|Canada goose and ruddy duck|
|Mama Mallard and her ducklings|
|Stuck the landing ;)|
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
"We must do what we cannot do with what we do not have, but He will do through us what He can do with what He does have."
"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).
"And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8).
"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).
"It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed" (Deut. 31:8).
"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength" (Isaiah 40:28-29).
"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me" (2 Cor. 12:9).
|the unfortunately named yellow-rumped warbler, stopping off at Wits' End in his winter meanderings|
"Ephesians describes in broad strokes and detailed lines how being embraced by the love of Christ changes everything."
We hang onto the “But God” of the gospel by faith through grace, because in that gospel we trace the echo back to the source of all things. We find Joy himself. And O, what kindness we have been shown by God in Christ Jesus! For we were not even looking for him when he found us. Our deadness is interrupted by rich mercy, and we are raised to life in the throes of un-looked-for upheavals of joy. This kind of tasting and seeing of God’s goodness tells us that there is more to life than what we can taste and see. Then we become hungry for more and more of it. And our eyes will not stop searching the horizon of eternity, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Beloved who promised that he would return for his bride. (72)
Our obedience to God is not the kindling for the fire of our salvation but the heat emanating from the fire that God started and fuels. (73)
The single most mind-blowing, life-altering reality of being in Christ is that we no longer need to hide ourselves from the presence of the Lord God; in Christ we may walk with God in perfect fellowship now, and ultimately forever in the garden city that is to come (Gen. 3:8) (82).
...“the existence of the church is God’s cosmic booyah to the Devil” (98).
In this garden of community we are all seeking the flourishing of the others. We want others to see and savor Jesus and to know his love that surpasses knowledge. It becomes our chief interest and aim to help others to know Christ, removing the rocky obstacles out of the way so that their roots can find anchor (101).
There is no time to waste complaining of our “chains,” for we are prisoners of Christ himself. He is the one who has set us in our current circumstances, whatever they may be, for his good purpose to glorify himself. Like Paul, we see our chains as opportunities and not hindrances (Eph. 6:20). 169-70
Our strength comes from the Lord. Paul has already told us what the Lord’s strength is like. His power is immeasurably great and it is for us who believe. The Lord’s great might raised Jesus from the dead. Raised. From. The. Dead. It’s the same power that seated Christ— the Son of Man (a human being!)—at his right hand in heaven. It’s the same power he used to kill the hostility between Jew and Gentile at the cross. It’s the same power that is stronger than anything we can imagine that is working inside of us (see Eph. 1:19–20; 2:16; 3:20). No, beloved, do not worry whether you will be strong enough. God is strong enough (163).
Immeasurably great power is irrevocably accomplishing all his holy will (173).
|Ewe and lamb, Dall sheep, Denali National Park, Alaska|
"O trembling heart, look away, and look up! Your sorrows have been multiplied indeed, by looking at difficulties and second causes. Now cease from all this. Talk no more about the walled cities and giants; about the rugged paths and dark valleys; about lions and robbers. But think of the love, the might, and the wisdom, of the Shepherd. Love that spared not its blood! Might that made the worlds! Wisdom that named the stars! Your salvation does not depend on what you are, but on what He is. For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ. Cease using the first pronoun, and substitute for it the third....
"He has a shepherd’s tenderness; no lamb so tiny that He will not carry it; no saint so weak that He will not gently lead; no soul so faint that He will not give it rest. He pities as a father. He comforts as a mother. His gentleness makes great. He covers us with His feathers, soft and warm and downy; and under His wings do we trust" (F.B. Meyer, The Shepherd Psalm).
|Yellow-rumped warbler (female, we believe)|
“…It is amazing how strong we can become when we begin to understand what weaklings we are! It is in weakness that we can admit our mistakes and correct ourselves while confessing them. It is in weakness that our minds are open to enlightenment from others. It is in weakness that we are authoritative in nothing, and say the most clear-cut things with simplicity and consideration for others. In weakness we do not object to being criticized and we easily submit to censure. At the same time, we criticize no one without absolute necessity. We give advice only to those who desire it, and even then we speak with love and without being dogmatic. We speak from a desire to help rather than for a desire to create a reputation for wisdom” (Fenelon, Let Go, Letter 29).Reading these words this morning, on a day when I am aware of my weakness with every step I take, reminded me of how far I have to grow in realizing its intended fruit. Amore and I welcome your prayers for the Lord to heal my painful joints and provide His restored strength. The last four weeks have brought new difficulties in that regard, and we have yet to discover the medical explanations for them. If the Lord prompts you to pray for us, please also pray that weakness, hardships, and "calamities" (to our limited sight) would do their good, gracious, refining work in us.
|Cindy at a family gathering in 2014|
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.)
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.”
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.
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.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.
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 façade 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.