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Monday, December 19, 2011

So Run

SO RUN

    Each breath feels like I’m sucking fire into my lungs. My heart seems about to burst from my chest. Every nerve in my body screams with pain. I know those around me are struggling as painfully as I am, but that doesn’t make my struggle any easier. What made me think I was cut out to be a long distance runner?

    Where’s my Dad? He encouraged me to sign up for the team, to follow in the footsteps of my oldest brother, the team captain. Dad’s been involved in my training every step of the way—diet, rest, strengthening. He even brought me here today. And now, in the race of my life, when I need him the most, I can't see him anywhere.

    This seems as if it will never end. My oldest brother has run this race before, and he gave me a map of the course. I’ve done my best to commit it to memory, but now, it’s so hard to recall. It feels like my entire world consists of pain—labored breathing, pounding heart, bleeding feet, throbbing joints, and utter, utter fatigue—as I face another uphill stretch, another valley, another bend in the path where I can’t see what’s ahead.

    I’ve watched my brothers and sisters run this course. Dad was there for every one of their races, moving from point to point, cheering them on, shouting encouragement, calling their name with pride. But here I am on the course alone.

    I round a curve and there, in the distance I can see the finish line. If I can just hang on, I can finish the course. Sobbing with exhaustion, I push myself toward the mark that designates victory. Using my last reserve of strength, I stumble toward the gate.

    There’s my Dad! He’s standing at the finish line, calling my name, smiling, and waving me in. And there, at the end of the race, are my brothers and sisters, shouting, cheering, jumping up and down.

    I stagger across the finish line and fall into my Dad’s arms. He wipes away my tears, and my brother, the team captain, gives me a drink of water.

    Their welcome refreshes me, and as the pain fades, my thoughts clear and my memory springs to life. One after another,  images flash through my mind—my Dad! I can see now; he was there with me, moving across my course, every step of the way—every curve, every rocky stretch, every uphill struggle.

    The victory party is in full swing, and as the celebration swirls around me, I hear the sweetest sound of all. It’s my Dad, whispering in my ear.
 
    “Well done, my child. You finished the course. You never lost faith. Welcome to joy.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Rock and a Hard Place

God will make a way,
Where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see.
He will make a way for me. (1)

Have you ever been "between a rock and a hard place"? Have you ever been in a situation where you could not find a way out? If you're a follower of Jesus Christ who's in a situation where you can find no way out, that's because you're not supposed to! God wants to do it for you.

When God allows us to face a new problem, an impossible problem, it's because He wants to reveal something new about Himself—something we've never experienced before. (By the way, no problem ever seems impossible, once we've seen God solve it!)

That's why it's important to have landmarks, "stones of remembrance" (Joshua 4:1-7) in a life of faith. Then, when a problem comes, we can look at it and say, "Well, I've never seen God solve this before, but I've seen Him solve that."

After the Great Flood, if Noah ever faced a drought, he probably found it easier to trust. Sure, he'd never faced a lack of rain before, but he knew the One who rules the wind and the rain.

When Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, he probably found some reinforcement for his faith in the fact that, although he'd never seen God give back a dead child to a couple, he had seen God give a child to a 100 year old father and a 90 year old mother. He had never seen God bring a child back to life, but he had seen Him bring a womb back to life. "He had never seen a resurrection, but he had seen a miracle!" (2)

What "impossible situation" are you facing? What landmarks can you recall, that remind you that you are loved and cared for the One who celebrates the impossible? What new thing about Himself does He want to reveal about Himself in your circumstance? 

With love and strength for each new day,
He will make a way,
He will make a way. (1)

References:
1. God Will Make a Way - Don Moen
2. quoting Dr. Tony Evans - The Urban Alternative

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

...And Nudge Me When....

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to be silent and a time to speak.... (Ecclesiastes 3:1&7)

Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
In living echoes of Thy tone.
As Thou hast sought, so let me seek
Thy wand'ring children, lost and lone. (1)

A close friend is, I believe, very close to stepping into a new (to them) spiritual truth. The kind that will change everything. And therein lies the problem. My friend is scared. SCARED. This truth is so big, once you grasp it, you see things differently—God, people, work, pleasure, life....

And therein lies my problem. I'm beginning to have a small grasp of this truth, and it makes me want to grab people, shake them awake, and drag them to it. Sort of like making kids eat broccoli. It's that important!

But that isn't how God does it. He is patient and kind, and gives us time. He wants me to remember that there is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. I need to strike a balance. While I'm waiting for my friend, I need to follow my dad's advice: "Ask Jesus to come stand beside you, and put His arm around your shoulders and His hand over your mouth."

"Lord, fill my mouth with useful stuff, and nudge me when I've said enough!" (2)

References:
1. Lord, Speak to Me, That I May Speak - Frances Havergal
2. quoting Joyce Landorf

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where Could I Go?

Some days, it's tough to even string together one coherent sentence. That seems to be when God sends a song...or three!

Living below in this old sinful world
Hardly a comfort can afford
Striving alone to face temptations call
Where could I go, but to the Lord


Where could I go where could I go
Seeking a refuge for my soul
Needing a friend to help me in the end
Where could I go, but to the Lord (1)

 ------------

Tempted and tried, we're oft made to wonder
Why it should be thus, all the day long,
While there are others, living around us,
Never molested, though in the wrong.


Farther along, we'll know all about it.
Farther along, we'll understand why.
Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine.
We'll understand it all, by and by. (2)

 ----------------


Where do I go,
When there's nobody else to turn to?
Who can I talk to,
When nobody wants to listen?
What do I lean on,
When there is no foundation stable?

I go to the Rock,
I know He is able, I go to the Rock.

I go to the Rock of my Salvation.
I go to the Stone that the builders rejected.
I run to the mountain,
And the mountain stands by me.
When all around is sinking sand,
On Christ the solid rock I stand.
When I need a shelter,

When I need a friend,
I go to the Rock. (3)

References:
1. Where Could I Go - J.B. Coats
2. Farther Along - W.B. Stevens
3. I Go to the Rock -Dottie Rambo

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Potter's Hands

 “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying, ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I shall announce My words to you.’ Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel.  But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.”  (Jeremiah 18:1-4)

Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way.
Thou are the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still. (1)

I am a potter’s wife. As I watch my potter work, I learn about how the Heavenly Potter works on me. There’s a time when the clay lies dormant and unformed, maturing to the stage where the potter can use it in his plan. Then wedging, as the potter pounds, squeezes, and kneads the clay, to work out all the impurities and tiny air pockets that create weak spots in the vessel, or cause it to explode during the firing process--when the heat is on. The potter spins the clay "out of control,” applies pressure, trims off excess, cuts the support out from under the vessel. And that all takes place before the firing, when the potter applies intense heat for an extended time.

There is also the involvement the clay has in the process. It can choose whether or not to cooperate as it is being shaped. Many times, I’ve heard my husband say, “The clay just isn’t cooperating today.” It isn’t all up to the potter.

As human clay, we have a choice. We can cooperate with the Potter, and be clay He can use. Or we can refuse to cooperate in one of two ways. We can be stiff and inflexible--resisting the Potter’s shaping touch as He works His plan for us. Stiff clay breaks off, leaving less for the potter to use.

Or we can ‘wimp out,” and collapse under the touch of the Potter. We decide we can’t handle what He has laid out for us, we choose to quit rather than endure, and we distort ourselves from the Potter’s plan just as thoroughly as if we had stiffened and broken.

There's good news here,“so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.” (Jeremiah 18:4) If we’ve resisted the Potter, stiffened or caved at His touch, we don’t have to feel our usefulness is gone. God the Potter can still shape us, reclaim us, use us. There is never a point in this life when the Heavenly Potter decides He can’t use us. He is the God of the second chance. And the third, and the fourth, and.... He’s just waiting to be asked. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; 
save me and I will be saved, 
for you are the one I praise. (
Jeremiah 17:14
)

Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Saviour
I know for sure, 

All of my days are held in Your hands,
Crafted into Your perfect plan

You gently call me into Your presence

Guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life 

Through Your eyes
 

I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, 

I know you're drawing me to Yourself
Lead me Lord I pray

Take me, mold me, use me, fill me

I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter's hand (2)
 

References:
Have Thine Own Way, Lord - Adelaide A. Pollard
The Potter's Hand - Darlene Zschech

Saturday, November 12, 2011

God's Love

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1John 3:1a)

Today, I'm thinking about the love of God. Until I can write something as meaningful as these, they'll have to do. First, here's an older one: 

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 
Vast unmeasured, boundless, free
Rolling as a mighty ocean, 

In its fullness over me
Underneath me, all around me, 

Is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward 

To Thy glorious rest above (1)

Next, a newer one:

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory (2)


Last, this is the one I consider the writer's hymn:

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song (3)


As symbolized by this selection of songs, may you find God's love tried and true, ever new, and supplied 'specially, just for you.

References:
1. O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus - Samuel T. Francis
2. How Deep the Father's Love for Us - Stuart Townend
3. The Love of God - Frederick M. Lehman

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Shepherd Goes On Ahead

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside. (1)

There's always something to worry about. Whatever else may be in short supply, running out of worry-worthy topics is not something you need to worry about. It's wise to give some thought to what could be around the corner, just like it's a good idea to glance at the weather forecast to see if you'll need your umbrella. But for some of us, planning ahead deteriorates to worrying and obsessing. It's the equivalent of hear a forecast of light showers, and heading for the storm shelter. What a waste of energy!

...I know Who holds tomorrow,
And I know Who holds my hand. (2)

Jesus tells us (Matthew 6) not to worry about our needs for the future. He also tells us why we don't need to worry. (John 10:2-4). "...the shepherd of the sheep...calls his own sheep by name...leads them out [and] he goes on ahead of them...." We don't have to worry about what we'll find when we arrive at tomorrow--we'll find our Savior, waiting there for our arrival, with our needs already lovingly supplied. We just need to recognize His voice, and follow Him when He calls us. 

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
Much we need Thy tender care...
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus,
Thou hast bought us, Thine we are. (3)

References:
1. Great is Thy Faithfulness - T.O. Chisholm
2. I Know Who Holds Tomorrow - Ira Stanphill
3. Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us - attr., Dorothy Thrupp

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Boldly, As I Should

All hail the power of Jesus' name
Let angels prostrate fall
Bring forth the royal diadem
And crown Him Lord of all (1)

Today, I'm up early, and morning is "gilding my skies." I had a good night's sleep, and I'm sitting at my desk, watching a beautiful sunrise develop as I write. This morning, it's easy to believe in the Lordship of Christ, and His ultimate victory over sin and sickness, death and hell. Today, I'll let the music speak for me.

You are stronger, You are stronger
Sin is broken, You have saved me
It is written, "Christ is risen!"
Jesus, You are Lord of all (2)

This morning, I will speak for my Audience of One, about His faithfulness--with a dozen or so bystanders. My prayer is that I will tell His truth clearly, so that He can use my words to touch hearts.

The kingdoms of this world
Have become 
The Kingdom of Our Lord
And of His Christ
And He shall reign forever and ever! (3)

"...and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,...that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."  (Ephesians 6:19-20)

References:
All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name - Edward Perronet
Stronger - Hillsong
Hallelujah Chorus - G.F. Handel

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

All In the Family

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Jesus loves the little ones like me, me, me.
Jesus loves the little ones like me, me, me.
Little ones like me sat upon His knee. 
Jesus loves the little ones like me, me, me. (1)

"Well, I'll be! You're Martha's girl...Richard and Betty's oldest... Ralph's boys."

Have you ever noticed what happens at family gatherings? Suddenly, you're not Dr. So-and-so, or Reverend Blank, or Mrs. X, the Teacher of the Year. You're just somebody's kid--a part of the family! You're a small piece of something much bigger.

When one has a heartache, we all shed a tear,
And rejoice in each victory, in this family so dear. (2)

Maybe some people don't enjoy family get-togethers because they don't have the confidence to allow themselves to go back to that "lowest common denominator"--the children we are. It can be scary to have to identify myself in "child terms" rather than who I am or what I do -- not to be "the published writer" or "Professor Smith's wife." Kids don't have accomplishments and titles to hide behind. Their joys, their hurts, their fears are right out there. Kids know that's how you find someone to share those feelings.

Children of the Heavenly Father,
Safely in His bosom gather.
Nestling bird nor star in heaven
Such a refuge e'er was given. (3)

In the same way, as children of the Heavenly Father, we need to stop hiding behind our titles, our accomplishments, our awards. We need to let people in, past our Sunday morning smile, our "just fine!" our "gotta run--busy, busy, busy!" We need to be willing just to be Jim whose dad has Alzheimer's, or Gloria who can't find work, or Chris who struggles with impure thoughts. Not only is that the way we will find help and healing for ourselves--we can free others. Our transparency, our willingness to be vulnerable, helps open the door for them to seek wholeness.

But somebody has to go first....
 
But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching? (4)


References:
1. Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like Me - Unknown
2. The Family of God - Bill and Gloria Gaither
3. Children of the Heavenly Father - Carolina Sandell-Berg
4. If We are the Body - Casting Crowns

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

How Many In Your Audience?

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night, 
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. (1)

"I want my dad to be proud."
"What would Mom say?"
"What would the pastor think?"
The boss. The neighbors. My kids.

All these concerns have some validity. SOME. The problem comes, though, when my audience gets too big. The question is, "How big is too big?" For the Christ-follower, the answer is simple. (You notice, I said simple--not easy.) If I claim to follow Jesus, then the size of my audience is--ONE. Others may watch. They may comment, applaud, or criticize. But they are bystanders. Their responses may impact me, but they should not dissuade me. Christ is my audience. I sing, I dance, I weep, I laugh, I love, I speak, I live, I die--for Him. (Romans 14:7-8)

I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back,
No turning back. (2)

I know, I know. There's something oxymoronic about writing on an open public blog to advocate an audience of One. My goal is to write what He assigns, to the best of my ability, in a way pleasing to Him, regardless if anyone else ever reads it. Pray for me.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. (3)

...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31b)

References:
1. Be Thou My Vision - attr. to Dallan Forgaill
2. I Have Decided - attr. to S. Sundar Singh
3. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus - Helen Lemmel

Monday, November 07, 2011

When Mourning Clouds the Skies

When morning gilds the skies, 
My heart awaking cries, 
"May Jesus Christ be praised!" (1)

 Those lines from the old hymn paint a beautiful picture of a peaceful morning, with a golden sunrise. But what about the morning when the skies aren't gilded? The days when you wake up to disease symptoms that are no better--in fact, they're worse. Your teen is still rebelling. Your loved one who passed away is still gone. Your job is still being phased out. What about the days when we identify more with the song performed by the group "Casting Crowns"?

But once again, I say 'Amen' 
And it's still raining. (2)

What do we do with Bible verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "In everything, give thanks," or Romans 8:28 "We know that all things work together for good"? Often, in our rush to claim those promises, we take them out of context. We forget--or never even discover--that Romans 8:29 goes on to talk about God using those "all things" to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus. We miss the reminder that one purpose of our suffering is a training ground where we learn how to comfort those who are suffering around us (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

So, on the days when I can't see "morning gilding the skies" because mourning is clouding my skies, I can still sing. What's in my repertoire? I can start with  

What a friend we have in Jesus 
All our sins and griefs to bear. (3)

Then, as I experience His comfort, I can reach out to those around me who are hurting, and sing

My deepest prayer, my highest goal, 
That I may be like Jesus (4)

And as I learn more and more how to lean on His faithfulness and trust in His love, I can begin to sing

Blessed be the Name of the Lord, 
Blessed be Your Name. 
Blessed be the Name of the Lord, 
Blessed be Your glorious Name. 
You give and take away, 
You give and take away, 
My heart will choose to say, 
"Lord, blessed be Your Name." (5)

Today, may praise fill your heart, even if morning doesn't gild your skies.

References:
1. When Morning Gilds the Skies - translator, Edward Caswall
2. Praise You in This Storm - Casting Crowns (Mark Hall)
3. What a Friend We Have in Jesus - Joseph Scriven
4. I Want to Be Like Jesus - Thomas Obediah Chisholm
5. Blessed Be Your Name - Matt Redman

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Bell Tolls

"What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." —Jesus (Luke 15:4-7)


On the subject of Osama bin Laden's death:

I've found the "party" footage disturbing. While I'm not sure such military action is always avoidable, I fail to see the cause for such wild celebration.

Osama bin Laden's soul is as equally loved by God, and his redemption was as eagerly desired by God, as that of the most devout Christian grandmother, or the sweetest, most innocent newborn.

Even if one believes that capital punishment is acceptable, the taking of a human life is always a moment for solemnity, not boisterous revelry.


For Whom the Bell Tolls

by John Donne


No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

The Good Shepherd weeps for the loss of even the most violent, rebellious, wild sheep.

...and the bell tolls...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Is any of you sick...?

I need to write the beauty of this day, before it fades.

Escorted before the Throne by family--blood and Spirit.

Renouncing and reclaiming.

Large, soul-satisfying servings of the Word, succulent and filling like never before.

Forgiveness, given and received.

Sweet singing and powerful prayer.

And yet. And yet....

Hope...and taunting.

The image of a clenched fist--not of defiance, but of resistance to letting go.

It follows me.

Father, show me what I need to set free, so that I may be free, indeed.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Open Mouth, Insert Birds (and Bees)

I'm going to be a grandma...again! And my four year old granddaughter is excited about being a big sister, again. So the other day, she and I were just hangin' out, chatting and spelling words with Scrabble tiles on the floor, and it went something like this:

GD: Look! I spelled Mom and Dad!
Me: Very nice!
GD: And look, I can spell my name, too!
Me: Very impressive! Would you like to practice the baby names?
GD: Only the girl one, 'cause I really want a sister. So I think that's what I'll just have.
Me: Well, we don't get to choose. Jesus decides, and we find out later.
GD (wide-eyed): Does He TELL us?!
(At that moment, I nearly talked myself into a corner. But then I rescued myself, rather neatly, I think.)
Me: No. Remember the picture we have of the baby in Mommy's tummy? Well, when the baby is bigger, the doctor will take another picture, and we'll be able to see if it's a boy or girl when we see its...(What have I got myself into?! Help!)...its...FACE. (Whew. Dodged a bullet on that one.)

Now, as long as we don't find her staring at the ultrasound picture, trying to figure out how you tell the difference between a boy face and a girl face....

...And by the way, we just found out the baby is a....(to be continued)

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ideal Bookshelf

I found an interesting website, "The Ideal Bookshelf," where an artist creates "inner portraiture," a painting of a row of books, chosen by the subject as memorable and influential for them.

That got me thinking.... Although I can't necessarily afford a painting, I can create a "sketch"--a list of some of my most unforgettable books.

Here they are:
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (esp. The Last Battle) by C.S. Lewis
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The HAB Theory by Allan W. Eckert
  • The White Plague by Frank Herbert
  • The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden
  • Lost Horizon by James Hilton
  • Walking On Water by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Writing Essentials by Roy Peter Clark
  • The Bible
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
  • Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
  • Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Lord of the Flies by William S. Golding
  • The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (If you send me your email address, I will not publish or sell it, but I will tell you why this book is on the list.)
Short Stories by:
  • James Thurber
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • O. Henry
What's on your ideal bookshelf? Leave a comment and let me know.