Saturday, February 18, 2017

Through A Shadowed Valley

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Cindy at a family gathering in 2014
My sister-in-law Cindy Davis is an accomplished artist and photographer. Three of her works grace our home. Like Amore, she is a missionary kid who spent much of her youth in East Africa. She married another missionary kid, and they served together as missionaries for many years in Zambia and Papua New Guinea. They also spent a decade in vocational ministry in the United States between missionary assignments.

In 2012 they relocated in order to move in with our Moore parents and provide the care they needed to continue to live at home safely. Jim has full-time paid employment and serves on the preaching team at their church, so Cindy is the primary caregiver.

A year ago, Cindy was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, even as Dad Moore's health was declining and needing more of her time and energy. After months of cancer improvement with chemo, her cancer stopped responding to the first course of treatment. She is still fighting, now with the help and support of Cancer Treatment Center of America in Phoenix. Please pray with us for her complete remission. Prayer is the most important part of this fight, and we are grateful for everyone who fights alongside us in that way.

If you would like more details on her journey and how you might help, the family has set up the following site for her (or see the sidebar of the blog):

https://www.youcaring.com/cindydavis-758317?


Friday, February 17, 2017

Refiner's Fire {From the Archives}

Missionary Amy Carmichael wrote in Gold Cord about what she learned on an outing with the Indian orphans in her care:

One day we took the children to see a goldsmith refine gold after the ancient manner of the East. He was sitting beside his little charcoal-fire. (He shall sit as a refiner: the gold or silversmith never leaves his crucible once it is on the fire.) In the red glow lay a common curved roof-tile; another tile covered it like a lid. This was the crucible. In it was the medicine made of salt, tamarind fruit and burnt brick-dust, and embedded in it was the gold. The medicine does its appointed work on the gold, "then the fire eats it," and the goldsmith lifts the gold out with a pair of tongs, lets it cool, rubs it between his fingers, and if not satisfied puts it back again in fresh medicine. This time he blows the fire hotter than it was before, and each time he puts the gold into the crucible the heat of the fire is increased: "It could not bear it so hot at first, but it can bear it now." "How do you know when the gold is purified?" we asked him, and he answered, "When I can see my face in it [the liquid gold in the crucible] then it is pure" (pp.69-70.)

For a variation on the theme from my poetry stash, try this on for size:

Sonnet from the Fire
How hot the flames burn round my alloyed soul!
My heart churns wildly—restless, tossed with fears,
Dross rising to the surface, bathed in tears.
I cry out, “Jesus, cleanse me; make me whole!”
The skilled Refiner’s hand still stokes the fire;
The flames I think unbearable climb higher.
Still more dross rises; will there be no end
To fiercer heat that purges hidden sin?
“Dost thou not know?” the Master Smith inquires.
“The kettle bears the fiercest heat, not thee.
Thou know'st no flame save that which scorches Me.
I know thy nature; thou wilt stand the fire.
Thou shalt not perish, but shall shine forth grace
When once I look on thee and see My face.”
~crlm, 7/1997

Beloved, if this finds you in the midst of the heat of affliction, may God grant you comfort in His presence in the furnace with you, in His wisdom to know exactly how much will refine and how much will destroy, and in His sure promise that eternity will reveal the brevity of these trials and the greater glory gained through them. I don't know what you are walking through, but the Lord Jesus does, and He is near to all who call.



You may also like: Sifted

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Scars That Have Shaped Me {Book Review}

Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner begged God for grace that would deliver her. But God offered something better: his sustaining grace. 
In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.
The folks there also put together a video introduction in which we can glimpse Vaneetha and her family and hear her own voice: http://www.desiringgod.org/the-hardest-part-of-my-pain.

Vaneetha Rendall Risner's occasional blog posts at DesiringGod.org had already won my respect and provided me much help, so even without those introductions I knew that her first book, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering, was one I wanted to read, and soon. The book, adapted from material first presented on her personal blog, did not disappoint.

If you have found encouragement in the words of Joni Eareckson Tada or Amy Carmichael, writing as they have from suffering into suffering, you will probably appreciate Mrs. Risner's words as well. If you are groping for a candle in a dark season of pain, you will find one here.

My eBook is replete with highlights. At some point, the markings lose some of their meaning and the question becomes, "Okay, what's not highlighted?" Here are a few of my most favorite passages, in the prayer that they will encourage you and pique your interest enough to read the whole book.

On lament:
Lamenting keeps us engaged with God. When we lament, we invite God into our pain so that we can know his comfort, and others can see that our faith is real. Our faith is not a fa├žade we erect to convince ourselves and others that pain doesn’t hurt—it is an oak tree that can withstand the storms of doubt and pain in our lives, and grow stronger through them (Kindle Location: 409).
On knowing God:
God is valuable not because he makes our lives easier. He is valuable because he is the Lord of the universe and knowing him is better than anything in this life. Knowing him is the ultimate joy. Knowing him is worth any ordeal we may endure. This is a God worthy of worship (Location: 918).
On how to work through the spiritual deserts:
So what do we do when we feel drained and empty? When no one understands our suffering and no one seems to care? When we feel discouraged and tired and unbearably lonely? Read the Bible and pray. Read the Bible even when it feels like eating cardboard. And pray even when it feels like talking to a wall. Does it sound simple? It is. Does it also sound exceedingly hard? It is that as well. But reading the Bible and praying is the only way I have ever found out of my grief. There are no shortcuts to healing. Often I wish there were, because I’d like to move on from the pain. But in many ways, I am thankful for the transformative process I undergo. A process requiring that I read the Bible and pray (Location: 1039).
On suffering for the kingdom and glory of God:
God’s glory is on display for the angels and demons when people demonstrate that their hearts are satisfied in God alone rather than in his gifts. When we declare that God is more precious than our health, our happiness, even our very lives, we highlight his supreme worth to an immense, invisible audience. That message helped me through years of struggle. I speak and write about suffering, and sometimes my words inadvertently make it sound wistful and romantic. Almost noble. Talking about “crying myself to sleep” sounds a lot more beautiful than what it really is—feeling nauseated in a dark, lonely room, with an empty box of Kleenex and a raging headache from sobbing. There’s nothing even remotely appealing about raw pain. When no one sees or knows or even seems to care. When morning brings a cold numbness that permeates your soul and makes you feel completely dead inside. When every day seems harder than the day before, and you wonder how much longer you can go on. When life seems grueling and gritty and even gruesome, and death seems like it would be a welcome relief. And yet, in the midst of crushing circumstances, we know something else is going on. Something bigger than we can imagine. Something that puts our pain into a larger context (Location: 1192).
 On the merits of grace that comes daily like manna:
Delivering grace or sustaining grace. Which is more precious? We Need Both
In delivering grace, we see God’s glory. Everyone can see the miracle he has wrought for us. And usually our lives are easier as a result. We have what we asked for. And we thank God for it. But after a while, we go back to the business of living. New difficulties come up. And we may even forget about what he’s done because we aren’t continuously going back to him. Sustaining grace also showcases God’s glory. But with sustaining grace, people can see the miracle he has wrought in us. Our lives are easier because our perspective is different. With sustaining grace, we must continually go back to God. This grace is not a one-time thing, just as manna was not a one-time event. We need it every day. And it keeps us dependent on God. With sustaining grace, we get more of Jesus. His comfort, his nearness, his very presence. Both delivering grace and sustaining grace are essential in the Christian life. They are interconnected. Delivering grace is vital. We need to pray for it. It’s biblical. Life can be relentlessly hard, and we need to know that deliverance is possible. That our prayers are effective. That our situation can change. Without the possibility of deliverance, we’d lose hope. We might stop praying. We could succumb to total despair. But it is in the asking, even begging, for deliverance, and in the subsequent waiting for it, that we get sustaining grace, the grace to press on in the blazing heat. And this grace is accompanied by the intimate presence of the living God. So when I am sustained but not delivered, God is inviting me to see the miracle I have received. It is a more precious answer to prayer than I ever realized. Manna, my daily bread, the Bread of Life himself. He alone sustains me in the desert (Location: 1329).
My only (and very minor) quibble with this book was that there were some formatting issues in the Kindle book. For me these were not deal-breakers, but I mention it because I know there are some readers for whom that would be enough of a distraction that they would prefer the paperback because of it.

In short, Mrs. Risner is a bell sheep, one who has listened to the heartbeat of the Shepherd who sustains her and who now rings her bell to point others to His presence, even in the darkest valleys. My heart goes out to her and her family in the intense suffering they have endured and are enduring, but I praise the Lord for the miracle of His sustaining grace in her life and the bell-ringing testimony in this book.


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The link in the first paragraph is a blogger affiliate link. To purchase from Desiring God instead, here is the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/the-scars-that-have-shaped-me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No Good Thing Withheld

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.

Psalm 84:10, ESV

In her new devotional, A Spectacle of Glory, Joni Eareckson Tada comments on this verse:

Today's Scripture affirms that God is a sun and shield that He bestows favor and honor, and that "no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. So why wouldn't that mean physical healing for someone who seeks to follow Him? Well, it might, if He so chooses; He is still the God of miracles. Even so, many broken things in this broken world will not be mended until Jesus returns or calls us home. Through it all, however, God will not withhold His wonderful, incomparable gifts. He won't withhold His grace and the provision for our sin. He won't withhold His kindness or His peace. He won't withhold courage when we need it. He won't withhold His Holy Spirit our Counselor, Comforter, and Guidewho loves us and lives inside us. And when the time comes He won't withhold eternal life or a room in His great house, where all will be set right forever.
Truly, Lord, You are a sun and shield to me. Your radiance floods my path, and You protect me from the arrows of the enemy. You have not withheld Your gifts or the sweetness of Your presence from me day by day Never, not even once, have You left my side (May 12 entry).



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(Above link is an affiliate link associated with this blogger's account.)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Book Review: A Spectacle of Glory

"The robust hope of the believer is not that we will escape hurts and sorrows, but that God will make every one of them an instrument of His mercy to do us goodboth now and in eternity." (May 31 entry, A Spectacle of Glory).

See all those tabs? And that was taken near the halfway point in my reading.

Joni Eareckson Tada's new book, A Spectacle of Glory: God's Light Shining through Me Every Day, is a collection of 365 devotional readings "about glorifying God in every situation," according to the dedication page. The title comes from Tony Reinke's Newton on the Christian Life: "Some Christians are called to endure a disproportionate amount of suffering. Such Christians are a spectacle of grace to the church, like flaming bushes unconsumed.... The strength and stability of these believers can be explained only by the miracle of God's sustaining grace" (7).

Each reading consists of a Bible reference for the reader to look up, a paragraph or two of biblical encouragement to the reader, and a brief prayer to the Lord. Don't be fooled by the brevity of the entries, though; Joni gives real, substantial truth here in small servings. Here are a few examples:
Our heavenly Father will never let suffering, pain, and disappointment have the last word. The last note belongs to him. Even in your hardship and sorrow, he sings a melody of hope, comfort, and victory over you (July 15).
For reasons known only to Himself, the Father calls us to intimacy with His Son on His termsand those terms call for us to suffer, in some measure, as His Son did while He was on Earth. Yes, suffering may seem like a high price to pay for having Christ as a confidant. But He is ecstasy beyond words. It's worth anything to be his friend (February 21).
Lord Jesus Christ, right here and now, I lift up Your mighty name, the name above every name. You are the Great Shepherd, the Word of God, the King of Kings, the Beginning and the End. You are the Author and Finisher of my faith, the Lion of Judah, the Lamb of God. I want to fill this room, this car, this day, with Your praise! (March 30).
I heartily recommend this book. Like many of Joni's books, it is especially well-suited for those going through a time of emotional or physical suffering and in need of hope and encouragement to keep walking with Jesus in the midst of their pain. The short daily entries are the perfect length for times when a trial saps so much concentration that a longer or more abstract work would be too demanding. Joni doesn't gloss over how hard the hard things are. She acknowledges the sorrow and pain but then points the reader's gaze to the Lord who Himself suffered and has redeemed our suffering.

It has the makings of an excellent pass-along book, too. I have already shared many brief quotes with a suffering sister and will hand my copy over to her once this review goes live.


N.B.: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Handlebar in exchange for an honest review.

To purchase Joni's book:
Affiliate link on Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Lifeway
Christian Book Distributors

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

In Memoriam: Eucled D. Moore (1935-2017)




Photo credit: Cindy M. Davis
Celebrating Eucled's last birthday

Amore's dad, Eucled Moore, passed away early Friday morning after a long battle with Parkinson's. He pastored churches in Arkansas and West Virginia before serving as an IMB missionary in East Africa. After the family's return to Texas in 1981, he served as the founding pastor of a still-thriving New Braunfels church.

I never got to hear him preach but enjoyed the privilege of sitting under his teaching in many Sunday school classes. He had a beautiful singing voice and was a skilled carpenter. Our home is full of his woodwork, Bible study resources, and carpentry tools. He worked hard in everything he undertook, and God gave him much success.

One of my sisters-in-law recently honored Dad Moore's pilgrimage better than I can in "The Magic of Music" on her own blog, strokemanswoman. 

He was a kind and loving father-in-law to me and always encouraged my attempts at writing and photography. He is greatly missed, but we are very thankful his decades of suffering are over and we will see him again in the Lord's presence.

He leaves behind his wife of nearly 63 years, five sisters and their families, five children and their spouses, twelve grandchildren (some of them also with spouses), and four great-grandchildren. The memorial service is scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Please keep the family in your prayers as we prepare, travel, and celebrate his life together.

"For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words."
1 Thessalonians 4:16‭-‬18 ESV

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016: The Fellowship of His Sufferings

Last year held much change and many widespread health trials for our family. Existing conditions advanced, and new diagnoses came seemingly out of nowhere. At least 2 of those situations have the doctors baffled. Sisters moved locally or internationally. Two extended family members came to require residential nursing care. Employment situations changed, for better or for worse (although, for the Christian, even for worse is ultimately for better).

It was the year of the brace for me. With an even dozen joints giving me difficulty, my orthotic braces reached a high of 9 last summer. Today's count is 7. This has taken away my piano and yarncraft and limited my reading (page-turning), walking, photography, typing, and writing by hand. When our youngest nephew asked for crocheted shark slippers for his birthday, I had to put the yarn and pattern away and order the finished project from Etsy because my wrist and elbow couldn't handle crochet. (That cost some tears.) The first new medicine didn't help, so we're trying a second one, but these are the kinds of medicines that require 6 months of steady use to know for certain whether they will work. Cold laser treatments have seemed to help some. Formal physical therapy created new problems, and at this point, the exercises any particular joint requires make one or more other joints angry. The medical appointments totaled 56. The doctors still think this is a temporary state of affairs, but they can't know for certain. The situation is so complex we're still praying earnestly and taking one step at a time as the Lord shows us what next.

The dermatologist gave me a new scar for Christmas, too. Actually, right now it's still a wound, not a scar, but that will come. A new mole appeared underneath one of my braces, on skin that hasn't seen the sun since my last skin cancer screening. It only turned out to be dysplastic, not cancerous, but its sudden appearance raised suspicions and called for removal just in case.

From those bare facts, you might think it was a horrible year, but you'd be wrong. That is not to say it was my all-time favorite, but the blessings were abundant, especially the family times. We celebrated 10 family birthdays in person on the actual day. Amore and I had a special symphony date in January and one night away for our anniversary. Seven of us met my uncle and aunt for a summer day at the science and nature museum. The boys created outlandish birds and fought robot wars with Grandpa and Uncle. Another family outing took us to the aquarium. A cousin Mom hadn't seen in years but was very close to in childhood came for a family dinner and lots of stories while he was in town on business.

We are stockpiling memories like people between famines. We have known the separations of distance, illness, and circumstance that hinder those kinds of together times. We have said good-bye to my grandmother and the end of new memories with her. These seasons of memory-making are temporary, fragile, and precious, so we cherish them and try to do so with hands open to the Lord, who gives and takes in wisdom for our good.

The Lord gave enough strength at the right time for us to spend a week with Amore's parents in central Texas and for me to help my parents care for my nephews for a week. Even 2 days before both those events, my participation was in doubt, so we knew with confidence that the strength was God's power made perfect in my weakness. The Lord also provided sufficient grace to continue in ladies' Bible study at my church and even to serve as a table leader for a six-week study in late spring. Amore had 5 journeys planned without me. Three of them came to pass.

Cedar waxwing, its wing injured by the first hailstorm

Two severe hailstorms struck our area, rendering 2 cars, our roof and shed roof, and various other items a total loss. We are thankful no one in the family was caught out in the storms or hurt. We received excellent help from our insurance company, and the storms replaced one car with a better one. My sister's insurer helped me through a two-month claim on her car, which was hail-damaged in our driveway while she was out of the country and couldn't manage that herself. (Wits' End lived up to its name.)

Having so many joint problems at the same time means I take ordinary blessings less for granted than formerly. Driving myself to appointments, cooking for our family, doing the laundry or dusting, walking to the park, writing a birthday card... all of these are blessings of God's grace, which sometimes were disguised by their ordinariness. When I couldn't drive myself to appointments, my parents or husband blessed me with extra time together. When I grumbled to myself about imposing on them, the Lord convicted me of ingratitude and reminded me that our time together was a blessing, whatever the reason.

Audiobooks to read to me and Amazon's Whispersync for Kindle to turn pages screens for me allowed me to stay engaged with my beloved books when my shoulders wouldn't let me turn pages beyond my day's Bible reading. My youngest nephews, Terza, and I immersed ourselves in the world of Hogwarts, the Burrow, and No. 4 Privet Drive for months on end and talked of dementors, charms, and what our patronus would be. It was not uncommon to enter their house to the greeting, "Expelliarmus!"

On seeing this at the science museum, Thunder said, "Look! It's Hedwig!"

My mother's lifelong dream to see the Emerald Isle was fulfilled. She traveled there in late spring with Dad and Mezzo to visit the land from which some of her forebears immigrated, and it lived up to  their expectations.

While they were gone, Amore and I watched Lightning hit a home run and slide under a too-late tag by the catcher. We sent the video to Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt Mezzo across the ocean, and they watched it on a long train ride, cheering and clapping, much to the confusion of the people around them.


The birds and butterflies came in abundance, bringing cheer and distraction on many a discouraged day. We enjoyed a visit from a blue parakeet and raised monarchs from caterpillar to adulthood and release.



An adult niece and nephew on Amore's side began new lives and households with their respective spouses. We hope and pray the very best for them and are thrilled with the new additions to the family.

We laughed heartily as well as wept. It was a hard year, but certainly not a forgettable one.

In the midst of the persistent and even increasing trials, I have sensed the Lord's invitation to press on through perseverance toward counting the losses and pains as nothing compared to the worthiness of Christ, toward treasuring Him more than what has been taken, toward believing in and cherishing the fellowship of His sufferings even when I can't sense it.

Elisabeth Elliot said, "The deepest things that I have learned in my life have come from the deepest suffering, and out of the deepest waters and the hottest fires have come the deepest things that I know about God." Perseverance with joy (Col. 1:11) comes, through God's supply of strength, when that deep knowledge of God grows more precious than the things taken by the deep waters and hot fires of suffering. I want to grow in treasuring Him that way, though my soul shrinks back from the process.

Trials are worth it because He is worthy. His plans are good because He Himself is good. May the year 2017 draw us deeper in treasuring Him. May none of our sufferings be wasted, but all serve to increase our growth in knowing Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil. 3:10).