Tuesday, July 31, 2012

For Fresh Water

Earlier this year my husband bought me a rainbarrel.
Rainbarrels rely on rain.
There hasn't been as much rain this summer as we normally get,
and much of the time my rainbarrel has been empty.
But what is beginning to dawn on me,
as we have now had the third rain that ought to have filled it,
and I have gone out hoping for water,
only to have less than I should have had,
is that my rainbarrel has a leak.
At first, there was the incredible heat, and I thought it all evaporated.
Then there was an inch of rain in 20 minutes,
and I thought, surely that barrel is full now.
But strangely, it wasn't.
At least, it wasn't for long.
But this last weekend, there was a long soaking rain,
a beautiful misty green rain, and I smiled to myself about my rainbarrel.
I had noticed two wet lines leading to the drain in my driveway
for the last two days, but mentally looked over it.
They were still there this morning.
I put my watering can under the spout to fill it,
and noticed the water pressure was not acting like it was a full barrel.
Weird. Must have debris in the spout.
But when I went for the fourth can, and had to tip it, I knew for certain:
it's leaking.
It can't hold water like it should.

O, for a spring.
For a source of water independent of my efforts.
For fresh water, that doesn't smell rank when I use it.
For water that really can wash, and nourish.
For living water.
I went inside this morning and looked up this passage in Jeremiah 2:
"My people have committed two sins: 
they have turned away from Me, the spring of fresh water, 
and they have dug cisterns, cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all."
What a stupid thing to do.

If my property had a spring, I might engineer an irrigation system.
But what kind of fool would abandon spring water for a stagnant cistern?
And especially for an empty one?
When I was a little girl, I visited people who had an empty swimming pool.
There was a dark, murky bit of green algae water in the deep end.
It was so horrible looking to me, that I still have bad dreams about it.
Some of the cisterns we saw in Israel reminded me of that swimming pool.

No sane person would ever ask me for a drink
if I was sitting next to my rainbarrel with a cup.
In fact, many people post warnings on them
to keep others from trying to drink it.
Stagnant water is poison.
That's why places in the world without fresh water sources
have so much misery.
We wash our hands after handling the water.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. 
Jesus said to her, Give me to drink. 
(For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, 
How do you, being a Jew, ask a drink of me, who am a woman of Samaria? 
For the Jews do not associate with Samaritans. 
Jesus answered and said to her, If you knew the gift of God, 
and who it is that says to you, Give Me to drink, 
you would have asked of Him, and He would have given you living water.
...Jesus answered and said to her, 
Whoever drinks of this water shall thirst again, 
but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, 
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him 
a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
~ John 4:7-14

If the water you're drinking stinks, and evaporates, and runs out,
it may be water -- but it isn't living water.
Perhaps it's time to return to the Source,
and abandon that broken cistern.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In The Midst and During

I was reading last night from Psalm 138:

In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
and made me bold with strength in my soul...
Though the Lord is on high, yet He regards the lowly;
but the proud He knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, 
You will revive me;
You will stretch out Your hand
against the wrath of my enemies,
and Your right hand will save me.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me;
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever;
do not forsake the works of Your hands.

And then this morning, I was reading from 2 Chronicles 15.
These are the words of Azariah;
it says the Spirit of God came upon him,
and he gave this message to King Asa:

"The Lord will stay with you, as long as you stay with Him.
Whenever you seek Him, you will find Him.
But if you abandon Him, He will abandon you.
For a long time, Israel was without the true God,
without a priest to teach them,
and without the Law to instruct them.
But whenever they were in trouble 
and turned to the Lord, the God of Israel,
and sought Him out, they found Him.
During those dark times, it was not safe to travel.
Problems troubled the people of every land.
Nation fought against nation, and city against city,
for God was troubling them with every kind of problem.
But as for you, be strong and courageous,
for your work will be rewarded.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble...
I don't want to walk in the midst of trouble.
I don't want to live in dark times, unsafe times, wrathful times.
Don't we all just want to live quiet and peaceful lives?
But though we walk in the midst of trouble,
He will revive us.
He will stretch out His hand against the wrath of our enemies and save us.

Revive. Do you know what it means?
To live again. To return to life.
Let's set our faces toward His salvation:
to live again, to see His justice though we walk in the midst of trouble.
Jesus is the salvation of His right hand.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
He is our future and our hope, though trouble is our present.
Though the wrath of the enemy is our present lot,
He will perfect that which concerns us,
and He will not forsake the works of His hands.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

For All The Grace I Have Not Tasted Yet

My sister and I were praying together today,
and as she prayed, she was thanking the Lord for hard things:
for awkward times, and heartaches.
She thanked Him because those hurts impart compassion.
They limit judgment, and increase care.
I was already thinking about sharing this poem I read this morning,
but her prayer tied in with the part of this poem that most spoke to me.
Maybe it will also speak to you:

My heart is resting, O my God,
I will give thanks and sing;
My heart is at the secret source 
Of every precious thing.
Now the frail vessel Thou hast made 
No hand but Thine shall fill;
For the waters of the earth have failed,
And I am thirsty still.

I thirst for springs of heavenly life,
And here all day they rise;
I seek the treasure of Thy love,
And close at hand it lies.
And a new song is in my mouth
To long-loved music set:
"Glory to Thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet;

"Glory to Thee for strength withheld,
For want and weakness known;
And the fear that sends me to Thy breast
For what is most my own."
I have a heritage of joy
That yet I must not see;
But the hand that bled to make it mine
Is keeping it for me.

My heart is resting, O my God,
My heart is in Thy care;
I hear the voice of joy and health
Resounding everywhere.
"Thou art my portion," saith my soul,
Ten thousand voices say,
And the music of their glad Amen
Will never die away.
~Anne Laetitia Waring

For the grace I have not tasted;
for strength withheld;
for intimate acquaintance with want, and with weakness;
and for fears that drive me to You:
Thank You.

Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I keep Thy word.
Thou art good, and doest good; teach me Thy statutes.
I know, O LORD, that Thy judgments are right, 

and that Thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
Let, I pray Thee, Thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, 

according to Thy word to Thy servant. 
Let Thy tender mercies come to me, that I may live... 
~ From Psalm 119:67-77

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Keeping My Brother

Our church assembles in a small building.
There are two joined rooms upstairs where the younger children meet,
and one bigger room downstairs,
and an outhouse.
Five minutes into worship this morning,
my five-year-old nephew came downstairs.
He looked around the room, spotted me and made a beeline for me --
pushing right through a row of people, instead of going around.
I assumed he needed to be taken out to the outhouse,
and his mom was upstairs, and his daddy was up front,
so I reached out my hand and took his
and started walking toward the back with him.

But he was just trying to ask me a question.
I leaned over so I could hear better.
"Is Aliyah okay?"
I made him repeat it, because I hadn't heard well.
When I did understand, I got a little alarmed.
She is my four-year-old niece.
Both her parents were leading worship, too.

"Isn't she upstairs?"
"Where is she?"
He pointed to the back row, and there she was, sitting with another family.
I'm sure her parents knew where she was.
But her teacher upstairs, who had expected to see her, didn't know.
And she cared.
"Yes, she looks okay."
He ran back upstairs to deliver the news.

Our 'service' was interrupted because of concern over one member.
Because we are family.
And when a member of your family is not where they ought to be,
family members grow worried.
Where is your brother?
Is someone missing who ought to be there?
Cain said, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
But we say, "Is Aliyah okay?"
Is she safe?
Is she wandering outside when she should be together with family?
Do you care? Do you check?
Or is the form of the service of more importance than the members of it?

Maybe a brother has fallen among thieves,
and lies bleeding on the road to Jerusalem.
He was coming from worship.
But he slipped when an enemy assaulted him,
and he can't get himself up.
His wounds have grown infected.
He has nothing left.
And he isn't even decently dressed anymore.
He curses to himself and wishes he was dead.
He's tried to yell for help, but the smell drives them all away.
They are headed to prayer,
and don't want to dirty their hands with his blood and pus.
The naked need is revolting.
Have a little pride, man.
How can you lay there so nakedly needy?
Wash your filth away, so you can enter His courts with praise.

But he cannot rise from the dust.
Which traveler will you be?
One of those who skirt around him?
Or one who is willing to reach out and be bloodied?
To get his dirt on you in the effort to wash his dirt from him?
Are you wearing an outer garment you could cover his nakedness with?
Is there water in your canteen?
Give him a drink.
He can't walk for the beatings.
Wrestle him onto your donkey.
Let your feet grow sore and blistered for awhile.
It will slow you down.
It will delay your business.
It will cost you your traveling money.
You may be in greater danger of being attacked yourself,
walking on your feet instead of riding in your saddle.
But that's a brother bleeding there.
He can't pay you for your help.

You've managed to bring him to an inn,
where you spend your evening giving the man a bath.
You've only got one bedroll -- you give it to him.
He can't feed himself, so you feed him like a baby.
He doesn't even notice you, he's so damaged.
You dig into your savings to pay the innkeeper,
to persuade a fellow human to be kind.

Jesus said that they would know we are His by our love for one another.
A love that washes feet.
A love that bandages wounds.
A love that looks for the wanderer, even if it has to interrupt service.
That applies the hot compresses and releases the infections,
and reaches out beyond its own class to heal.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Without Satisfaction

I have been cleaning up messes around here,
and came across a scrap of paper
with a quote by James Fennimore Cooper
written in my husband's handwriting:

"We look upon blessings without satisfaction
and consider trifling evils as matters of great account."
~from The Pathfinder

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Morning Glories Glory in the Morning

I planted morning glories this year.
Dark purple ones.
Early last week, when I was watering in the evening,
I noticed the first one had bloomed.
And I had missed it.
You see, I leave my window blinds closed most of the summer.
They are old windows, and they seep heat into the house.
And we live on a crowded street, and I grew up in the country.
I like my privacy.

I could look at the spent blossoms, and say,
"God doesn't let me see the beauty
that everyone else gets from their morning glories...
To me, they are just shriveled husks."
Or I could open my blinds in the morning, and look out at their glory.
This morning I remembered to look out.
And I, too, got to enjoy the beauty of my morning glories.
Have you looked out the window lately?
Or are you sitting inside with your blinds down,
claiming the beauty has passed you by?

Thank You, Father, for morning glories in the morning.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

To See You

You are:
the Father to the fatherless.
You set the lonely in families;
You hate divorce;
You comfort the depressed.
You call things that are not into being.
You touch lepers
and lead the blind by the hand.
You raise the dead
and give to the poor.
You eat with sinners.
You accept the worship of prostitutes and tax collectors.
You hold children in Your hands and bless them;
You defend mothers and children against Your own disciples.
You undress Yourself, wrap Yourself in a towel,
and kneel at the dirty feet of Your inferiors to wash them:
You say You love them.
You stop Your business
to attend to the prayers and the needs of women,
children, slaves and their masters,
people unfit to come to the temple for uncleanness,
Gentiles and Pharisees.
You are steadfast in doing Your Father's will
though it cost You:
You please the Father well.
You came to ransom many.
You let Yourself be touched,
fed, wept on, grasped at,
pressed, crowded, interrupted,
intruded upon, cried at.
You hear men slander You;
laugh at You; plot against You;
attribute evil to You.
You are mocked, whipped, beaten, torn at and pierced.
All these things You allowed.
You drank them all.

You said, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father."
I want to see You.
I want to worship You in spirit and in truth.