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