Monday, September 15, 2014

"Lovely to Love Him"

"...right down in the depths of her own heart she really had but one passionate desire,
not for the things which the Shepherd had promised, but for himself. All she wanted was to be allowed to follow him forever.

"Other desires might clamor more strongly and fiercely nearer the surface of her nature,
but she knew now that down in the core of her own being she was so shaped
that nothing could fit, fill, or satisfy her heart but he himself.
'Nothing else really matters,' she said to herself, 'only to love him and to do what he tells me.
I don't know quite why it should be so, but it is.
All the time it is suffering to love and sorrow to love,
but it is lovely to love him in spite of this,
and if I should cease to do so, I should cease to exist.'"

~Hannah Hurnard, Hinds' Feet on High Places, p. 176

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Prayer for Our Nation

The Veterans' Memorial Park in my hometown

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4, HCSB).

King of heaven,
Lord of lords,
Ruler of princes,
Thank You for this land of my earthly pilgrimage;
For the faithful Christians among the founders of our nation;
For the multitudes, from colonial days to the present, who have sought and found freedom here to worship You openly;
For that freedom to gather in Your name without fear of police raids, imprisonment, or execution;
For Your protection of this land and its people.

Even so, despite the rich blessings You have given us, we are a nation of sinners, I myself at the head of the line.
Have mercy on us, for the sake of Christ,
For trusting in human wisdom, riches, and might instead of in You,
For cherishing political independence more than spiritual dependence,
For seeking the expedient more than the obedient,
For the oppression of the few by the many,
For failing to live within the abundant means You have provided.

Have mercy on me, Lord, for my sad neglect of Your command to pray for rulers and all who are in authority.
I am quicker to complain than to intercede; forgive me.
If we lack Daniels in our government because we have not asked, Lord,
I ask You now, for Your name's sake:
Raise up faithful Christian men and women to lead this nation, the nations of the world.
Equip them with courage to make hard choices
And integrity to serve You by serving this land.
Remind Your people, including me,
To ask and ask and ask again.

For those who lost loved ones,
who were maimed and traumatized by the events of 9/11/2001,
who have suffered in the ensuing conflicts,
Send comfort, Lord. Strengthen. Heal.
Sound forth the joy of the gospel even through those horrible trials.
Use the sorrow to bring Your sheep into the fold.

For those who wrought that terror,
For those who continue to terrorize Your people all around the globe,
From every tribe and family and nation,
O Lord, have mercy.
Forgive them, whether they understand what they are doing or not.
Bless them by bringing them to repentance.
Send the good news of Jesus into closed countries, locked rooms, shuttered hearts
(As You did for me. Let me not forget.).
Continue to turn Sauls into Pauls in this age,
Persecutors into preachers.
You can do all things, O Lord. No purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

Thank You, Father, for the encouraging examples of spiritual revival in our history.
Would You do it again in this generation?
Revive me, Lord God,
My family,
My neighborhood,
My city,
My state,
This nation,
Your church among all peoples.
Give us courage to open ourselves to the answer to this prayer,
To yield fully to Your plan instead of our own.

May Your kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth
As it is in heaven,
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,
The King of kings and Lord of lords,
Who has risen and will come again.

Come soon, Lord Jesus!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Red Baron {A Poem}

Zooming, diving, soaring, sweeping—
Your squadron of biplane bombardiers
Dazzles with the virtuosity
Of your aerial maneuvers,
Shooting down our common enemy
On the wing.

Today you stopped at my airstrip.
Awaiting new orders?
Marveling at your gossamer wings,
Scarlet fuselage,
Delicate landing gear,
I wondered at the battle-tested God
Who does not send mosquitoes
Without also dragonflies.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rose from Brier

Thou hast not that, My child, but thou hast Me;
And am not I alone enough for thee?
I know it all, know how thy heart was set
Upon this joy which is not given yet.

And well I know how through the wistful days
Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways
As unregarded as a breath of air;
But there in love and longing, always there.

I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow
A rose for others. If it were not so
I would have told thee.  Come, then, say to Me:
My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.

The above poem grew from the pen of missionary Amy Carmichael, who served southern India in the first half of the twentieth century. She bravely put herself at risk to rescue children from enslavement as prostitutes in Hindu temples there, providing them refuge in a children's home and hospital at Dohnavur Fellowship. Elisabeth Elliot told her story in A Chance to Die, and Bishop Frank Houghton in Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur. The rescued children called her Amma, like our "Mama," and so shall I for the rest of this post.

I first made her acquaintance in a Focus on the Family cassette tape (the way we listened to recorded music and speech before CDs, which came before MP3s) my mother gave me during my high school years. I wore out the tape of that message, given by Elisabeth Elliot to Wheaton College students. In it, she recited Amma's poem "Hast Thou No Scar?" from her little volume Toward Jerusalem. That poem captured my imagination. I transcribed it, then memorized it, then went to The Mustard Seed, the Christian bookstore down the street, and gradually acquired a copy of everything they had by Elliot and what little they had by Carmichael. Later my collection grew until I had a copy (sometimes with extras to give away) of everything still in print by either lady.

Sadly for Amma, a fall in a dimly lit building rendered her an invalid in severe chronic pain for the last two decades of her life. For much of that time she was confined to her own room at Dohnavur. Happily for us, her limitations--like Paul's imprisonments in ancient times--meant that she continued her work through the written word. Most of the books she has left to us grew out of the pain that disabled her from more active forms of service.

Her poem "Rose from Brier" was first published in a book of the same name, a collection of letters "from the ill to the ill." In the essay which introduces the book, she wrote,
"reading them through I am troubled to find them so personal and sometimes so intimate. It is not that I think the personal or the intimate interesting or valuable, but that I did not know how to give the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted without giving something of my own soul also (p. 9).
Those words could apply, for me, to the blogging journey of the last 4 years (August 7) as well. So many times when some odd thing prompts me to review an older post, I'll be surprised at just how personal the words are, and how they take me back to that moment. Even in the writing process, the temptation often presses in to protect myself, to hide, not to let you in quite so far, but I know Amma is right. We rarely give and receive comfort without some foundation of friendship, and true friendship is impossible without vulnerability.

Later in the same essay, she ponders receiving a "fat parcel" of pamphlets for the sick and how they "took me nowhere."
This sounds most unmissionary; unhappily, it is true. It was not till some time later, and after several similar experiences, that it struck me perhaps the reason was because they were obviously written by the well to the ill, to do them good; and so they could only flutter past like ineffective butterflies. But I found that things written by those who were in pain themselves, or who had passed through pain to peace, like the touch of understanding in a dear human letter, did something that nothing except the words of our eternal Lord could ever do (11).
My own experience echoes hers, in that the most comforting words into my illness and pain have been those of others who have been there: Amy Carmichael herself, for one, Joni Eareckson Tada, and some "real life" friends who have been there or are there now. Elisabeth Elliot, though she didn't write out of illness and physical pain, has also spoken with authority and comfort into many of my suffering seasons, and I believe this is--in addition to the Scriptures from which she derives her ultimate authority--because she has known her own trials by fire, in the martyrdom of her first beloved husband, in the decision to go back to the jungles as a widow with a toddler daughter to take the gospel to his killers, in loss upon loss in her missionary service, and in the death by cancer of her second husband. She may not have known my particular species of brier, but she knows how thorny life can be and has found the Lord trustworthy in its midst. Her suffering enhanced the credibility of her counsel. When she used to open her radio program with the words, "You are loved with an everlasting love, and underneath are the everlasting arms," I was inclined to believe her because she had tried the One who made those promises and found Him faithful.

I haven't proven to have the courage, staying power, or impact of either Amy Carmichael or Elisabeth Elliot, but from the first posts here, this journey has comprised learning to "bless the boundaries" of my small life, to fight "through pain to peace" in the Lord even when the elusive desire of recovered health remains tantalizingly out of reach, and to trust Him to make a rose bloom for someone else out of my "brier" of pain, limitations, and disappointments. What Amma did not observe is how one rose blooming for others returns to the brier patch as a dozen, how in sharing God's comfort one's own comfort multiplies in the mysterious economy of the body of Christ. Thank you, Crumbles, for that. Thank you for sharing your own roses with me in your prayers, comments, and e-mails. God knows and will reward you for your kindnesses.

And so, as one who has received comfort in Christ, I offer a small bouquet of it to you all post by post. I pray that the Lord would scent this place with the fragrance of roses, that He would keep bringing those in the midst of their own brier patches here to smell His blossoms and share theirs with me, that He would keep bringing kingdom fruit from what's already been written and whatever He would allow and enable to be written in coming days.

Dear Crumble, maybe your "thou hast not that" has nothing to do with health or relief from chronic pain. Maybe there's some other disappointment or lack altogether which causes you to ache inside. For you I count on God's promise that "He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (2 Cor. 1:4, HCSB). May He truly use this place to comfort those in any kind of affliction with the crumbs of comfort He has given me. May He give you courage to look for roses in your own brier patch.

Know this, friend:  pain never has the last word for those who are in Christ Jesus the Lord. Never. And a day is coming when all the briers will burst forth into bloom, when the God Himself will wipe away every tear from the eyes of His people, when even our scars will become as beautiful as the risen Lord's, to the glory of the triune God.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Come to the Feet of Jesus

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30, HCSB

This butterfly we believe to be an Eastern Comma was taking a rest just outside our front door Saturday night as we left for supper. (S)he waited very patiently until I had captured the photo I wanted and then fluttered off.

Come to Jesus.
He promises rest. But far better than rest of body is rest of soul. It is wretched to be a slave, to groan, bleed, toil; but far worse to be Satan's bondman, dragging about an evil conscience and an aching heart. Rest from this cannot be had but by coming to Jesus. And, if we come, He will lighten every other load. Are you poor? Come, and He will make you rich forever. Are you sick? Come, and He will cure your worst disease [the very worst being those of the soul and spirit, even more than of the body]. Are you sad? Come, and He will wipe away your tears. Are you bereaved? Come, and He will be to you a brother in adversity, who changes not, and never dies. Is sin a burden? O then, come to Jesus and He will take it all away. Do you dread the day of death and judgment? Come, and that day will be the dawn of life and glory. O then, come.  --Newman Hall (1816-1902), Come to Jesus

Coming to Jesus, falling "At the Feet of Jesus" is where I have needed to start my days lately. So if you're looking for me today, look for me "in the shelter of my Savior’s embrace /Hidden safely in the refuge of His mercy and His Grace/And I Will Sing Hallelujah to the One who sets me free/And you will find me in the arms of Jesus" (Steven Curtis Chapman, "At the Feet of Jesus," The Glorious Unfolding). Perhaps another Crumble needs to hide in His refuge too?

At the feet of Jesus I will lay my burdens down
I will lay my heavy burdens down
In the stillness I can hear my Savior calling out
Come to me and lay your burdens down

So I will lay down my struggles
I will lay down my shame
All the fear I drag around through this life
like a ball and chain
(All my questions and confusion)
I will sing Hallelujah to the One who sets me free
And you will find me at the feet of Jesus

In the arms of Jesus I will find my peace and rest
I hear him calling come to me and rest
Carried by my shepherd cradled tightly to His chest
There and there alone my soul finds rest

So I will rest in the shelter of my Savior’s embrace
Hidden safely in the refuge of His mercy and His Grace
And I Will Sing Hallelujah to the One who sets me free
And you will find me in the arms of Jesus

At the feet of my Savior
At the feet of my King
I will bow down and worship
I will lift my voice and sing
Hallelujah Hallelujah to the One who sets me free

You will find me at the feet of Jesus

~lyrics from Steven Curtis Chapman's website

May you have a truly restful weekend, my Crumble friends.

{To view the video on the Web, please access this blog post at the crumbs site.}

Monday, June 30, 2014

For Those Who Take Refuge in God

Yahweh is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.
Nahum 1:7, NASB

Every word of God is tested;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Proverbs 30:5

Thursday, June 26, 2014

June at the Pond

Sharing a bit of my #spiritualwhitespace moments with the community at Bonnie's:
Faith Barista

To be honest, here's the darker side of the pond right now as the city works hard at improving it: