Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Therefore I Have Hope


I opened my Facebook this morning
and saw one of those things
posted by Christian friends with good intentions,
hoping to stir up in you the perfect parent
and thus lead your family into a state of unmatched perfect outcomes,
never yet seen in the world.
That was how it felt, anyway.

Don't forget: everything depends on you.
If you fail to be perfect in parenting,
husbanding,
wife-ing,
and general citizenry,
all is lost,
and your children will lead the next pagan revival.

Honestly I didn't even read the post.
I have enough anxiety about my performance,
and the results of my performance
without reading it.
Maybe it was a truly helpful post.
But its title looked unbearably guilt-trippy and depressing to me.

And when a child in my house informed me this morning
that I 'was bearing false witness against them!
by requesting that the pan cupboard be straightened up,
knowing that particular child
had shoved everything into it topsy-turvy in a haze of daydreaming,
I lost my temper.

The bickering between this one and one other has worn me down.
I am tired of hearing pointless arguments
and contradictions without cause.
And snotty little comments made to provoke tears.
And denials of reality when reality is that the child is a space cadet,
and walks around putting things in odd places,
whether the places and actions are remembered or not.
And it was the last straw.

I did not bake some cookies to correct the misinformed little soul.
I failed to keep my cool.
And probably ruined all future hope of happiness and prosperity for the child.
Maybe of Christianity, too.
Although I did apologize,
and the child apologized,
and we hugged one another and forgave one another.

It says that if your brother has something against you,
go to him and be reconciled.
It doesn't say,
"If your brother has something against you,
you are obviously damned
because Christians never do wrong by each other,
and don't need to ask forgiveness of each other."

It isn't our perfection that sharpens one another, I think.
I think that where it says,
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,"
it's more about friction than lubrication.
Sometimes I wish there was less to sharpen in me.

My husband texted me, "Broken people beget broken people.
If it wasn't for the Lord, what would we do?
He is strong.
He will hold us up."

Feeling like a jerk, I sat down and looked over a few blogs,
hoping to glean a little grace.
And my eyes fell on one of my favorites,
which was quoting a Scripture yesterday:
"This I recall to my mind,
therefore I have hope:
The Lord's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness."

And it's from Lamentations -- a bit of grace in itself.
'Compassions' are multiple.
'Lovingkindnesses' are multiple.
Unfailing.
Unceasing.
New every morning.
And strangely enough, though I am a Christian,
I need them again today.
Maybe you do, too.

There is reason to hope.
Though my lovingkindnesses stopped with six words said to me,
and my compassion probably didn't even get out of bed this morning,
His was new again, as ever.
And His faithfulness is great.

Have mercy on us sinners, Lord,
and sanctify our dirt-born lives.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Those Things Which He Lacks


This morning I was praying for my son,
and thanking the Lord for the gift that he is.
Asking for help in nurturing him:
that we would strengthen his weaknesses,
and encourage his strengths.
I was thinking about the way he sees things
and understands ridiculously complex concepts,
while struggling to form written sentences on paper.
And before I knew what I was saying, I prayed,
"Lord, thank you that his brilliant mind is handicapped.
Please cause him to lean on You in trust
for those things which he lacks.
You are good, and You do good."

And it hit home.
"Lord, I also lack much that I need to excel.
In me, I cannot find all that I need."
Ah, but I remembered:
In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
"In You, I can do valiantly.
Help me, Lord.
Thank You for my lack.
In my helplessness, You make me trust You."

I was thinking about David's prayer,
when he said the Lord had made him to trust
while he was at his mother's breast.
A breastfeeding infant is a powerless person.
But for David it was a place of trust.
Later in his life, he said the Lord had trained his hands for battle,
and taught him to leap walls.
It was the same person who did both:
laid there, helplessly nourished by his mother --
and fought Goliath and lions and bears.
A helpless infant, and a mighty warrior.
A fleeing refugee, and a conquering king.
A cave dweller, and a palace owner.
A hotheaded man bent on revenge,
and a man showing mercy to his enemies.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Broken and Gilded

We took our children to the Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday,
where there was much to wonder at.
In the Asian arts section, a strange shape across the room caught my eye,
and I walked over to look at it.
It was unusually shaped, glazed and gilded pottery of some kind.
I read the plaque explaining about it.
The artist (Yee Sookyung) had collected potters' discarded fragments --
so many pieces that were broken and tossed out
by those who knew what they were doing.
Professionals with tasks at hand had done their work,
and when a piece did not measure up, sent it to the trash pile.

But an artist had a plan.
Collecting these useless broken pieces,
she set out to use an ancient technique for pottery repair.
Gluing each piece together carefully,
she formed a misshapen vase out of those pieces rejected by their owners.
But she wasn't finished when she glued them.
Each broken edge, glued to other broken edges,
made one by her skill, was gilded.
All the breaks were painted with gold.

The finished piece
was certainly not what any potter would have set out to form.
But an artist did.
It is called a "Translated Vase".
And while the pots those professionals made
were probably sold in shops to be used in households,
the artist's work is displayed in an art museum.
Every day, hundreds of people walk past it,
and they look at the gilded edges of broken discarded trash
and they read the name of the artist.

God, being rich in mercy, 
for his great love wherewith he loved us, 
even when we were dead through our trespasses, 
made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), 
and raised us up with him, 
and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: 
that in the ages to come 
he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: 
for by grace have ye been saved through faith; 
and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 
not of works, that no man should glory. 
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, 
which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.
~Ephesians 2:5-10

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Keep Close, My Soul


I am a day behind in my One Year Bible reading, if today is September third.
Note my lack of confidence even in the date.
I am reading the New Testament readings, and the Psalms and Proverbs.
Today, Paul described his ministry --
and I felt like he described my lack.

"We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, 
and no one will find fault with our ministry...
We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind...
We prove ourselves by our purity, 
our understanding, 
our patience, 
our kindness, 
by the Holy Spirit within us, 
and by our sincere love...
We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, 
whether they slander us or praise us...
Our hearts ache, but we always have joy."

I don't know about you, but even without anyone else's help,
I can find fault with my ministry.
My endurance is weak.
My understanding is severely limited.
My patience is more than it was, and not near what it should be.
My kindness is small.
Sometimes I wonder, "Lord, is Your Holy Spirit in me at all? 
Do I imagine Your leading?"
And when my heart aches, it aches.
I grieve easily.
How can I ever live up?

Somewhat downcast from this passage,
I opened up my Chequebook of the Bank of Faith and read this
(also a day behind):

"Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord" (Hosea 6:3)

Not all at once, but by degrees shall we attain to holy knowledge, 
and our business is to persevere and learn little by little. 
We need not despair, though our progress may be slow, 
for we shall yet know.
The Lord, who has become our teacher, 
will not give us up, however slow of understanding we may be; 
for it is not for His honor 
that any degree of human folly should baffle His skill. 
The Lord delights to make the simple wise.

Our duty is to keep to our main topic, 
and follow on to know, not this particular doctrine or that, 
but Jehovah Himself. 
To know Father, Son, and Spirit, the Triune God, 
this is life eternal: let us keep to this, 
for in this way we shall gain complete instruction. 
By following on to know the Lord, 
we learn healing after being torn, 
binding up after smiting, 
and life after death. 
Experience has its perfect work 
when the heart follows the trackway of the Almighty Lord.

My soul, keep thou close to Jesus, 
follow on to know God in Jesus, 
and so shalt thou come to the knowledge of Christ, 
which is the most excellent of all the sciences. 
The Holy Ghost will lead thee into all truth. 
Is this not His gracious office? 
Rely upon Him to fulfill it.

~Charles Spurgeon

On Sunday, my brother-in-law said this:
"Lay down your apprehensions and pray,
'Lord, what would You have me to do?'"
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