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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Prayers of Consecration

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God,
which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1, ESV

Painted Lady butterfly

In the course of a recent Bible study with my mother, we discussed the idea of entrusting ourselves and all we hold dear to the Lord. Below are a few prayers which I have found helpful in my morning-by-morning reconsecration to the Lord. Sometimes I benefit from borrowed words to broaden the scope of my prayers and expose, through the work of the Holy Spirit, dark corners of my heart the Lord needs to cleanse. May the Lord bless them to your benefit as well.

My God, I offer You this day my thoughts, words, and actions;
My sufferings and my joys;
My desires and my disappointments;
My loved ones, my enemies, and myself,
For Your glory and all the good intentions of Your divine heart.
(Amy Carmichael and tinuviel)

“Lord, teach me to treat everything that comes to me this day with peace of soul and the firm conviction that Your love rules over all” (Elisabeth Elliot, A Path Through Suffering).

“Lord, I am willing [to be made willing]
To receive what You give,
To release what You take,
To lack what You withhold,
To do what You require,
To be who You desire.”

“Lord, take these things that the enemy would use to discourage and destroy, and turn them around to my good, to Your glory, and to the growth of Your people.” (Calhoun, SDH, “Discernment,” marked addition mine)

Abba, Father, as You wish. (tinuviel)

Your Most Basic Act of Worship

Lord, I’m Yours. Whatever the cost may be, may Your will be done in my life. I realize I’m not here on earth to do my own thing, or to seek my own fulfillment or my own glory. I’m not here to indulge my desires, to increase my possessions, to impress people, to be popular, to prove I’m somebody important, or to promote myself. I’m not here even to be relevant or successful by human standards. I’m here to please you.

I offer [entrust] myself to You, for You are worthy. All that I am or hope to be, I owe to You. I’m Yours by creation, and every day I receive from You life and breath and all things. And I’m Yours because You bought me, and the price You paid was the precious blood of Christ. You alone, the Triune God, are worthy to be my Lord and Master. I yield to You, my gracious and glorious heavenly Father; to the Lord Jesus who loved me and gave Himself for me; to the Holy Spirit and His gracious influence and empowering.

All that I am and all that I have [and all that I do, all that and whom I love, all that I hope,… ALL] I give to You.

I give You any rebellion in me, that resists doing Your will. I give You my pride and self-dependence, that tell me I can do Your will in my own power if I try hard enough. I give You my fears, that tell me I’ll never be able to do Your will in some areas of life. I consent to let You energize me… to create within me, moment by moment, both the desire and the power to do Your will.

I give You my body and each of its members…my entire inner being: my mind, my emotional life, my will…my loved ones…my marriage or my hopes for marriage…my abilities and gifts…my strengths and weaknesses…my health…my status (high or low)…my possessions…my past, my present, and my future…when and how I’ll go Home.

I’m here to love You, to obey You, to glorify You. O my Beloved, may I be a joy to You!
~31 Days of Praise, Ruth Myers [additions by tinuviel]

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Nature-Watching at the Golf Course

Whenever possible, we try to attend one sports game per young nephew (AKA minion or wild thing) per season now that they live close to us. Occasionally two are possible; for baseball season this year, none were. One of them has had trouble finding his sport, but now he has: golf. Since we've seen the fewest games for him, we gave him the first slot this fall. Last Saturday we spent a lovely afternoon and evening watching him play and enjoying the beauty of the public golf course. Here is some of the beauty for you.


Great blue heron and turtle

Great Egret (or white heron)

Photo by Amore

Red-bellied woodpecker

Monday, September 25, 2017

C. S. Lewis: Advice on Writing

In the little volume C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children, the editors include a number of his letters to a young woman named Joan. From his side of their correspondence, it is clear she was an aspiring writer. (I wonder what became of her in adulthood.) In one letter he includes a short list of writing tips which I found convicting instructive:

  1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure y[ou]r. sentence couldn't mean anything else.
  2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don't implement promises, but keep them.
  3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."
  4. In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers "Please will you do my job for me."
  5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite (p. 64).
As a doting aunt who has frequent occasion to talk with my youngest nephews, I find it interesting throughout these letters what a straight-shooter Lewis is with the children who take books and writing seriously. He doesn't coddle or condescend but gives their work the respect of honest criticism as well as honest praise. I can learn from that, as well as from the investment he made over years in the lives of young people he only ever met through his books and exchanged letters.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Under a Friendly Sky

One of the habits I've developed with regard to my "One Word" focus for the year is to keep a list where I record occurrences of the word in Scripture as I encounter them in my reading. Another is to set aside a section of a commonplace book where I can copy out quotes including my word. (I also have a virtual commonplace file in Google Keep to copy and paste quotes discovered in digital reading.) It's amazing how the choice of a word opens my eyes to see it everywhere, and these small habits make a big difference in my growth in understanding my word.

This year my word is "good." Last week I pulled out my well-worn copy of A. W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy and reread its chapter on the goodness of God. The following excerpt helped me. May the Lord bless it to your encouragement too.
Divine goodness, as one of God's attributes, is self-caused, infinite, perfect, and eternal. Since God is immutable He never varies in the intensity of His loving-kindness. He has never been kinder than He now is, nor will He ever be less kind. He is no respecter of persons but makes His sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good, and sends His rain on the just and on the unjust. The cause of His goodness is in Himself; the recipients of His goodness are all His beneficiaries without merit and without recompense.
With this agrees reason, and the moral wisdom that knows itself runs to acknowledge that there can be no merit in human conduct, not even in the purest and the best. Always God's goodness is the ground of our expectation.... Prayer is not in itself meritorious. It lays God under no obligation nor puts Him in debt to any. He hears prayer because He is good, and for no other reason. Nor is faith meritorious; it is simply confidence in the goodness of God, and the lack of it is a reflection upon God's holy character. 
The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we [who are in Christ] dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us (pp. 128-129).
Those of you who have been reading my posts in chronological order may be wondering how this fits with the previous 2 posts about our recent family bereavement. I don't pretend to understand the mystery of God's goodness in our suffering, but I accept that it is true, because the Bible teaches it. Preaching truth to my feelings instead of letting feelings drown out the truth has become a very important spiritual discipline for me, and it doesn't happen automatically or accidentally.

The times when the love, faithfulness, or goodness of God are least palpable to my soul are the times I most need to seek diligently for their evidence. The best place to do that is Scripture, but the testimonies of wise Christians, past and present, also help. Casting back in my own memories to recall and meditate on God's mighty and gracious works is also important. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, we must actively remember, lest we forget.