Monday, January 30, 2012

Just Because

Have you read Genesis lately? The part about the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

This year I'm realizing all over again what a mess they were. None of them had what we would call peaceful domestic circumstances, what with wives fighting for rights or exploiting the husband's fading eyesight and appetite for stew. The children were no better, swindling inheritance or selling little brother into slavery and pretending he was killed by wild animals. All of them displayed a penchant for lying to keep out of harm's way or even just to get what they wanted. They did eventually arrive at a place of faith and obedience, but not by a straight road.

All the same, God chose these men, checkered histories and all, as the founding fathers of a new nation. He explains the reason for the whole Project Israel to Moses later on:
“The LORD was devoted to you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your fathers, He brought you out with a strong hand and redeemed you from the place of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt" (Deut. 7:7-8, HCSB).
Why did God choose and redeem Israel? Why did He love them? "Because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore." He loved them because He loved them, not for anything great in themselves, but "just because." Once the oath was sworn to Abraham, He would prove faithful to keep it, but it was His sovereign, inscrutable choice to swear that oath to begin with.

Lest I think I'm above all this and somehow earned and must work to keep His favor, His God-breathed Word testifies in the New Testament, as well, that His love is not earned and our messy selves do not disqualify us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Eph. 2:4-5, NASB).
He loved us, He loved me, even when we were dead in our transgressions. Our perfection or efforts toward it do not save us and give us eternal life; His love, mercy, and grace do.

Beloved, if this finds you despairing of all the ways you fall short of your standard or God's, if you feel perhaps you have messed life up too badly for God ever to love or use you, may God encourage you as He is encouraging me: He loves you just because He loves you. Let us lean into that love He showed us in giving His only Son Jesus on the cross for our redemption, that love He continues to pour out on us every day in more ways than we can number. May the Creator of heaven and earth open our eyes to all the ways He's saying, "I love you," today.

Some of the ways He's loved me this past week:
2872. The gift of hearing His voice in His Word
2873. The second doctor confirmed that whatever's going on with my knees is not serious
2874. Decreased knee pain
2875. A fresh prescription for several more PT sessions in February
2876. Prayers wrapping me up in God's peace
2877. A book gift arriving in the post
2878. My sister's journey north to serve a grieving family by providing music for her friend's funeral
2879. Believers dying in faith and honor
2880. The joie de vivre and devotion  to family and church exemplified by my husband's late uncle
2881. "All clear" on a non-routine routine lab test
2882. A friend's companionship during the test and waiting for results
2883. More laughter with a girlfriend than I've had in quite some time
2884. One last birthday luncheon
2885. Beautiful, pseudo-spring weather
2886. Grace for a hard conversation
2887. "I am with you always"
2888. A new tv making husband grin
2889. A good home for the old one

The reading schedule I'm following this year was developed many years ago by Robert Murray M'Cheyne and can be found here:
If you would like some creative gratitude prompts for February, Ann Voskamp has provided a beautiful, printable list here:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thou Art the Same God {Part Two: God of Today}

This is part two of a three-part poem. Part one is here; part three should publish next Wednesday.

II.                    The God of my today: darkened, not distant

Not a tame Lion. . .
“Of course, not safe, but good. . .”
“Both good and terrible at the same time. . .”
Thou art good,
And doest good;
Teach me Thy commandments.

And then. . . what?
Forsaken me?


“I will never leave you or forsake you.”
“Thou art the same Lord,
whose property is always to have mercy.”

Sometimes hidden,
Never absent,
The Lion in the fog
Between the path and the abyss.
You hem me in, behind and before;
Your love has laid hold of me
And will not let me go.
“I AM; do not be afraid.”
I fear no evil,

[1] Greek, “May it never be!”

Monday, January 23, 2012

He Giveth More Grace {guest post of sorts}

beauty from Brandee's heart and hands
Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) entered my life during my freshman year at university. At least daily, sometimes more frequently, I would work out my troubles in a practice room with a hymnal and a piano. During those therapy sessions, I discovered Miss Flint, in particular her hymn "He Giveth More Grace." Although none of my church homes over the years have included it in corporate worship, it deeply blesses me in private worship. Over the last two weeks it has sung often in my heart and given comfort.

When I searched for a little biographical information to share with you, I discovered that she suffered from severe, disabling arthritis. In fact, she only turned to composing poetry when her illness excluded her from teaching. Isn't it a kind encouragement of our Lord to bring us together with those who have preceded us along a particular road of affliction? Without further ado, here is her poem-hymn. May God give you grace through these words.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, 
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase; 
To added affliction He addeth His mercy; 
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance, 
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done, 
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources, 
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision, 
Our God ever yearns His resources to share; 
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; 
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limit; His grace has no measure. 
His pow'r has no boundary known unto men; 
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, 
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!

Glory and thanks be to God for the many graces He has given this week:
~confession, forgiveness, reconciliation
~knee injury initially diagnosed as a minor complaint that only requires rest to heal (consultation with specialist to follow this afternoon)
~opportunity to trust God's ability to care for my back even in a month off from PT homework and walking while knees heal
~exceptionally light meal preparation week, due to weekend leftovers, Mom's leftovers, and a misdelivered extra entree at a restaurant
~courage and stamina for the first session of a local women's Bible study on James
~one especially kind young woman there making me welcome
~friends' emails and prayers buoying me up in a challenging week
~cheery letter from a friend just out of reach for visits in person
~beautiful handmade gift from a bloggy friend to bring me joy
~less pain at week's end than week's beginning
~tears for others with greater needs than mine
~stunningly pleasant experience with medical staff at routine preventive-care screening
~discovering Christian sisters in unexpected places
~instant rapport with book talk
~application submitted for disabled parking placard while knees heal
~laughing at Larry's silly songs
~sunny, unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon for my fellas to play in the park
~real cards and tea from a true friend who happened to come my way through blogging
(counting gifts, #2788-2805)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thou Art the Same God {Part One: God of Yesterdays}

This is part one of a three-part poem written a decade ago. The other sections should post the following two Wednesdays while I adjust to some changes in schedule and circumstance. Lord willing, I will read your comments and pray for you, but thank you for understanding if I am unable to interact with you as I prefer and enjoy to do.

I.                    The God of my yesterdays:  memorial stones

The Lion,
Whose pursuit struck terror
In my runaway heart
Until my legs crumpled in exhaustion,
And You picked me up with velvet paws
And whispered in my ear
That You were shorn and slain,
The Lion a Lamb
For this black sheep.

The Lion,
Who carried me on Your back
Through labyrinthine doctrines,
Hedged about with cliffs and shadows,
Into Your truth and love.
You opened Your book
And told me Your story,
My story.
The Lion a Shepherd,
Teaching me to trust You.

A Lion still,
And bared Your claws to wound me,
Drops of tears and blood
Commingling in the pain
Until my legs crumpled beneath me,
And You picked me up with velvet paws
And whispered in my ear
That only weakness draws all eyes
To Your radiant strength.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

True Trust {Repost}

This early post from October 2010 has returned to my thoughts these last few days. Perhaps  someone else needs it as much as I did today. There are still medical issues without solutions, but the asthma problem referenced in the article has stabilized, so that's progress. This year I'm using a different reading schedule with different juxtapositions teaching me how much more there is to learn of our God. Without further ado, here's the post from the archives.

This morning's Scripture portion in my Bible read-through calendar for the year juxtaposed Isaiah 20 and Jeremiah 28-30.  Reading these two in one sitting illuminated common themes I might otherwise have missed: true hope vs. false hope (or trust) and true prophets bringing bad news.

In the Isaiah reading, Israel has put their trust in African military might to rescue them from Assyria, and Isaiah gets to depict the disappointing news that their allies will not protect them.  In Jeremiah, a false prophet preaches quick liberation from domination by Babylon, and Jeremiah is commissioned to tell the people of Judah that restoration will come, but it will take a lifetime, so they need to settle in and work for good in the land of their exile.  In both these cases, contrary perhaps to our expectations, the true prophecies say things will get worse before they get better; the true hope is in God, not in human helps or a happy turn of events.  The ultimate expression of this true hope is in Jeremiah 30:22:
"'You shall be My people, 
And I will be your God.'"

As I was considering asking for your prayers for my next doctor's appointment Friday morning (asthma/allergy doctor), these readings changed the content of my request.  The Scriptures showed me that my trust is not as true as it needs to be on the medical issues we're still working out.  Last week the lupus doctor seemed frustrated because my medication level was up and my activity tolerance was down.  His frustration discouraged me, and I realize now that I was hoping in my doctor and hoping for short-term good news.

If God moves you to pray for me, would you pray first for true trust? That my hope would not be in the skill of my physicians, my own analysis and presentation of symptoms, medications, or compliance with doctors' instructions, but in God's character and Word?  He is the one who gives wisdom and insight to the doctors and who ultimately determines the efficacy of their prescriptions.  He has not promised me good health now, in this body, but He has promised good.  He has also promised that the tough times are not for always, and that body-soul-spirit wholeness is coming, even if it takes a lifetime.

Also, would you pray that my life, attitude, and words would proclaim truth about God?  True trust will (or should?) produce a hope and peace that don't vary with the circumstances but stay firmly fixed on God's constancy and faithfulness.  My community is pretty small right now, but I long for God to be glorified in my interactions with my doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and family and through this blog, notes, and e-mails.  Sometimes that requires courage to say what is needful even when it is not what is desired.  It always requires confident dependence on the Lord, and so I ask your prayers..

As always, thank you so much for sharing your day with me in this place.  Thank you also for your prayers.  Please feel free to let me know in the comments or by e-mail how I can pray for you, too.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Lord, You have been our refuge
in every generation.
Before the mountains were born,

before You gave birth to the earth and the world,
from eternity to eternity, You are God.

Psalm 90:1-2, HCSB

Photo by Big Al
Monday night Allen asked how it felt to be forty.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't feel old enough for that number. I guess," I hesitated. "I guess I feel like I've wasted a lot of time, not really done anything important with my life."

He nodded, having reached the milestone the previous year.

At the end of my first decade, I spent all my time at school, the piano, or the ballet studio. I dreamed of dancing with the New York City Ballet someday, even while my Barbies always seemed to be Ivy League professors.

At the end of the second decade, a different dream altogether lay about me, shattered by the stripping away of illusions about a community I loved and trusted. I didn't know what came next but spent long hours over the piano keyboard and the Scriptures trying to figure it out.

Teach us to number our days carefully 
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.

Psalm 90:12, HCSB

My third decade ended weeks after our missionary endeavors. No one but me even marked the milestone because of greater concern over lupus diagnosis two days prior. I had no dreams for the future and no piano in our apartment, but Allen, Steinway, the Scriptures, and family supported me through.

My fourth decade ended with renewed lupus concerns but two months of slow improvement. I'm weary of chasing dreams beyond two very short-term ones: the possibility of a women's Bible study at a neighborhood church whenever possible over the next eight weeks and a tiny opportunity to serve our church by writing and editing for an in-house publication.

Then a minor amount of knee discomfort at midweek had me hobbling with a cane by Saturday and progressed to both knees Saturday evening. Now even those small dreams are back in God's hands, pending consultation with one doctor this afternoon and possibly another Thursday.

Psalm 90 formed my prayer the morning of my birthday, and I'm returning to it today, praying it for myself and for you.

LORD—how long?
Turn and have compassion on Your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with Your faithful love
so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.
Make us rejoice for as many days as You have humbled us,
for as many years as we have seen adversity.
Let Your work be seen by Your servants,
and Your splendor by their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us;
establish for us the work of our hands—
establish the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:13-17, HCSB

I'm worshiping the Lord with thanksgiving, for He is good, and His steadfast love endures forever, and also for the following:
2701. Wonderful birthday celebrations with family last week
2702. High tea with Mom, sisters, and youngest nephews
2703. Sacrifices made of time, convenience, and effort to help me celebrate
2704. Birthday dinner with my love
2705. Fragrance of roses filling the house
2706. God's grace for post-holiday emotional slump
2707. A friend's birthday to extend the celebration
2708. Knees turning traitor at week's end
2709. Family and friends with experience to advise and equipment to help until I can see the doctor
2710. Allen available to keep me in line, resting
2711. Prayers of God's people, those I know and those I don't, bringing peace amid uncertainty
2712. Gracious, thoughtful gift on the way from a bookish crumble
2713. Assurance of God's promises, none missing their mark
2714. Wealth of books and magazines to help pass the time
2715. God's strength in weakness
2716. Beautiful, springlike weekend weather
2717. Doctor able to see me today
2718. God's unchanging mercies throughout the changing decades

Linking as usual to the community giving thanks at Ann's site
(Blogger is making mischief with the line and paragraph spacing. Sorry about that!)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

For the Ugly Days

For the ugly, upside-down, used-up days,
For the soggy, sorry, sadsack days,
When naps and tempers run short and nights and lists stretch long,
When life feels like slogging through a muddy pit in stocking feet,
When even my gratitude is growled,
When I hate the things I'm doing and thinking but can't seem to find the solid ground,

Grace came for such as these, for sinners like me.

For the helpless (strike one),
for the ungodly (strike two)
Christ died.
For sinners (strike three) He died;
enemies (strike four*) He reconciled.

On the days I feel disqualified for anything else,
I qualify for grace.
Return to the cross, O my soul.
Let the Grace-Man wash you clean.

*Grateful acknowledgement to Dottie Connor Bingham of Gracestoration for the four-strikes-and-you're-qualified idea.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Happy Day

Taste and see that the LORD is good. 

How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Psalm 34:8, HCSB

May you find happiness in God the giver of all good gifts today,
deep comfort under the wings of His mercy,
and a cozy place to pause and lift the eyes of your heart to Him
in response to His great love for you
which does not change,
no matter how much the days do.

Thanks be to God today for
His good and perfect gifts
His faithfulness over four decades of life
His grace for a decade with a lupus diagnosis
time with family
the wise guys men finally ceasing from wandering at the feet of the Christ child
the orange glow of the setting sun reflected in the gulls' feathers as the moon grins from behind them
ability to learn, albeit slowly, a new technology help
not missing out on or being left out of anything that is His will
an opportunity to write again for our local church's Lenten devotional booklet
2 Corinthians 12:9, the gift of thorns
light-jacket days
heaviest coat-scarf-mitten-hat days
the warmth of His love the same through them all

(still taking the Joy Dare, counting gifts #2613-2625)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Medicine for Broken Hearts

Between a friend's grief and our church's upcoming Lenten devotional, the theme of brokenness is on my mind this week. This old essay on the various ways God ministers healing to broken people came to mind, but at 2,393 words it is too long to read well in this venue. Really, the most important part comes in the last few paragraphs. Here they are, with a prayer that you dear Crumbles would find in God the remedy your particular brokenness requires.

He healeth those that are broken in heart
and giveth medicine to heal their sickness
(Ps 147:3, Prayer Book Version).

...if the Lord does have a universal, one-size-fits-all panacea for broken hearts, it is a fresh vision of Himself, some aspect of His character which we have not yet internalized but which exactly suits that moment’s need.  His very name is “I AM THAT I AM,” and that name is His promise that he Himself is all we need.  It hardly seems coincidence that both Job and Naomi in their deepest pain call him Shaddai, the All-Sufficient God, as adequate for our soul’s need as a mother’s breast (shad, in Hebrew) is for her infant.

While God rarely grants a personal, visible appearance to us (even in Bible times the exception rather than the rule), He has given us the substance of such a vision in the Bible, particularly in the portrait of Christ found there.  Hebrews tells us Jesus was made like us, His brothers, in every way except sin.  Because He Himself knows our suffering by experience, He is just the tenaciously loyal and compassionate friend a broken heart needs (Heb 2:17-18).

Am I hurting physically?  He suffered death by crucifixion.  Am I ashamed and scorned?  Anyone who died on a cross was reckoned cursed by God; even the thief dying on His left mocked Him.  Am I grieving?  Jesus grieved for the pain of His loved ones, weeping alone in Gethsemane, tenderly entrusting His mother to His beloved disciple as He died.  Am I mourning for loved ones who do not know the Lord and don’t even seem to care?  He wept over unbelieving Jerusalem, and He loves our loved ones far more than we do.  His grief is with us for them.  Am I lonely, persecuted, desolated?  He was continually misunderstood even by His family and closest friends.  In the end, He was delivered to His enemies by one of those friends—with a kiss of betrayal, for the price of a common slave.  Even His own Father forsook Him in that hour of darkness when He bore our sin.  No other loneliness can compare with that.  Whatever pain I’m feeling, however excruciating it may be, He knows.

When our deepest need is just that, simply someone who knows, who understands our pain from having been there himself, someone who will stay with us in the pain and suffer with us patiently, we need look no further than Jesus.  He healeth those that are broken in heart and giveth medicine – is Himself the medicine – to heal their sickness.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January {A Poem}

The LORD is near the brokenhearted;
He saves those crushed in spirit.
Psalm 34:18, HCSB


for B.

How many times can a heart be broken
And mended
And remain a heart
And not a mass of scar tissue
Too tough yet to beat?
Seven times?
Seventy times?
Seventy times seven times?

I had a teacup once,
Translucent porcelain
So delicate that its cobalt lace and roses
Shone through to the inside,
In pale shadow,
Like a pencil sketch
Of a full-color photograph.

It was my favorite cup
For tea­--
A sister gift,
A happy memory of a birthday past.
But it broke,
Betrayed by its own delicate beauty
In a rough-and-tumble cargo hold
On a flight
To a new home
Halfway round the world.

My husband mended it;
It looked as whole as before,
But when I poured hot water over the tea leaves,
Amber liquid bled
From unhealed capillaries
Our eyes had not detected.

A teacup no longer—
A pencil cup now.
Still serviceable,
Still beautiful,
But not entirely reparable.

How, then, with a heart?
Do the fissures no one sees
Until the heat comes
Ever fully fuse again?

Or can a new heart be had—
One of sterner stuff,
Not so brittle as to shatter
In life’s blows and buffetings?
 ~crm, 1/17/2007

I'm forgoing WWHW at A Holy Experience this week, as I have nothing at present to offer on the appointed theme. A friend's hard week made this seem the right choice instead. If you were expecting otherwise, thanks for grace.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One Thousand Gifts Winner

As a result of the drawing, the lovely Kate of Songs Kate Sang photography, Etsy shop, and blog has won the copy of One Thousand Gifts. It would have been wonderful to send all the commenters a copy, but I pray that God would bring each of you the right read at the right time. Congratulations, Kate!

Monday, January 2, 2012

All New Same Old

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Col. 3:17, HCSB).
Yesterday, the new year began as it ought, with worship. The preacher spoke of a "Land of New Beginnings." We prayed in song for open eyes, "We want to see Jesus." I hung a beautiful new calendar on the wall, appended a new number to the date in my journal, began a new list of books to read this year.

Today, though, the same old established routine resumes. The dryer buzzes, "Done!" The dishwasher churns loudly, grumbling of yet another load of plates and mugs and cereal bowls. Ebony drags walks me around the park. The grocery list lengthens.  The physical therapy equipment beckons. The list of remaining chores seems longer than the remaining hours.

I worship by offering my body again as a living sacrifice, a poor one though it is, but one God commands and deems acceptable through the blood of Christ.

And I offer thanks to the Ancient of Days, whose mercies are wondrously new every new year, who remains the same from of old. The words of Octavius Winslow call me to renew the same old gratitude habit in an all new year:
My soul! seek from God the spirit of thankfulness, and cultivate habitually the grace of praise. It is a soul-purifying and a God-glorifying grace. It keeps the heart in perpetual bloom, and converts the life into a daily psalm.
Resuming the list, then, let's worship God through gratitude for His many gifts:
~Himself, the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow cast by turning
~"Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies"
~the grace of Christmas and New Year's with family
~a few days off for Allen
~lovely new tea things from Allen
~a new hat from my sister (no photos yet, sorry)
~the high volume of 3 preschool nephews opening Christmas gifts
~a hushed neighborhood and house on New Year's morning, a truly quiet "quiet time"
~a strong admonition in the year's opening sermon to recommit to private prayer
~plentiful, tasty holiday food
~leaping into this leap year with a new book from Lisa's giveaway
~a new technology to learn
~grace enough for today
~this beautiful prayer at church, that God would "bathe us in His healing springs so that we might stand straight and tall." Yes, Lord. Amen.
(from the gratitude journal, #2568-2582)