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]