Tuesday, July 14, 2015 3 comments

Meditation: Obedience

"Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." (John 12:27, NKJV)

This is the "glad surrender" of Christ; the laying aside of His own will to unite with the Trinity. I, too, must learn, as He did, obedience in yielding--in wanting, not my own will, but His purpose for this hour.

But if the Savior's life purpose brought trouble to His soul, why would I think that His will for me is found by taking the path of least resistance, simply walking through open doors? He would not spare His own Son, whom He loves, a troubled soul at the point of choosing to yield to the perfect Way; and, my soul, He loves you, too.

Yield in that same glad surrender to the difficult will--of a call beyond your fathoming, or monotony below your ideals--and trust, as He did, that the Father will bring glory from the appointed hours when your troubled soul chooses selfless obedience.

"For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.'" (Romans 15:3)

This, indeed, is a high calling in Christ.

Friday, June 5, 2015 0 comments

A Summer to Remember

Rich smoke wafting through heavy air.
Little faces dripping with watermelon smiles.
Lightning bugs.
Long, clear twilights that flow into moonglow.
Early morning light.
Happy, full birdsongs that pierce through windy trees.
Soil, rich with promise, tilled and black.
Sweaty bodies, kissed with summer browns and pinks.
Green plants, new, but still familiar.
Freshness, hope.

Each line conjures up a scene, a memory, and urges for the same to come again.

I wish that I was seven again, and could run, following the hose from the dank, cool pump house on the acreage, to find where Mom was, watering the garden a while; or slip on some dirty sneakers to go adventuring in the barns (I still use a favorite paring knife discovered in one of those scroungings); or perhaps spend a whole day biking beside my siblings in meaningless circles, transformed into meaningful treks by the glories of imagination.

Oh, Summer, I remember how we used to be.

The years have changed the seasons, so summer comes differently now. Responsibilities still linger, and more planning often comes with summer events when making mud pies is no longer the pinnacle of a perfect day.

But I want to make this a summer to remember.

I recently read a blog post, dictated by a young woman named Melinda, a friend of a friend who is losing her physical senses - touch, hearing, and most recently, sight - due to a disease called NF2. She's a Believer, but she's struggling right now, with changes in care, and sudden downhill turns in health. And with losing both her hearing and her sight, that tragically limits so many things for her that she use to be able to do (I really can't imagine the darkness that would be). I'd encourage you to read the whole post here, but at least take a moment to ponder this paragraph (I've edited it down slightly for the sake of this post):

"And I know I’m going through some spiritual things, even though I have been trying to remember Bible verses and sing different songs in my head. I just … I’m really struggling with that aspect of knowing that sometime I’m going to have to stop reading my Bible, and realizing that I should have hidden more of God’s Word in my heart. And I don’t think … I don’t think I’m ready, ready for this."

I understand that I just took a nostalgic post about summer and suddenly took a seemingly unrelated u-turn. However, it's all coming to the same point: I want to make this a summer to remember.

I want to take this opporunity, imperfect though it may be, to make memories beyond long days and moonglow, and intentionally memorize God's Word - because sometimes we wait so long for the perfect moment, we look back to see it's already passed.

This isn't to say I haven't ever memorized scripture before, but, like many of you I'm guessing, most of that memory was done during school years, when it was built into the schedule in one way or another. In recent years I've occasionally memorized more, but since reading Malinda's story, it's given me new inspiration and impetus. The phrase, "Those who don't read have no advantage over those who can't," has taken on new meaning. And though I'm not faced with the same struggles of the disease Malinda's battling, I'm still faced with circumstances that would be helped by a mind ready with Truth.

Things like

... renewing my mind on a moment-by-moment basis.

... giving sound counsel and advice.

... sharing with clarity the power of the Gospel.

I could go on listing more, and you could probably add to this list as well. But time spent memorizing scripture will never be time wasted.

A summer spent intentionally filling the crevasses of my mind with scripture is the kind of summer I hope to remember for a lifetime.

I've set some personal goals of how much I hope to memorize over the summer, and would invite you to join me, too, and take on as much as you think you can handle - even if it's just a verse for the month, that's something! I'll be sharing the specifics of how much and what I hope to commit to memory over this summer, as well as some more thoughts and tips that I've found helpful in effective memorization.

But in the meantime, and regardless of whether you decide to join in on this Summer to Remember, please be in prayer for Malinda and her family as they go through these hard days of decline in Malinda's health. And pray for Malinda, that the Words of God (that we can so easily hear and see) would permeate her mind in the darkness of her body, and shine Truth in these difficult days.

Monday, February 23, 2015 5 comments

I Have Loved You

Malachi, chapter one, verse one:
The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi.

The burden of the word of the Lord.

The words prepared me for a weight like lead to be poured from Malachi's scroll. A pause anticipated the next breath of the Almighty, the burden of the Lord. What is the sort of thing a Holy God says when the words He speaks hold a burden?

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
I have loved you. These words didn't come like lead; they weren't the lighting one might brace for. They felt more like a heavy rain, like an unfettered gust that nearly undoes gravity when it hits you. Powerful and glorious.

The burden of the word of the

“I have loved you...”

I slid the leather bound pages closer, and pulled them
onto my lap as I curled up tighter on my hope chest, the book enveloped with my body as I hugged my legs closer and read again the words of the book that rested on my knees. I was mesmerized by the straightforward decree from the God who is so often an enigma. But even here there was still something more, something that made this statement complex and bittersweet; there was a burden. 

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.

This love is not the end, but the starting point. In a way, it's the summation of His following burden, the basis for the rest of what He had to say to His disobedient, half-hearted people. This is what makes the rest of the book matter, what gives it context - these are words of love. Love from a Father who chastens every son whom He loves. But what was the response of Israel toward this loving Father?

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.
“Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’

Oh, Israel.

Oh, my own heart.

In what way has He loved us? In every way. But this was not a question to recall to mind the faithfulness of the God who chose, protected, set apart ... this was the callous retort of a people made of faithless dust, with wandering hearts, with forgetful pride. People like me. People like you.

“Your words have been harsh against Me,”
Says the Lord, 

“Yet you say,
‘What have we spoken against You?’
You have said,

‘It is useless to serve God;
What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance,
And that we have walked as mourners
Before the Lord of hosts?
So now we call the proud blessed,

For those who do wickedness are raised up;
They even tempt God and go free.’”

(Malachi 3:13-15)

I thought of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem, over the people who had ears, but would not hear. I wept now, too. This felt like a bitter ending to what could have been a love story. A tragedy of a beggar maid refusing the King who loved her. The words hurt to read. They hurt, because these are the children of Abraham - they should have been faithful.

I should be faithful.

But, even when we are faithless, still He is faithful. Still He is slow to anger. Still He abounds in lovingkindness.

“For I am the Lord, I do not change;
Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.

Yet from the days of your fathers
You have gone away from My ordinances
And have not kept them.
Return to Me, and I will return to you,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
(Malachi 3:6-7)

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
(Malachi 3:16)

is the remnant. God always holds a remnant, who together make the whole. The remnant knows His voice, and follows Him. The remnant returns, and is redeemed. The remnant loves because He first loved us.

“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
(Malachi 3:17)

They shall be Mine. This is the pledge of the Father who has loved Israel, has loved His Church. This is the pledge of the God who remains faithful when we are faithless. This is the pledge of the One who has seen it all, and yet redeems. And how does He redeem?  

I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.

He spared His own people - His reckless, prodigal people - by not sparing His Son, His only Son, in whom He was well pleased. He has chosen, in His love and justice by Christ's death and resurrection, by Christ's blood, to see us as He sees Christ. Without spot or blemish. Joint heirs. Faithful. Beloved. His jewels.

“I have loved you,” says the Lord.

Oh, my God, yes ... yes, You have.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 2 comments

Remember ... always.

He had been talking for a while. I had tried to interact, but at some point I lost track of what he was trying to express, and started only half listening. Meanwhile, the other half of me was busily thinking of this, that, and the other, and occasionally muttering an "Mmhm," in response to his expectant pauses as I walked behind his blue check shirt and wavy blonde hair. I followed behind him until in his boy-ish chivalry (and, more likely, enthusiasm) he opened the door for me to go outside with him.

I walked through without hesitation, but he stood there, still holding the door, and changed his tone so that suddenly I felt as if this was important, and needed my full attention.

"And remember!" He said, waiting to continue until my eyes had firmly locked with his - sparkling, blue, mischievous, and yet sincere. "I will always be your friend."

Unflinchingly, he kept his eyes focused on me - not as if waiting to give a punch line, or wondering if I'd thought he was silly, but boldly and reassuringly, yet wondering what my response might be.

At that point, I wished I had given his little self my full attention, and not been so quickly distracted by all the things around me, the things I had yet to do; but I realized that this was an opportunity - regardless of what had led to his statement, and regardless of how long a four-year-old truly believes "always" to be - to affirm the unconditional love that he had, who knows how purposefully, just expressed.

All I could think to say, and the best I could come up with to respond was to repeat his words back to him: "And you will always be my friend."

With that, he gave a confident smile, and we joined his sister and drew on the sidewalk until the last piece of chalk had been spent.

It was a moment, but moments are the things that define our lives. Moments are what we think about and ponder, and sometimes moments change the world.

The phrase this little friend chose to use reminded me of something much bigger than he or I could ever promise, but it's where we get the idea for these kind of statements. It's like something God has promised, something that He says to His children, unflinchingly and boldly, when our eyes have locked with His.

Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

"I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Remember ... always. Remember ... always.

They're the sort of words that you want to repeat, that bring an unexpected joy.
And, while "always" may be an uncertain amount of time to a little boy, "always" with Christ means just that. And not only is He our friend, but by His blood and by His body He is our savior and our intercessor, who ever lives and pleads for us. Always.

Take heart, friends, and remember. Always.

Thursday, January 16, 2014 1 comments

Be Still My Soul

We sang "Be Still, My Soul" in worship last Sunday, and as we did, it occurred to me that I love this song. That sounds silly, perhaps, but it’s one I’ve been familiar with for most of my life, and sometimes we don’t give familiar things the sort of thought we should until one day we realize we love them. So, as we sang it through, and then for a little while after, I just pondered each line, section by section and word by word for a moment. And it was beautiful, peaceful.

I thought I would share with you in several parts (though, we all know by now how consistent I really am at posting here), some of my thoughts and meditations on these lines, and I encourage you to pause and think about them, too.

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side….

Do you know how to be still? I think you do. Can you do it for just a moment? And, as you’re being still, and calming the restlessness of life that toils inside you, remember this: The Lord is on thy side.

Don’t just skim it, but rest your eyes on it, and rest your soul in the thought: The Lord is on thy side.

He is not far off, but near to those who draw near to Him. And He loves you, beloved child. He loves you. He would be willing to fight for you with His dying breath … and He did. His desire is not to fight against you, but to be a united front with you. If you are on His side, He is on your side.

Be still, and remember that.
Saturday, September 28, 2013 1 comments

Autumn's Breath

(Insert remarks and apologies about the extended time of silence.)

I wrote the following today as I looked out the window. It was the first day home after a long week on the east coast, visiting relatives and friends that feel like relatives. So much of a blessing to see them all, and so bittersweet to leave them behind to return home. And as I gazed out, I saw the bittersweetness that nature feels, too. Caught in this chaos between a previous Eden and a new one coming, longing for it all to be right again. And so with us, it joins the plea: Maranatha - O Lord, come.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 1 comments

Deep Soil, Bright Hope

"And for all this, nature is never spent."
After a long winter, there is nothing that refreshes all the senses so much as to walk barefoot through the garden, feeling the variance of grasses, stones, and soil - ah, such beautiful, soft soil. Running your hands through freshly tilled ground, taking in its fresh earthen smell, and letting your fingers feel the life in its velvety, deep promise.

Though we toil, still we reap. And in reaping, we find hope to do it all again.

Let us not become weary in doing good; in due time, we will harvest.