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.
Why?
Does it bother you?”

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

Sometimes,
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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Acceptance, Peace, Still

For more on Amy Carmichael and suffering, see an earlier post, "Rose from Brier." 



He said, “I will forget the dying faces;
The empty places—
They shall be filled again.
O voices moaning deep within me, cease.”
  But vain the word; vain, vain:
  Not in forgetting lieth peace.

He said, “I will crowd action upon action;
The strife of faction
Shall stir me and sustain.
O tears that drown the fire of manhood, cease.”
  But vain the word; vain, vain:
  Not in endeavor lieth peace.

He said, “I will withdraw me and be quiet;
Why meddle in life’s riot?
Shut be my door to pain.
Desire, thou dost befool me; thou shalt cease.”
  But vain the word; vain, vain:
  Not in aloofness lieth peace.

He said, “I will submit; I am defeated.
God hath depleted
My life of its rich gain.
O futile murmurings, why will ye not cease?”
  But vain the word; vain, vain:
  Not in submission lieth peace.

He said, “I will accept the breaking sorrow
Which God tomorrow
Will to His son explain.”
Then did the turmoil deep within him cease.
  Not vain the word, not vain;
  For in acceptance lieth peace.

~from Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael, p.293

Monday, June 12, 2017

"I Look Not Back"



I look not back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets.
I leave them all with Him who blots the record,
And graciously forgives, and then forgets.


I look not forward; God sees all the future,
The road that, short or long, will lead me home,
And He will face with me its every trial,
And bear for me the burdens that may come.


I look not round me; then would fears assail me,
So wild the tumult of earth's restless seas,
So dark the world, so filled with woe and evil,
So vain the hope of comfort and of ease.


I look not inward; that would make me wretched;
For I have naught on which to stay my trust.
Nothing I see save failures and shortcomings,
And weak endeavors, crumbling into dust.


But I look up--into the face of Jesus,
For there my heart can rest, my fears are stilled;
And there is joy, and love, and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.


Amen.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Focused



“Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen harmless worlds at once — art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the good hiding the best.

“It is easy to find out whether our lives are focused, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Dare to have it out with God, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focused on Christ and His Glory….

“Turn your soul’s vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him….  For ‘He is worthy’ to have all there is to be had in the heart that He has died to win.”


Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), missionary to North Africa

Friday, May 26, 2017

No "If's"



"What if?" is a common but pointless question that arises when I listen to myself instead of talking to myself. Maybe you know what that's like? Usually for me such second-guessing leads to imagining how some specific uncomfortable circumstance would be (in my finite, biased imaginings) less uncomfortable if this or that action had been different:

  • "If that medication had come on schedule..."
  • "If we had waited a little longer..."
  • "If we had not waited so long and missed that opportunity..."
  • "If I had stuck it out in that job/degree/church/relationship..."
  • "If I had acted (or not) on that intuition..."
  • "If I had only known..."

It may be some small mark of progress that I at least recognize the futility of the exercise now.

On a recent reread of Corrie ten Boom's classic The Hiding Place, this brief passage took my breath away, and the Lord brings it back to mind often when I start to ruminate in that unhelpful "what if?" direction. May He bless this crumb to your soul's nourishment too.

The scene occurs in the ten Boom family home in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, during the German occupation of Holland during World War II.

The Germans had repaired the bomb damage to the airport and were using it now as a base for air raids against England. Night after night we lay in bed listening to the growl of engines heading west. Occasionally English planes retaliated and then the German fighters might intercept them right over Haarlem.
One night I tossed for an hour while dogfights raged overhead, streaking my patch of sky with fire. At last I heard Betsie stirring in the kitchen and ran down to join her. 
She was making tea. She brought it into the dining room where we had covered the windows with heavy black paper and set out the best cups. Somewhere in the night there was an explosion; the dishes in the cupboard rattled. For an hour we sipped our tea and talked, until the sound of planes died away and the sky was silent. I said goodnight to Betsie at the door to Tante Jans's rooms and groped my way up the dark stairs to my own. The fiery light was gone from the sky. I felt for my bed: there was the pillow. Then in the darkness my hand closed over something hard. Sharp too! I felt blood trickle along a finger.
It was a jagged piece of metal, ten inches long.
"Betsie!"
I raced down the stairs with the shrapnel shard in my hand. We went back to the dining room and stared at it in the light while Betsie bandaged my hand. "On your pillow," she kept saying.
"Betsie, if I hadn't heard you in the kitchen--"
But Betsie put a finger on my mouth. "Don't say it, Corrie! There are no 'if's' in God's world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety--O Corrie, let us pray that we may always know it!" (The Hiding Place, 66-67).
For the ten Boom family, the center of God's will was not safe as we humans define safety. God's safety does not mean absence of danger or pain. Corrie lost her beloved Betsie and their father in concentration camps. Yet they were safe in that they were hidden with Christ in God, and nothing could separate them from His love. They were safe in that none of the terrible things they suffered were beyond God's providence and ability to turn them for good. Even the fleas in their barracks proved a means of blessing. They came to know the Lord and His Word better in the concentration camp than they had in their cozy and loving home in Haarlem. They were safe because the Lord is good, whether we can recognize it or not, and His steadfast love endures forever. He is worthy of our trust, though it be through tears.

Blessed be His name.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Memorial Stones: Words Like River Boulders

When Yahweh parts the flood and a nation walks through on dry ground,
nothing wet but the priests' feet,
When granola bars and sardines become a feast with 12 doggy bags,
When stone and slingshot slay a giant,
I heap up words like river boulders,
memorials of God's mighty hand and outstretched arm.
His love endures forever.

I heap up words to remember,
Lest, not remembering, I forget
And, forgetting, drift
Back to slavery of burdened unbelief.

When God's people are the giants put to flight by few,
When the handful of flour and bit of oil run out, yet famine does not lift,
When waves swamp the boat and still He sleeps,
When very God bleeds on a cross and angels of deliverance do not come,
Those heaped-up words like river boulders,
memorials of God's mighty hand and outstretched arm,
they remind me:
His love endures forever.

from the archives, March 2011

Monday, May 15, 2017

Qualifying for Grace

 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

European Starling


“Remember Martin Luther’s way of cutting the devil’s head off with his own sword. ‘Oh,’ said the devil to Martin Luther, ‘you are a sinner.’ ‘Yes,’ said Luther, ‘Christ died to save sinners.’ Thus he smote him with his own sword. Hide in this refuge and stay there: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ If you stand on that truth, your blasphemous thoughts, which you do not have the strength to drive away, will go away by themselves, for Satan will see that he is achieving nothing by plaguing you with them.”
Charles Spurgeon, All Is Grace, p. 77

“That which is necessary to salvation is not continuous thought but a simple reliance upon Jesus. Hold onto this one fact: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ This truth will not require you to do any deep research or profound reasoning or convincing argument. There it stands: ‘In due time Christ died for the ungodly.’ Fix your mind on that, and rest there.

Let this one great, gracious, glorious fact lie in your spirit until it permeates all your thoughts and makes you rejoice even though you are without strength. Rejoice that the Lord Jesus has become your strength and your song—He has become your salvation. According to the Scriptures, it is a revealed fact that in due time Christ died for the ungodly when they were yet without strength. Maybe, you have heard these words hundreds of times, and yet you have never before perceived their meaning. There is a wonderful thing about them. Jesus did not die for our righteousness, but He died for our sins. He did not come to save us because we were worth saving, but because we were utterly worthless, ruined, and undone. He did not come to earth out of any reason that was in us, but solely and only because of the reasons which He took from the depths of His own divine love.

“In due time Jesus died for those whom He describes not as godly but as ungodly, describing them with as hopeless an adjective as He could have selected. Even if you think little, fasten your mind to this truth, for it is fitted to the smallest capacity and is able to cheer the heaviest heart. Let this text lie under your tongue like a sweet morsel till it dissolves into your heart and flavors all your thoughts.”
Charles Spurgeon, All Is Grace, pp.71-72, emphasis mine