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.
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