Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Short-Sleeved Words

I speak normally to my children.
I don't change my words to baby talk,
and I didn't do too much baby talk even when they were babies.
Because of this, they often make me laugh
with the old-fashioned vocabulary they use.
A child used the word 'omit' properly in speaking with me the other day.
My daughter told me
that what she wanted in her new shorts was 'spacious pockets'.

Silas interrupts me to ask what things mean
when I have said something too advanced for him.
"What is a dinghy?"
"A little boat."
And the next day, hearing it again in his read aloud,
he repeated the question.
And again, I said, "A little boat."
Learning new things takes repetition.
My daughter Elisa, many years ago,
dubbed high-brow vocabulary 'long-sleeved words'.

Sometimes, I realize that what I have been reading in the Scripture
has been beyond my comprehension my whole life.
That's why I appreciate reading different translations on occasion.
This morning I came across this short-sleeved version:

"It was also written," Jesus said, 
"that this message should be proclaimed 
in the authority of His name to all the nations, 
beginning in Jerusalem:
'There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.'

Its simplicity moves me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Helper

While I listened to Friday's news,
with shooting in the streets of Boston
between the marathon bombers and the authorities,
and the city locked down,
a reporter offered this advice for parents to comfort children with
who were being exposed to terror in this week's news cycle:
Look for the helpers.
It is Mr. Rogers' advice, and I saw it passed around on Facebook, too.
It seems not much comfort
in the light of people bleeding in the streets, their legs gone,
and parents powerless to save their children.
In the face of horrendous evil, brave kindness seems small:
the courage of those heroes who run to explosions,
who drench themselves in the blood of strangers,
trying to tie in their lifeflow.

But in the face of that bloody fear,
He gives real comfort:
He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you, nor forsake you.'
So that we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear. 
What can man do to me?' (Hebrews 13:5,6)
Maybe that seems like a foolish question after a bombing.
Obviously men can do us harm.
Jesus said, "I tell you, my friends, 
do not be afraid of those who kill the body 
but cannot afterward do anything worse. 
I will show you whom to fear: 
fear God, who, after killing, has the authority to throw into hell. 
Believe me, He is the one you must fear! 
Aren't five sparrows sold for two pennies? 
Yet not one sparrow is forgotten by God. 
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 
So do not be afraid;
 you are worth much more than many sparrows!"
(Luke 12:4-7)

Be anxious for nothing, 
but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, 
let your requests be made known to God; 
and the peace of God, which surpasses understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

A terrorist can separate you from your body,
but cannot separate you from His love.
Our Lord is risen, and He will raise us.
He has conquered sin and death, and in Him, we are also conquerors.
In His Light, we see Light, though we see the darkness, too.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Faith Begs God

And He spoke a parable to them to this end, 
that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; 
Saying, There was in a city a judge, 
who feared not God, neither regarded man. 
And there was a widow in that city; 
and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. 
And he would not for a while: 
but afterward he said within himself, 
Though I fear not God, nor regard man; 
Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, 
lest by her continual coming she weary me. 
And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. 
And will not God avenge His own elect, 
who cry day and night to Him, 
though He beareth long with them? 
I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. 
Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, 
will He find faith on the earth?
~Luke 18:1-8

In the version I read this morning, the widow's plea was,
"Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy!"
Give me justice.
Don't we long for it?
Jesus wants us to persist in asking God for it.
That was the point of His story.
Keep asking.
Keep coming.
Because justice has not yet been served
in this dispute with our enemy.
He continues his unjust ways,
and the world continues to suffer for it.

But God is just.
And He is the Judge.
And if an unjust judge would give justice for sheer annoyance,
surely our Father in heaven will deal justice
on behalf of the innocent suddenly.

When He comes, will there still be any here asking for justice?
Believing in His judgement?
Or will we have abandoned the pursuit
because we lost heart at all the injustice?

Jesus said, "Don't you think God will surely give justice to His chosen people
who cry out to Him day and night?
Will He keep putting them off?
I tell you, He will grant justice to them quickly."

There is no reason to cry out day and night for justice
if all is just and right.
And there is no reason to cry out day and night for justice
if there is no Judge.
Faith begs God for what it knows is right,
though what it sees is wrong.
Because faith knows He is just, and He will judge.

O Lord, give us justice in this dispute with our enemy.

Friday, April 12, 2013

From the Deeps

April, Ten and Eleven

Might I but scatter interfering things--
Questions and doubts, distrusts and anxious pride,
And in Thy garment, as under gathering wings,
Nestle obedient to Thy loving side,
Easy it were to love Thee. But when Thou
Send'st me me to think and labor from Thee wide,
Love falls to asking many a why and how.

Easier it were, but poorer were the love.

Lord, I would have me love Thee from the deeps--
Of troubled thought, of pain, of weariness.
Through seething wastes below, billows above,
My soul should rise in eager, hungering leaps;
Through thorny thicks, through sands unstable press--
Out of my dream to Him who slumbers not nor sleeps.

~ George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul

It's so beautiful, I hardly know what to add.
But it resonates, does it not?

We want so much for our service
to be without doubts, distrusts, anxieties of any kind.
We want it to be there,
close enough to hear His heartbeat,
reclining at His table,
clean and fed.

We don't want to stand,
having lost our outer garment,
at the foot of the cross with the weepers.
But the words of the vows echo in our hearts:
in sickness and in health;
for better or for worse;
richer or poorer...

Loving Him from the deeps
of troubled thoughts and pain and weariness,
of seething wastes and tossing waves,
of thorny thickets and quick sands.

O Lord...
That we would love You as You love us.
You sweat blood
and suffered hunger and sleeplessness.
You intercede for us when You're out of sight,
and touch our wounds to heal when You're near.
From depths we can't even comprehend You have loved us.
From the cup You shuddered to drink,
and the nails You stretched Your hands to,
and the thorns pounded into Your brow.
From nakedness and sorrow You loved us.
From homelessness and rejection.
From thirst and mockery.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

From Father to Father

"And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 
'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, 
and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, 
but thy name shall be Abraham; 
for a father of many nations have I made thee. 
And I will make thee exceedingly fruitful, 
and I will make nations of thee; 
and kings shall proceed from thee...'"
~Genesis 17:3-6

Ninety-nine years old, and called by the same name all his life.
Exalted father.
Who names their baby that?
For ninety-nine years, he has been introduced as a father.
How many children do you have, exalted father?

I read a book to my children recently
which takes place in the Middle East,
and the father of sons bears his name proudly.
But the father of daughters is a bit of a loser.
Everyone pities him at his introduction.
Ah, yes.
You are the one who sires nothing but girls.
How sad.

But here is Abram, exalted father of no one.
And the very name he has worn all these years,
given to him in hope, I am sure,
has mocked him.
Your marriage is fruitless.
Your riches will pass out of your house.
You are not a father.
The goal of his life was given to him at his birth,
and all his work had come to nothing.
He had a wife legendary for her beauty,
and barren as the desert.

God changed his name, but not as we might have.
He exalted him from a father to the father of a multitude.
And Sarai's name -- changed, too.
She went from my princess to princess.
In both cases, He confirmed their identity,
but seemed to make it His own work.
Not the inheritance of their father,
but the certain work of God.