Thursday, July 13, 2017

Absolutely Under His Care

"Oh, timid hearts, dreading every spiritual and temporal evil—like children going down a dark lane in dread lest at every turn they should meet some terrible ogre or object of dread; startled by the sigh of every breeze, and by the whitened bole of every hollow tree—would that you could realize how absolutely Christ assumes the care of all who trust Him!

"The myriad stars of heaven seem to make up one huge flock. Their Shepherd is God, who is driving them through space; or who watches them, as it were, resting on the heavenly slopes as a flock of sheep on the downs at night. And He has a name for each of them. Is it therefore to be supposed that He will not be as minute in His care of each one of us? Will He not have a name for each of us? Will He not number us when He tells the tale of His sheep, even as He numbers the hairs of our heads? This very morn He touched you with His staff and counted you. You are the destined object of His care. Is it likely then that He will suffer you to perish, or want any good thing?"

F. B.Meyer, The Shepherd Psalm, Kindle Location 585, 608

Monday, July 10, 2017

Full Fountain of Joy

"Remember, O my soul,
It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:
He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace.
Rejoice then in the giver and his goodness,
Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,
   for whatever a man trusts in,
   from that he expects happiness.

"He who is the ground of thy faith
   should be the substance of thy joy.
Whence then come heaviness and dejection,
   when joy is sown in thee,
   promised by the Father,
   bestowed by the Son,
   inwrought by the Holy Spirit,
   thine by grace,
   thy birthright in believing?

"...Let God be all in all to thee,
   and joy in the fountain that is always full."

~"A Colloquy on Rejoicing," The Valley of Vision, 153

This post was scheduled more than a week ago. I had no way of knowing then that on the publication date we would be counting the final days of a family member's cancer battle. I considered rescheduling the post for some later date; however, these words are still just as true, though incongruous with today's emotions. Only joy in and from God never disappoints. When He is our trust, He can give joy even in the midst of sorrow and grief.

Thank you, kind crumbles, for lifting Amore's family in prayer this week. It's been quite a hard year. To quote C. S. Lewis, "We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be" (Letters to an American Lady). 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Gift Nobody Wants

Before me rests a package, a gift.
The tag clearly reads my name,
But what a gift:
Wrapped in sandpaper,
Encrusted with glittering bits of broken glass,
Bound carefully with a bow of thorns and brambles.

Who wants to open such a gift?

Yet the tag reads just as clearly,
“From your heavenly Father.”
He is good;
He does good.
Will I trust Him enough to accept the abrasions, the lacerations,
The wounds this gift will cost?
Or will I refuse, rebel, reject?

Trust Me, He says.
The treasure is worth the pain,
More than worth it.
The momentary, light affliction
Of opening your gift
Is opening to you an eternal weight of glory
As far beyond comparison with the pain
As hyperbole times hyperbole.

Knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection
Requires learning to know Him in communion with His suffering,
Yet the knowledge gained surpasses the preciousness
Of a thousand-carat diamond,
A hundred-pound pearl.

He took the sharpest thorns,
The roughest edges,
The bloodiest brambles.
Will I trust Him by receiving His gift?

If there’s any other way to claim the treasure, Lord,
Rewrap it in soft leather,
In satin ribbon.
If not,
Thy will be done.

“These little troubles (which are really so transitory) are winning for us a permanent, glorious and solid reward out of all proportion to our pain. For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are really permanent” (2 Cor. 4:17-18, J.B. Phillips New Testament).

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Finding Our Way Home

As of today we've been in our new house 2 months. After initially feeling like long-term housesitting, it has begun to feel like home. Ebony settled in as soon as his beds and people were all here (although he's still learning where "his territory" ends in the front yard). After a few weeks, the birds found our feeders. The cardinals, chickadees, and woodpecker prefer the front. The finches and sparrows battle for spots in the back. No hummingbirds have come yet.

The Lord gave friends, family, and professionals to help with the move. Prayers were answered with "exceedingly abundantly beyond" grace for my body to cope with the move and for safety for those who helped. That has not translated into lasting healing for the currently active pain areas, but we were unspeakably grateful for the timely reprieve. We welcome your continued prayers for my health and mobility. This hasn't been a good pain week, but we give thanks for three other recent check-ups going well, especially for no recurrence of skin cancer so far.

Activity level moving week... Since the bursitis hit in February, I've been struggling to hit 5,000 steps per day. The Lord gave abundant grace.

All the boxes have been unpacked, except for 2 boxes of pictures we still need to hang. We are slowly working away at the immediate projects the house requires. Ebony still needs to go in the pool at least once so he knows how to get out. We're not sure when I'll be able to get myself in and out, but after we install a ramp from the patio down to the deck next week, I'll at least be able to get to the pool level more easily. The naming process for the new place is a work in progress.

Last week I drove to "our" pond in the old neighborhood. It felt different. I was a visitor and didn't seem to belong there the way I used to. Amore says this is good and means I'm settling into the new place. It was unsettling, but he's right. One must let go of the old to lay hold of the new.

What has really begun to turn this house into a home, though, has been the presence of family. We have hosted my parents for Mother's Day, all the local family for Memorial Day and Father's Day, and my youngest nephews for some babysitting and lots of pool time with their mama, Terza. In the parlance of Amore's family, all this makes my happy pooch out. Mezzo will be back in Texas soon, and then all my family and one of Amore's sisters (who helped greatly with moving the kitchen) will have seen the new place.

For distant family and any of the rest of you who would like to see some "memorial stones" from our first two months here, here you go. Thank you for your prayers. The Lord has been gracious to us, and we praise His name.

Naptime cancelled because of 100% chance of excessive cuteness

Sassy sister cracking wise

Ebony welcoming a nephew into the pack

Lots of mosquitoes, but also lots of dragonflies

Downy woodpecker

Juvenile cardinal

Never any shortage of squirrels

Keeping an eye on the swimmers but sticking close to me

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Praying for God's Greatest Gift

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him (1 John 5:14-15, ESV).

Tufted Titmouse

"I have been thinking to-day of the kind of prayer that sooner or later we must learn to pray for one another. We must learn to pray far more for spiritual victory than for protection from battle-wounds, relief from their havoc, rest from their pain. We must reach the place where we bend all our prayers that way, or (for I do want to be honest) our chief prayers. Love cannot be without longing to shield and to relieve, and love is of God, so we may be at rest about this inseparable instinct and quality of love, for Love understands.

"Looking back, I know that I have often put the lesser first in my prayers for my beloveds. I see now that we cannot enter into the fulness of the confidence of 1 John 5:14,15 and say without any shade of mental reservation, 'We know that we have', unless our prayer is for God's greatest gift—spiritual triumph. This triumph is not deliverance from, but victory in, trial, and that not intermittent but perpetual."

~Amy Carmichael, Edges of His Ways, 92 (punctuation and spelling hers)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Never a Raw Deal

"Often during the hard situations in life, we look for answers in 'why,' but the answers aren't found in the why, they are found in the who. God is sovereign, He knows and cares about our every circumstance, and His grace is sufficient to handle it all. God knows why, and that should be enough for us. We need to learn to say, 'I don't know the "why," but l do know the "who." And I know that God is infinitely wise, infinitely loving, and infinitely good; and on that day when we meet Him face to face not one of us will look at Him and say, 'You gave me a raw deal.'"

~Dr. John Hannah, Dallas Theological Seminary professor

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Bit Much {A Poem}

Youngest nephew's drawing of our new backyard: I am standing by the pool taking pictures. :)
My youngest nephew asked me once,
“Aunt Tina, why do you always take
So many pictures
All the time?”

Taken by surprise,
I answered,
“I don’t know.
It makes me happy,
I guess.
Does it bother you?”

Looking up from his toy trucks,
He nodded.
“It’s a bit much.”

When editing a hundred—
Or two or five or ten—photos,
I remember that.
I have a better answer now.

“Photos preserve memories,
Those wispy things
More fragile than spiders’ webs,
As fragile as soap bubbles
You try to hold in your hand.

“Photos multiply happiness.
When happy things happen,
We feel happy.
When I look at pictures of happy things,
I feel happy again,
Like I did when the happy thing happened the first time.

“Photos retie knots of love.
Bodies are a little less fragile than memories,
But we fade like a flower in hot sun.
The older we get,
The more we say good-bye.
Pictures draw lost loved ones near again.

Bright and young and sheltered as he is,
He wouldn’t understand that now,
But years of life will take their toll.
The Lord will give,
And the Lord will take away.

Perhaps then he will see these words
Or those photos,
And he will remember,
And relive past happinesses,
And feel closer to his auntie
Who used to take so many pictures
All the time.

(She’s a bit much.)

Perhaps he will pick up a camera of his own,
And when the young ones ask,
He will know better than I did
Why he does it.