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:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I Wait for You

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
Isaiah 30:18, ESV

Ebony and I are creatures of habit. We like the routines and rhythms of a day at home without appointments. (Amore craves more variety, except first thing in the morning.) The first expectation of every day--well, after Amore hits snooze on the alarm clock at least once--is that he opens the door of Ebony's crate. Ebony shoots off like a rocket down the hall, Kong in his mouth, because the Kong usually still contains the bedtime cookie from the night before. By the time we slow and decrepit humans get to the coffee pot, Ebony is sitting on the love seat drooling, tail thumping like the drum in a military band. When we sandwich him there, hot beverages in our hands, he either drops the Kong in our laps or throws it at us, (depending on the value he has assigned to the kind of cookie inside). This is his way of asking us for help in extracting said cookie, which sometimes is easier said than done, especially before our first cup of coffee.

Some days since my shoulder surgery have been different. While the bones heal on the right side, I must sleep on my left side. Many nights my body protests this at some point and I move to the reclining love seat in the living room, currently my only alternative for pain-free sleep. On those mornings, Allen hits snooze back in the bedroom. When his feet hit the floor, he opens Ebony's crate. Ebony flies down the hall, with or without the Kong, and takes a flying leap from halfway across the living room into my lap. On these days I awake to a jolt followed by a flurry of kisses, tail wags, and possibly a Kong thrown at my face.

Ebony has a very keen nose and ears and typically is so attuned to my whereabouts that we could accurately have named him Shadow. If he weren't crated, he would probably follow me into the living room on my uncomfortable nights, just as his predecessor Steinway did. (Steinway was not crate-trained. We tried once, and he growled something about did we feel lucky and to make his day.)

This Monday morning I had relocated to the recliner at 2:30 am and settled back into a sound sleep. I didn't hear the coffee or tea maker through my ear plugs but awakened to a sense of movement and the light coming on in the adjacent kitchen. Amore trudged past the table and made his way to the coffee.

What? No flying Labradoxie tackle? No Kong in my lap? I asked Amore where Ebony was. Had he forgotten to open his crate?

No, it was open. Ebony, he said, thought I was still asleep in the bedroom and had settled in there to wait for me.

Didn't he tell him I wasn't there?

Yes, but he didn't believe him. I'd have to go show him myself.

Drawing on the ninja skills apparently acquired during the night, I tiptoed walked as quietly as I could down the hall and peered into the room. Ebony had stretched out in the prettiest "down" you could want to see, his face towards my side of the bed with his Labrador ears aimed like satellite dishes at the pile of pillows he thought was me. His Kong lay on the floor beside him, cast aside in his preoccupation with the bed. Clearly, he was not going anywhere without his mama, and he'd wait as long as it took.

"Ebony," I said, "I'm back here, sweetie."

He bounced up and pivoted to face me, all in one springloaded motion. His tail started wagging and he bounded toward me, stopped, turned back for his Kong, and raced past me down the hall to resume our usual routine.

In the moment, I laughed at his misunderstanding and smiled broadly at how loved and cherished it made me feel. Where "Special Agent Hoover" is concerned, there will be no man left behind, especially not me. As I've pondered the memory in my heart for a day or two, though, I've asked the Lord if He had something more He wanted me to learn from this.

If Ebony in this experience were analogous to me, and I were analogous to my heavenly Master (which, granted, demands tremendous suspension of disbelief), similar to the sheep-shepherd metaphor of the Scriptures, what might this teach me?

First, Ebony's dedicated expectation challenges me to keep hoping, keep waiting on God when I'm growing faint in my prayers and answers seem long in coming. In that morning, his routine didn't matter; his Kong didn't matter; a cozy nest on the love seat didn't matter. All that mattered was waiting on his master. Do I do that, or am I quick to give up and look for solutions and satisfaction elsewhere? Too often, the latter.

Second, Ebony's immediate specific hope (that I would get out of bed) was disappointed. He was waiting for the wrong thing, or for the right thing in the wrong place. In my case, what am I waiting and hoping for? Ultimately, the only hope certain not to disappoint is hope in God and in the Word and promises of God. Paul described this to Titus this way:
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
The "what," then, is the glorious appearing of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, the consummation of all the promises of God. We are waiting for God Himself.

Where or how should I wait? The context of the above verse offers one answer to that question:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).
When I yield to the grace of God's training, I learn "to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions." Grace teaches me, us, "to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age." The comely, appropriate, obedient way to wait for our Blessed Hope is to live increasingly in accordance with Christ's self-giving "to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works." The grace that meets us as we are does not leave us as we are. Insofar as my life doesn't look like that, I am waiting for Christ's return in the wrong place, in the wrong way.

This is impossible in and of myself. Thanks be to God that I don't have to live in and of myself. Rather,
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).
He will enable even my waiting as I turn my face toward Him. He waits to be gracious to us. He exalts Himself to show mercy to us. Blessed are all who wait for Him.

Linking to my friends Laura and Bonnie this week:
Faith Barista

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Deeper Troubles, Louder Thanks, Indomitable Joy

"The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God,
who has led us through all, and preserved us until now.
Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise,
we reckon them to be the bass part of our life's song,
'He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad'"
(Spurgeon, Morning, June 9, Morning and Evening).

"What the world needs from you is your indomitable joy in the midst of suffering and sorrow"

Thank You, Lord, for Your faithfulness in things hard and happy,
for wise, challenging words,
for progress and pain both in my shoulder healing,
for a clean house without my labor,
for a meal and a lovely visit from my Bible study leader,
for hearing the word "benign" from my dermatologist's nurse on the phone,
for strength to drive myself to my first two appointments this week,
for husband strong and healthy enough to commute by bicycle twice this week,
for freezer meals to heat and eat,
for week 2 of the Siesta Summer Bible Study underway,
for the blessing of faithful custodians of my stories, especially the messy ones,
for leaders brave enough to be vulnerable,
for a verbal job offer for a friend after months of waiting,
for Your glorious, wondrous work in a family's storm,
for the Thessalonians' resounding example through the centuries of "receiving the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6, ESV).
(2014 gratitude journal #1561-1575)

linking with Laura's Playdates community and Bonnie's Spiritual Whitespace pilgrims

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In the Garden

The images below are from my parents' garden and Amore's. The text is "In the Garden" by Charles Austin Miles, which my maternal grandmother played and sang often. Some may criticize the hymn as too sentimental or romantic, but I like it, in part because the garden is one place I enjoy being quiet with the Lord, a place of spiritual whitespace (perhaps because I'm not the one tasked with the actual work. . . smile).

When all is said and done, He is the true rest, joy, and beauty of our lives, whether we find ourselves in a garden or a cubicle; neck-deep in laundry or ankle-deep in desert sand; encumbered with decisions or imprisoned by illness or the justice system. Every place, every circumstance is open to His voice. Every heart can be a place of His song. Every life in Christ has a ministry to offer a hurting world.

 I pray these photos give you a breath of rest and the Lord's peace in the midst of whatever your day holds.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I'd stay in the garden with Him
Tho' the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro' the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
~Charles Austin Miles (1868-1946)

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty and artistry of Your creation,
for substantial progress in my shoulder rehab in the last week,
for husband, parents, and a Bible study friend providing me transportation,
for getting to know the lovely young lady interning with my physical therapist right now,
for stable retina health and vision over the last 15 months,
for strength for 3 medical appointments in 2 days,
for alerting us to a changing mole so we could get a biopsy right away,
for a second lost dental filling,
for assistance with 2 more meals (really 4, including leftovers),
for Mezzo's move completed,
for a grocery delivery,
for messy progress in the renovation of "our" neighborhood pond,
for working air conditioning in hot June weather,
for a successful first drive around the neighborhood 20 days after shoulder surgery,
for a Bible-study friend's successful surgery and hopeful outcome,
for 2 nights of good sleep this week,
for Amore's hard work toward setting up a network back-up solution in our home,
for one of the lab do-overs coming back normal the second time (The other is still pending.),
and for a summer Bible study with the Living Proof blog community. (Anyone else doing this one?)

(2014 gratitude journal #1491-1509)

Faith Barista

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Memory: "Bondslave of Despondency" or "Angel of Comfort"?

Spurgeon's "Evening" devotional for May 28, commenting on Lamentations 3:21, "This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope," strengthened my heart and reminded me that, while I can't choose my feelings, I can by God's grace choose my focus, which feelings often follow. I pray it encourages you, too.
Memory is frequently the bond slave of despondency. Dispairing minds call to remembrance every dark foreboding in the past, and dilate upon every gloomy feature in the present; thus memory, clothed in sackcloth, presents to the mind a cup of mingled gall and wormwood. There is, however, no necessity for this. Wisdom can readily transform memory into an angel of comfort. That same recollection which in its left hand brings so many gloomy omens, may be trained to bear in its right a wealth of hopeful signs. . . .
As a general principle, if we would exercise our memories more wisely, we might, in our very darkest distress, strike a match which would instantaneously kindle the lamp of comfort. There is no need for God to create a new thing upon the earth in order to restore believers to joy; if they would prayerfully rake the ashes of the past, they would find light for the present; and if they would turn to the book of truth and the throne of grace, their candle would soon shine as aforetime. Be it ours to remember the lovingkindness of the Lord, and to rehearse his deeds of grace. Let us open the volume of recollection which is so richly illuminated with memorials of mercy, and we shall soon be happy. Thus memory may be, as Coleridge calls it, “the bosom-spring of joy,” and when the Divine Comforter bends it to his service, it may be chief among earthly comforters.
Spurgeon himself was no stranger to discouragement and deep depression, in a time before pharmaceutical help or the kind of trained professional counselors available now. He does not write from the mountain peak of natural happiness lecturing down at those in the Slough of Despond, but as a fellow sufferer sharing what helps him in such despairing seasons.

If you are enduring such affliction today, dear Crumble, may the Lord enlist your memory to His service in shining light into your darkness. May He open your eyes to the blessings He longs to give you in your current hardships and the ones He has given through past ones. All this and more, because of Jesus only. Amen.