Monday, November 20, 2017

A Better Resurrection


I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb'd too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm'd with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

(My thanks go to Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton for bringing this poem to my attention in their book, Hope When It Hurts. In this Thanksgiving week, please remember Amore's extended family in your prayers. Today marks 3 months since his sister Cindy died, so this is her family's first holiday season without her.)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All Thy Mercies

Fernando Ortega first introduced me to this hymn, which serves as a fitting guide in this (American) Thanksgiving month for our meditations on the Lord's blessings throughout our own lives, even from before birth. May our ever-grateful hearts adore His mercies!

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love and praise.

O, how shall words with equal warmth
The gratitude declare,
That glows within my ravished heart!
But Thou canst read it there.

Thy providence my life sustained,
And all my wants redressed,
While in the silent womb I lay,
And hung upon the breast.

To all my weak complaints and cries
Thy mercy lent an ear,
Ere* yet my feeble thoughts had learned
To form themselves in prayer.

Unnumbered comforts to my soul
Thy tender care bestowed,
Before my infant heart conceived
From whom those comforts flowed.

When in the slippery paths of youth
With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen conveyed me safe,
And led me up to man.

Through hidden dangers, toils, and death,
It gently cleared my way;
And through the pleasing snares of vice,
More to be feared than they.

When worn with sickness, oft hast Thou
With health renewed my face;
And when in sins and sorrows sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.

Thy bounteous hand with worldly bliss
Hath made my cup run o’er;
And, in a kind and faithful friend,
Hath doubled all my store.

Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the least a cheerful heart
That tastes those gifts with joy.

Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.

When nature fails, and day and night
Divide Thy works no more,
My ever grateful heart, O Lord,
Thy mercy shall adore.

Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
For, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all Thy praise!
~"When All Thy Mercies, O My God," Joseph Addison (1672-1719)


Fernando Ortega's interpretation of this hymn:

{If reading in RSS feed or e-mail, you may need to access this actual blog post to view the video.}

Monday, November 6, 2017

All My Good

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
Psalm 16:2, NIV

Yaupon holly
"Thou art all my good in times of peace,
     my only support in days of trouble,
     my one sufficiency when life shall end.
Help me to see how good thy will is in all,
     and even when it crosses mine
     teach me to be pleased with it.
Grant me to feel thee in fire, and food and every providence,
     and to see that thy many gifts and creatures
     are but thy hands and fingers taking hold of me."

"Thou bottomless fountain of all good,
     I give myself to thee out of love,
          for all I have or own is thine,
          my goods, family, church, self,
     to do with as thou wilt,
     to honour thyself by me, and by all mine.
If it be consistent with thy eternal counsels,
                             the purpose of thy grace,
                             and the great ends of thy glory,
     then bestow upon me the blessings of thy comforts;
If not, let me resign myself to thy wiser determinations."

~The Valley of Vision, "The All-Good," p. 7

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Lunar Reflections

harvest moon

Venus (center frame) and Mars (above and slightly to the right of Venus)

This month I've really enjoyed taking photos of the early morning moon in its various phases and Venus the morning star. Mars was visible for a few days in the middle of the month as well. In addition, last week in Bible study with my mom, we were discussing a question about shining our light in a lost world and I remembered Sara Groves's song, "You Are the Sun." Her premise is that we are like the moon, with nothing inherently luminous about us. The only way the moon can shine is by reflecting the light of the sun. The only way Christians can shine is by reflecting the light of God's Son.

Below are Sara's lyrics, interspersed with my favorite moon photos from October. May the Lord make them a blessing to you.

"You Are the Sun"
by Sara Groves

You are the sun shining down on everyone
Light of the world giving light to everything I see
Beauty so brilliant I can hardly take it in
And everywhere you are is warmth and light

And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still you have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can't be a light unless I turn my face to you

You are the sun shining down on everyone
Light of the world giving light to everything I see
Beauty so brilliant I can hardly take it in
And everywhere you are is warmth and light

Waning crescent moon with Venus

And I am the moon with no light of my own
Still you have made me to shine
And as I glow in this cold dark night
I know I can't be a light unless I turn my face to you

Shine on me with your light
Without you I'm a cold dark stone
Shine on me I have no light of my own
You are the sun, you are the sun, you are the sun
And I am the moon


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Velcro® Dog

"You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen" (Deuteronomy 10:20-21).

Once upon a time, nearly half my lifetime ago now, I worked for an elementary school as a teaching assistant in special education. The team leader, who made our schedules, took great care to ensure that no student worked exclusively with any given staff member. The students needed to learn to respond to all of us. The teacher's shorthand way of reminding us of this was to say, "No Velcro® buddies." She didn't want any of the children to stick to one of us like the opposite sides of hook-and-loop tape. Sometimes this proved challenging, as with one precious boy who wanted always to be with the other teaching assistant. He loved her like a grandmother. He stuck to me, on the other hand, like I was a plate-glass window, but we kept working at it, and he did grow more responsive with me.

Fast-forward a dozen years to the time we adopted Ebony. It was our intention that he would be "our" dog, the successor to Allen's special dog Somo and my aging, ailing dog from before marriage, Steinway. Ebony, however, missed that memo. He and I had a special connection from the beginning. When my autoimmune disease flared up badly after his first 2 years in our home, I became mostly homebound. The constancy of that companionship bound us together even more.

Now, he is like my shadow (which would have been a good name, but we didn't know that in 2008). If you want to find Ebony, find me and he's probably nearby. For the last 7 years I haven't been able to walk our whole route with Amore and Ebony. After all that time, Ebony still pouts and lags behind for the first half of their walk, then picks up speed when they head for home. And if I am able to go meet them on the way home, well. The enthusiasm of his greeting makes my happy pooch out.

If I leave the room for longer than 10 seconds, I can pretty much count on hearing his claws click on the wood floors, coming to find me. If I'm sitting where he can sit next to me, he probably is.

If I'm in my study, he's in his nesting bed. (Blanket and Kong optional.)

If I'm on the loveseat resting, he's either next to me or in another chair in the same room. If Amore and I are both there (score!), he's most content between us.

If I'm in the shower, he's... Okay, his loyalty has its limits. Water is one of them. If I'm in the shower, he's either stretched out across the doorway guarding me or on the bench just outside. Even if the bench means using my stinky ankle and knee braces for his pillow.

 If I'm on the back patio, he's there.

If I'm in the pool, he's... Well, there's that water issue again. He wants to be outside with me as long as he can stand the heat, then a little while longer, usually on his outdoor bed in the shade under the fan...

...but sometimes as close to me as he can get without the risk of being thrown in the pool.

You get the idea. It's safe to say that he's my Velcro® buddy.

Around the time that I first learned that phrase, I read Psalm 63, which scans like a love poem from David to the LORD. Verse 8 says, "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me." Next to these words, I wrote, "I want to be Your Velcro® girl."

Then I began to take note of that same idea throughout the Scriptures:

*in the Torah (Law, Pentateuch):
"You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done these great and awesome things for you which your eyes have seen" (Deut. 10:20-21).
"You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him" (Deut 13:4).

*in the history books:
"But you are to cling to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day" Josh 23:8).

*in the Psalms:
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name" (Ps 91:14).
cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame! (Ps 119:31)
Psalm 84 as a whole makes clear that the Lord's presence is David's happy place, even though the terms "cling" or "hold fast" do not appear.

*in the Prophets:
"'For as the waistband clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen’" (Jer 13:11).

For reference, the Old Testament word most often translated "cling" or "hold fast" is the same word used in Genesis 2:24 for the husband holding fast to his wife.

The New Testament reiterates that the husband ought to hold fast to his wife. Jesus, in the parable of the sower, also says that the good soil represents "those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). Paul exhorts us to "Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good" (Romans 12:9).

It seems that godly people throughout Bible times sought to be God's Velcro® people. This bond extended to His Word and to what manifests His goodness.

Is that really what I cling to? Or does my Velcro® stick more firmly to my husband or family or comfort? The way I react when deprived of something reveals how clingy I am, and "stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things," to quote the late Rich Mullins. A soul created in the image of God is designed to cling to Him. Even the best created beings and things disappoint when we look to them to be our everything. Good friends, loving spouses, and dream homes make lousy gods. The Lord is the only one worthy of our Velcro® dependence.

So I keep praying, "Lord, I want to be Your Velcro® girl. I'm not there yet, but I want to make David's prayer truthfully my own."
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me (Ps 63:1-8).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Great Things of a Great God

Eastern comma, photo by Amore
"Nothing exceeds thy power,
Nothing is too great for thee to do,
Nothing too good for thee to give.
      "Infinite is thy might,
       boundless thy love,
       limitless thy grace,
       glorious thy saving name....
"I ask great things of a great God."

~"The Great God," The Valley of Vision, p. 6

Friday, October 13, 2017

Good No Matter What

Mockingbird serenade (photo by Amore this time)
"God often acts contrary to how we think a good God should act. The answer we think we need seems so logical and clear to our way of thinking, yet God does not provide it. That is where faith comes in. Real faith isn't the belief that God will do a particular thing; real faith is the conviction that God is good, no matter what he does and however he chooses to answer our prayers. God always has our best in mind, and he works to bring it about, no matter how it may look initially to our way of thinking" (Lydia Brownback, Trust--A Godly Woman's Adornment, p. 30, quoted in Hope When It Hurts on p. 237).