cost us our health,
our life,
our children,
our hopes and dreams,
our homes,
our positions --
though we halt upon our thighs for the rest of our lives
and our children down through the ages commemorate the struggle at every meal,
we have prevailed when we have hung on to Him.

And He loves that.
He blesses that.
He memorializes it, too.
When I brought you low, you held on still, and you win.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation,
or distress,
or persecution,
or famine,
or nakedness,
or peril,
or sword?
As it is written:
'For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.'
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Called?


In looking at patience, I came across another thought-rattler.
Read it through and think on it a little.
It may help with the ever-present 'WHY?!' that springs up in the face of suffering.

"For this is commendable
if because of conscience toward God  
one endures grief, suffering wrongfully
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, 
you take it patiently? 
But when you do good and suffer, 
if you take it patiently, 
this is commendable before God. 
For to this you were called, 
because Christ also suffered for us, 
leaving us an example, 
that you should follow His steps... 
Who, when he was reviled, did not revile in return; 
when He suffered, He did not threaten,  
but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously."
~ 1 Peter 2:19-21

Maybe this passage sounds exactly right to your human brain and internal sense of justice.
But when I consider what it's saying, my brain shouts, "WHAT??!!"
Going back to why I began looking at these passages in the first place
(the Hebrews passage about leaving the elementary stuff and pressing on to maturity
-- hope, faith, and patience),
it stands out to me that it says, 'to this you were called'.
We were called to do good and suffer?
To follow His steps.

And in that, to commit ourselves to Him who judges righteously.
Because ultimately, that is hope.
That is faith. 
And that is patience.
Hope knows He is righteous,
and He judges righteously,
though I suffer.
Faith knows He sees me,
and He loves me,
though I suffer.
And patience waits for Him, grieving.
Patience stays under the load in hope and in faith.

Several of the words for patience indicate an expectant waiting.
A long-suffering, patient endurance.
Fortitude.
One of them came from two words: 'motion toward' and 'receive'.
'To admit, to allow'.
We naturally turn away from that which does not give us pleasure.
No admittance here.
Maturity walks through it.
Maturity leans into the contraction, breathes through the pain, lets it have its work.
And God commends it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Isolated

Years ago, my husband and I went to Niagara Falls
and rode the Maid in the Mist boat up close(r) to the base of the falls.
The sound of the water was so loud.
I am not a publicly demonstrative person.
I do not make displays of myself in public.
But I was so overwhelmed in wonder
I began to sing 'How Great Thou Art' as loud as I could.
No one could hear me.
It was just for Him.
His voice is described as being like the sound of many waters,
and the thing that amazed me was how that sound
isolated every person crammed onto that boat.
It set each one of us completely apart.
When we stand before the Lord, we stand alone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Only One Beach


I lay in the sand with sun on my back and dug up handfuls of sand grains, burying my toes.
I squeezed them and watched how they clumped together and fell apart.
I called my children to me, encouraging each one to pick up a handful and look closely at it.
"How many did you get?"
They couldn't answer me, of course.
Too many to count in each handful.

"Do you know that the Bible says that God's thoughts toward you are more than the sand?"
They looked in wonder at their handfuls.
"And this is only one beach."

"My frame was not hidden from thee, 
When I was made in secret, 
And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see mine unformed substance; 

And in thy book they were all written, 
Even the days that were ordained for me, 
When as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! 

How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: 

When I awake, I am still with thee."
~Psalm 139:15-18 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Knowing That


"Therefore, having been justified by faith, 
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 
through whom also we have access by faith 
into this grace in which we stand, 
and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 
and perseverance, character; 
and character, hope."
~Romans 5:1-4

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
But let patience have its perfect work,
that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
~James 1

"By your patience possess your souls."
~Luke 21:19

It amazes me what they 'knew' that we seem ignorant of.
They knew that tribulation produces perseverance,
which produces character,
which produces hope.
They knew that the testing of our faith produces patience,
and patience works maturity in us.

I pondered this, and wondered at it.
But hope is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps I was under the impression they were magically imparted,
not worked into us.
These indicate that hope is the product of character
formed by perseverance,
produced by tribulation.
And patience is produced by the testing of my faith.

I thought about bread making.
How every ingredient of bread can be in my machine,
but if it isn't worked, it isn't bread.
The gluten only forms when they are combined by pressure and made to wait.
And the times when I have not quite snapped that little paddle into its power source,
and the pressure has not been transferred into the dough -- have been food disasters.
Nothing useful has resulted.
Time has not been sufficient to bring the dough to maturity.

"Be kindly affectionate with brotherly love,
in honor giving preference to one another;
not lagging in diligence,
fervent in spirit, 
serving the Lord;
rejoicing in hope,
patient in tribulation,
continuing steadfastly in prayer;
distributing to the needs of the saints,
given to hospitality..."
~Romans 12:10-13

Friday, August 5, 2011

The First Entry


All my study books are packed, so I used e-Sword to look up 'patience' in their dictionary.
Not being as quick as some, I puzzled a little over the first entry.
I don't read Hebrew, and it is a Hebrew word.  
'Iyob' is how it was transliterated.
It means, 'hated, persecuted'.
And the helpful little side note said, '(like Job was opposed)'.
Hmm.
I never thought of patience that way.

After I read and copied and considered all eight Biblical words translated as 'patience',
(and their seven root words),
and moved on through twenty-one words translated as 'hope',
(and their several root words),
and looked at the two words translated as 'endurance',
I decided to begin again with entry one and see what verses used this 'hated, persecuted' word.

Job 1:1?
There was a man in the land of Uz, 
whose name was Job; 
and that man was perfect and upright, 
and one that feared God, and shunned evil. 

Huh?

So I looked up the next one. 
Job 1:5
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were ended, 
that Job sent and sanctified them, 
and rose early in the morning, 
and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all; 
for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. 
Thus did Job continually. 

I double checked my reference.
I looked it up in the KJV+
(which numbers each word by its Hebrew and Greek word definitions
according to the Strong's concordance -- a lovely reference for wanna-be scholars).

Wait.
What?
That's his name?
That's his name.


With Patience

It began here:

"Solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is,
those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ,
let us go on to perfection,
not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works 
and faith toward God,
of the doctrine of baptisms,
of laying on of hands,
of resurrection of the dead,
and eternal judgment..."
~Hebrews 5:14-6:2

I read this.
And I thought about it. 
And I said to myself, "It is obvious in this passage what the foundational things are --
the elementary principles we are to move on from.
But does it indicate what we are to move on to?"
So I read further.
Until I arrived at verses 11 and 12:

"And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to
the full assurance of hope until the end,
that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who
through faith
and patience
inherit the promises."

A new thought.
Hope.
Faith. 
Patience.
There's something to learn here.
New connections of very old-to-me scriptures began to form in my mind.
I thought I'd better study a little more about patience.

"Now the ones on the rock are those who,
when they hear, receive the word with joy;
and these have no root,
who believe for awhile
and in time of temptation fall away.
Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who,
when they have heard,
go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life,
and bring no fruit to maturity.
The ones that fell on the good ground are those who,
having heard the word with a noble and good heart,
keep it and bear fruit with patience."

How did I never notice that last bit before?
Fruitfulness is related to patience.
Maturity. Patience.

"Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth,
waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.
You also be patient.
Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand..."
~James 5:7,8

I'd like to say more on this subject, but it will have to wait.
Patiently.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thank You

The other night as I put my children to bed, I was so blessed to hear their prayers.
Each one had a fairly long list of things they thanked the Lord for.
The naturally sour one had the longest list of all.
I love to hear her pray.

"Dear Jesus, tank You for our new 'ouse, and we don't have to wait anymore... But we have to wait for it to be painted," Silas prayed.

He's pretty anxious to get green walls.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Stooping Lower

I looked at humility from another angle this morning, with help from Ann Voskamp. She wrote of Jesus setting the little child before His disciples and saying we must humble ourselves as a little child. And she wrote of the child's continual state of surprise -- no plans, no expectations.

"The humble live surprised. The humble live by joy... The humble are the laid-low and bowed ones, the surprised ones with hands open to receive whatever He gives.
He hands them the earth.
The earth."
~A. V. One Thousand Gifts

I thought of how much I love to surprise one of my kids with a gift for no reason. And how I love to see the surprised joy it produces. And how I hate to give anything to someone who comes up and demands it as their due. Humility responds like a child to a gift.

"To receive God's gifts, to live exalted and joy-filled, isn't a function of straining higher, harder, doing more, carrying long the burdens of the super-Pharisees and ultra-saints. Receiving God's gifts is a simple movement of stooping lower."
~A. V. One Thousand Gifts

She also quoted F.B. Meyer: "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them. I find now that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other, and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower, and that we have to go down, always down, to get His best gifts."

"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."
~Isaiah 61:1-3

What is lower than ashes? Than mourning? Than a spirit of heaviness?

Praying


"Praying with eyes wide open is the only way to pray without ceasing."
~ from One Thousand Gifts, by Anne Voskamp

"Then the king said to me, 'What do you request?' 
So I prayed to the God of heaven. 
And I said to the king, 
'If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, 
I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my father's tombs, 
that I may rebuild it.'"
~Nehemiah 2:4,5

We pray to the God of heaven, and we speak to the king.


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