Sunday, December 31, 2017

Good: Retrospective

Gratuitous Ebony photo ;)

A one-word tether to truth:
The storms have raged;
Seismic shifts have shaken our circumstances;
But You are good,
And good you do.[1]

Good Shepherd,
You laid down Your life for me.[2]
No good thing else will You withhold.[3]
Triune God,
You cause all, affliction too,
To cooperate for good
To Your called children who love You.[4]

I say, “Show me Your glory.”
You say, “I will show you My goodness.”[5]
Your goodness carried me through this good, hard year;
If Your presence goes not with me,
Lead me not across the threshold of the next.[6]

May Your goodness be my vanguard, to protect and prepare,
My rear guard, to redeem and restore,
And my Commander beside me to command and encourage.

Not of my own goodness,
But because of the goodness of Christ,
I offer You these crumbs;
In His name I pray.

[1] Ps. 119:68
[2] John 10
[3] Ps. 84:11
[4] Rom. 8:28
[5] Ex. 33:18-19
[6] Ex. 33:15

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Lord Has Come

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the herald,
who proclaims peace,
who brings news of good things,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

The voices of your watchmen—
they lift up their voices,
shouting for joy together;
for every eye will see
when the Lord returns to Zion.

Be joyful, rejoice together,
you ruins of Jerusalem!
For the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has displayed his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations;

all the ends of the earth will see
the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52:7-10

Who would have thought that the herald would be an angel,
the watchmen poor shepherds?
Who would have thought that the glow of God's shekinah glory in the night sky
Would lead to a feeding trough in a stable?
That a newborn's cry would be the first utterance of God come to reign?
That when God bared His holy arm
It would be the pudgy, flailing arm of an infant?
That the Word made flesh, come to comfort His people,
Would Himself first need the comfort of His mother's arms
And swaddling clothes?
Who would have thought that the revelation of God's reign to all the nations
Would first mean the worship and gifts of the magi
And not conquest and judgment?

May the majesty and mystery of Christmas fill your hearts with wonder, today and always. Much grace and peace to you and yours in Christ Jesus, from Amore, tinuviel, and the Ebony Dog.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Love Come Down: A Prayer for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only Son into the world,
so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God
but that he loved us
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:9-10

Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our bent to sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise.
~Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Monday, December 18, 2017

"With": Advent Joy {Steinway Parable}

Saturday morning I dreamed of Steinway, my beloved dog of 16 years, my first dog, the dog the Lord used to help me heal from a season of deep brokenness. In the dream, I was the 2017 me, with my current level of joint pain and limitation; Steinway was the old dog and full of days, circa 2008. He wanted me to lift him onto my lap, but he was too heavy for me. With immense effort, he made the jump and snuggled up between my leg and the arm of the chair. As is usual for me, the dream was in color; as is not so usual for me, I could feel the weight of him and touch his fur. The only other thing I remember of the dream is that we were at my husband's parents' home, and it was full of people, as it was for the two memorial services this year. We had taken Steinway with us because he was too frail to be left with anyone else.

I woke missing him more than I have in a long time.

The memories of his final months came rushing back. This loyal dog, who had awakened in the night with me so many times when illness or jet lag or simple insomnia took me from bed, would wake almost every night between 2 and 3 am. He would find his way to the living room and then start yelping with enough insistence to wake me up.

Sometimes he needed to go outside and was telling me the only way he knew. Most of the time, though, I think he was lonely and afraid. A Bible study friend suggested that dogs could develop dementia like people do, and perhaps his days and nights were mixed up.

Whatever the reason, he was unable to soothe himself and go back to sleep without help. I would pick him up and do the rock-and-bounce walk known to all parents and babysitters until his ragged breathing slowed and he began to calm down. "It's okay. I'm here. You're okay," I would whisper.

When he was calm enough, we would lie down on the sofa, me on my back, Steinway on my chest like an infant, my arms around him, stroking his fur. There we would stay until we both fell asleep. Unaccustomed to sleeping on my back, I would wake after half an hour, give or take, and oh so carefully rise and carry him back to his bed in Amore's and my room.

One night when I was unhappy to be awakened and growing impatient with Steinway's needs, the Lord reminded me that this was the least I could do for the dog who had done so much for me, and that my days with him were numbered. Soon I would long for that middle-of-the-night closeness and the weight of my puppyface in my arms.

And then He showed me the parable in the experience. If I, being evil, sacrificed sleep and came at the sound of my dog's frightened cry, how much more can I trust that the Lord hears and heeds the cries of His blood-bought daughter? How much more will He console and comfort? How much more will He be with me in the dark nights of my soul?

That's where Advent joy comes in. The "good news of great joy" the angel announced to the shepherds was that a Savior, a Rescuer, had been born for them (Luke 2:8-14). Yahweh their God had seen their sins and oppression and heard their cries, and He had come Himself to rescue them. He had entered their affliction as a baby, but this baby was the virgin-born Immanuel whom Isaiah foretold: "God with us" (Matt. 1:22; Isaiah 7:14). In the apostle John's words, this baby was the Word who became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14). This baby was the "consolation of Israel" for whom Simeon waited in the temple (Luke 2:25).

The good news of "God with us," right in the middle of our mess and sin, in the middle of the night, in affliction, in the cries of our hearts--that is the beginning of Advent joy. His presence is the joy and comfort of the people He has redeemed. How shall we respond?

Shout for joy, you heavens!
Earth, rejoice!
Mountains break into joyful shouts!
For the LORD has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones (Isaiah 49:13).

Charles H. Spurgeon's comments on these promises from Isaiah call us to worship and wonder at the Lord's compassion on His afflicted ones:

Isaiah's joy was too great for him to give adequate expression to it with his own solitary tongue, so he called on the great mountainous masses of inanimate nature to express the greatness of God's love and tender mercy in comforting his people. And, when we come to think of it rightly, we see at once that it is a theme for wonder, worthy of the consideration of heaven and earth that the infinite God should stoop so low as to comfort finite and fallible creatures such as we are. Were there no more worlds to be created? Were there no other deeds of power and glory to be performed so that he must come to this poor earth to comfort the sick, the sad, and the sorrowing? The Lord is great in the majesty of his power, but he is equally great in the condescending character of his love and compassion. After Jehovah's great creative works were done, the creation must not be slack in its music when his condescending works are done also--when from the highest heavens he stoops to those in deepest woe to lift them up from their sins and sorrows by the power of his eternal compassion.
Dear Crumbles, does this Advent find you, perhaps, not feeling the joy the carols proclaim? Does the call to rejoice feel like one more burden too heavy to bear?

Then cry out to your Master and Savior. Cry to Him, and keep crying until the Comforter ministers grace to your heart.  Meditate on the wonder that "the infinite God should stoop so low as to comfort finite and fallible creatures such as we are." Consider the greatness of "the condescending character of his love and compassion." Dare to believe the good news of Christmas, that "from the highest heavens he stoops to those in deepest woe to lift them up from their sins and sorrows by the power of his eternal compassion." Seek Him in the Scriptures, in prayer, in His people, and He will be found by you. Lean into Him; lay all the weight of yourself and your concerns on Him, and let Him comfort you. Rest in the reality of "God with us," of "God with you," and let His presence be your joy.

Father of mercies, comfort our afflictions. Amen.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Already-Not Yet Peace

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
a light has dawned
on those living in the land of darkness.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased its joy.
The people have rejoiced before you
as they rejoice at harvest time
and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.
For you have shattered their oppressive yoke
and the rod on their shoulders,
the staff of their oppressor,
just as you did on the day of Midian.
For every trampling boot of battle
and the bloodied garments of war
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child will be born for us,
a son will be given to us,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
The dominion will be vast,
and its prosperity will never end.
He will reign on the throne of David
and over his kingdom,
to establish and sustain it
with justice and righteousness from now on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord of Armies will accomplish this.
Isaiah 9:2-6, CSB

The suffering saints cried out, "How long, O Lord?
How long until You come to reign and judge?
Your covenant with Abraham, is it
Forgotten? Grace depleted? Favor spent?"

Then cried a Babe, God's answer in the flesh:
The Prince of Peace who came to reign and save;
The promises, so many, realized
At last as Yahweh whispers, "I am here."

~crlm, December 2011

Monday, December 4, 2017

Why the Hard Years May Be the Best Time to Celebrate Advent

Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123:2, ESV

Yaupon Holly
The Lord has liberally sprinkled this year with blessings: a lovely new home closer to my parents and church, a pool that brought much more time with family during the summer and seemed to soothe my hips, a new home for Amore's mother, a great-nephew on the way, two gatherings of Amore's whole family, a new job Amore is excited about, an online photography class for me, and restoration of small amounts of yarncraft. As consistent readers know, we have also been walking through a number of painful blessings: the loss of Amore's father and eldest sister (which brought about the two family gatherings); the loss of a skilled, close-knit work community when Amore's employer was acquired and his team dispersed; the change of community and routines that even a short-distance move brings; the new challenges and pain of bursitis in both my hips; the departure of more friends from my church community; and the pain of other long-term family burdens which aren't my stories to tell here.

As I have sought to reconcile the hard things with this Advent season, it has occurred to me that the hard years may be the best ones for observing Advent. Advent is the season most characterized by waiting, by longing, by hope. Indeed, in the church of my childhood, the first candle on the Advent wreath was the candle of hope.

What does Paul say about hope?
Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:24-25, ESV).
By definition, hope implies lack. If we have all we need or want, hope is superfluous. Impossible, even. Similarly, when we walk through loss, through trials, through the longing for the not yet, we are most aware of the unfulfilled. When we know our lack and God's promises, we are perfectly prepared to learn hope.

Advent hope gleams with the eagerness of the child of loving parents on Christmas morning. But Advent hope is also tinged with melancholy; it is a homesick virtue that recognizes we are strangers and exiles on the earth.

At Advent we look back to the hope of the promised Messiah, placing ourselves in Israel's sandals as she waited with longing for the prophet Moses foretold; for the suffering servant of Isaiah, both priest and sacrifice; for the King in David's line in whom every facet of the covenant would be realized. That retrospective hope prepares us to celebrate the full impact of the birth of Jesus Christ the God-Man, remembered at Christmas.

We look forward to the second Advent of that same Messiah: to the redemption of this groaning creation; to the day we enter the Lord's presence and know fully, as we are fully known; to the redemption of our broken and fading bodies; to our reunion with loved ones who have preceded us into the Lord's presence; to our reception and theirs of our resurrection bodies free of lupus, arthritis, Parkinson's, cancer, mental illness, MS, dysautonomia, heart disease, diabetes, Lyme disease, malnutrition, or anything else that afflicts God's people now.

In hope we look forward out of all this "slight, momentary affliction" to the "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Cor. 4:17). We recognize our poverty of spirit, soul, and body. We lean into that longing during Advent instead of trying to numb or distract from it. We lean forward with arms outstretched to the new heavens and earth where the Lion-Lamb reigns in glory (Rev. 21). We allow the sorrows and emptiness to grow our longing for God's kingdom to come, for His name to be hallowed.

With Simeon, we wait for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25). With Anna, we speak of God with thanksgiving to all who wait for the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:38).

We wait.
We watch.
We groan.
We hope.

If you are grieving this December, may you not grieve without hope. If your now is a season of joy and fruitfulness, may the Lord enlarge your hope to a longing for the not yet. Amen.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords.
His faithful love endures forever
(Psalm 136:1-3, CSB).

He remembers His covenant with patriarchs of old;
His faithful love endures forever;
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
His faithful love endures forever.
Not one word of His promises falls to the ground;
His faithful love endures forever.

He is good and does good;
His faithful love endures forever.
He causes all things to work together for good;
His faithful love endures forever;
For those who love Him and are called according to His purpose;
His faithful love endures forever.

Through flood and fire, He stays with His redeemed ones;
His faithful love endures forever.
Nothing can separate us from His love.
His faithful love endures forever.

Through hard providences and happy ones,
His faithful love endures forever;
When He gives and when He takes away,
His faithful love endures forever.
Blessed be the name of the Lord;
His faithful love endures forever;

He treasures each tear in His bottle;
His faithful love endures forever;
He turns mourning into dancing;
His faithful love endures forever.

He is near the brokenhearted;
His faithful love endures forever;
And saves those crushed in spirit.
His faithful love endures forever.
He gives songs in the night;
His faithful love endures forever;
and restores hope to the helpless.
His faithful love endures forever.

We do not mourn as those who have no hope;
His faithful love endures forever;
With trumpet sound, Christ will return;
His faithful love endures forever;
Then we all shall be with the Lord.
His faithful love endures forever.

The God of all comfort comforts us;
His faithful love endures forever;
That we also may comfort others,
His faithful love endures forever;
With the comfort we have received from Him.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His faithful love endures forever.

Scripture references:
Psalm 119:68; Rom. 8:28; Isaiah 43:2; Rom 8:38-39; Job 1:21; Ps 56:8; Ps 30:11; 34:18; Job 35:10; Ps 10:12; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 2 Cor 1:3-4.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude Like Incense

"Give thanks to the Lord , for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of Lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever....

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever."
Psalms 136:1‭-‬3‭, ‬23‭-‬26 ESV

"A grateful spirit should ever be cultivated by the Christian; and especially after deliverances we should prepare a song for our God. Earth should be a temple filled with the songs of grateful saints, and every day should be a censor smoking with the sweet incense of thanksgiving."
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook for November 20

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).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Comforting Others Is {and Isn't}

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Right around the time of our move this spring, I received a free copy of Hope When It Hurts, by Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton. The beautifully bound book was very encouraging and helpful and is on my books-to-share list now. The following selection has been on my heart this week as I seek to give the right kind of support and comfort a loved one going through a very hard trial which I can't change or fix and which will last a lifetime, unless the Lord miraculously removes it. May these thoughts edify you as well.

"Comforting another person in their pain is not simply commiserating with them, and it may not always mean agreeing with them. It is speaking the truths of the gospel that we ourselves have found of greater value than any earthly comfort. We need to point to God's promises while being real about  the present. Instead of telling them it will be alright and life will get easier (you don't know that), we can comfort them with the truth that not a second of their pain will be wasted, and that when Christ returns, there will not be one more second of pain or heartache (you can know that!).

"Although we may not be able to make sense of what someone else is going through, Christ promises that as they choose to trust him (even if their faith is hanging by a thread), he will faithfully use those trials to accomplish his good and loving purposes in their life and the lives of those around them. We may not be able to offer answers or temporary solutions that ease their pain, but we can bring the comfort of Christ and the eternal value of suffering with him....

"You cannot fix it. Loving the hurting opens us up to the temptation to see ourselves as the sufferer's personal savior. But they do not need you--they need Christ. Comfort is about redirecting someone to seek what they need in Christ first and not in you. Comfort is not about always being there for someone; it is about reminding someone that Christ is always there for them. This frees us from a burden we weren't meant to carry. It frees us to speak truth and show love but not to feel guilty about what we cannot manage or cannot solve. You are not their Savior. God is not expecting you to be--he already sent Another to do that job.

"So let's not be afraid to enter into someone else's pain and seek to speak gospel comfort to them. God's purpose in your trials may well be to qualify you to help another to cling to their Savior in their trials" (Hope When It Hurts, 127-129).

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Sermon on the Sofa {From the Archives}

Lately this poem from the early days of this blog has been coming to mind. I need to remember to rest, to lean in, to fret not. Perhaps someone else needs that today, too? The concept and rhythm of the following come from Matthew 6:25-34.

Consider the canine of the couch,
How he sleeps:
Stretched out under the wing of the girl he loves,
Head pillowed on her knee.
Does he fret or worry
Over his next meal,
Next walk,
Next vaccine?

Feel the rhythm of his sleeping breath
As he leans in.
For him there is no next,
Only now;
And now is good.

Consider him:
Lean into your Master,
Your Father,
Your rest.
He knows the now and the next.
Fret not.