Monday, August 26, 2013

The Throne of God {Reflections on Prayer}

Through prayer, we enter in spirit into the throne room of God.  There, in His presence, we grow in the knowledge of Him; beholding Him with the eye of faith, we are transformed into His likeness.  Choruses about longing to see Him and hear His voice often warm our hearts as we prepare for corporate prayer.  We approach His throne like children approaching Santa’s cozy presence at Christmas.

Have we, however, considered the biblical reality of Him whose presence we enter, the Holy One of Israel who is all light, and in whom is no darkness at all?  While we have the freedom in Christ to come boldly, knowing He will receive us in love, we still come to the Holy One.  Like Esther before her king (Esther 4:11; 5:2), He would have every right to strike us dead if He had not extended to us the golden scepter through the death of Christ. 

In fact, examples of those who entered the holy place in an unworthy manner demonstrate the sober possibilities.  Nadab and Abihu entered presumptuously, and fire from the Lord’s presence consumed them (Lev 10).  King Uzziah, whose previous record shone bright among the spotty history of Judah’s kings, entered the holy place in pride and lived out his days as a leper (2 Chron 26:16-23).  In both cases, the offense was irreverent offering of incense, which John compared to the prayers of the saints (Rev 8:3-4).

Even those to whom the Lord appeared by His own choice met Him with fear and trembling.  Isaiah saw the Lord we sing of so flippantly, “seated on a throne, lofty and exalted,” with the covering seraphim proclaiming His holiness.  Isaiah’s response?  A curse on his uncleanness, recognition of his own impurity in the face of such splendor.  Rather than minimizing his sin, he bewails it and receives the cleansing of a live coal on his lips (Is 6).  Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, Daniel, John, . . . all fell to their faces in the presence of the Almighty, realizing that merely to survive the encounter was a gift of His grace.

Are we ready for this?  As I sing the songs, as I pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” am I ready for a burning coal of fire upon the unclean places of my life?  Am I willing for Him to mark all my impurities with the cross?  Sin cannot enter His presence.  Will I submit to the necessary cleansing and let Him clothe me with His righteousness?  If unwilling to accept the pain of seeing my own sin, I merely go through the motions of true prayer, playing around the outer fringes of the tabernacle without ever truly entering.  “Men love darkness rather than light” (John 3:19).  Alas, the easy way of hiding in the shadows spares me the flaming coal, but also the joy of cleansing and communion with the Father.

These sins I seek to hide all proceed from the great sin, that of enthroning my Self as ruler of my life. As long as I cling to them, I take my way instead of the Lord’s, exalting my own will.  This attitude follows Satan’s attitude – which prompted his fall from heaven - of seeking God’s place for himself (Is 14).  Clinging to my own way in pride, whatever form that may take for me personally, is the chief obstacle to truly knowing God.  As A.W. Tozer writes, “Sin has many manifestations, but its essence is one.  A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, declares, ‘I AM,’” a prerogative belonging to God alone" (The Knowledge of the Holy, 46).  How tempting to avoid true prayer because I don’t really want, “Thy kingdom come.”  I must step off my throne to approach His, and if some area in my life is marked, “My will be done, my prayer life inevitably cools. 

This deception comes so subtly it may pass unnoticed.  “Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one. . . .  He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself” (Ibid, 46).  So I busy myself with going about the externals of prayer, Bible study, and Christian service, all the while denying the unreality of my communion with the Father, and the sin and guilt compound until I am ashamed to return, even though finally ready to exchange my will for His.

I need not remain in that state, however.  The throne of the Most High God, whom “no man can see and live,” is also a throne of grace (Ex 33:20).  He is faithful and righteous to forgive and cleanse the sins of any who acknowledge the need of such cleansing (1 Jn 1:9).  The faithful Father runs to welcome home the child who comes to his senses and steps off the throne of his life.  Enrobing the forgiven one in the righteousness of the Son, He ushers us into His presence with perfect love casting out our fear.  When we approach His throne in the proper way, as sinners only accepted because of Christ’s death in our place, we receive mercy and grace to help in our time of need (Hebr 4:16).  This alone is our confidence:  God is propitiated; His wrath is satisfied.  No matter how great my sins, no matter how long I have resisted or hidden from Him, I can return knowing He loves me no less than before I wandered.

All praise to the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Eph 1:6)!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Prayer and Service {Reflections on Prayer}

“Why the ravens, Lord?”  That was my question as I read the story of Elijah’s life and ministry (1 Ki 17-19; 2 Ki 1-2).  “If Obadiah was already hiding and feeding a hundred prophets, surely You could have led Elijah to them.  Why did You send him off to the loneliness of Cherith?”

Perhaps in the hidden place of Cherith he learned the lessons he would need for the work God had given him.  Unique among his contemporaries, Elijah would be God’s choice for the great contest with the prophets of Baal.  This required faith in a great God, a mighty God, a God faithful to act according to His Word.  All these he learned at Cherith, as he experienced firsthand God’s faithfulness, goodness, provision, and sovereign power over men and nature.  He commanded the rootless ravens, and they came.  He commanded a poor Gentile widow, and she gave.  In Samuel Rutherford’s words, “It will be; God hath said it.”

God’s ministry through Elijah first demanded He minister to Elijah, taking him deep into the knowledge of Himself.  As Amy Carmichael notes, “’The work’ will never go deeper than we have gone ourselves.”  The work, for Elijah, would include miraculous supply of food for a widow, restoring her son to life, demonstrating before all the people of Israel that “the LORD, He is God,” and praying to start and stop the rain according to God’s promises (Dt 28:12,24).  James cites Elijah, “a man with a nature like ours,” as his example of what the fervent effectual prayers of a righteous man accomplish (James 5:16-18).  What made the difference? Deep knowledge of and trust in Yahweh, and “direct and habitual contact with Him who is the Source of Life” (Oxford Mission to Calcutta).

In his book Prayer, O. Hallesby calls prayer “the deciding factor in the life of all who surrender themselves to God to be used by Him.  What we do in God’s kingdom is entirely dependent upon what we are.  And what we are, depends again upon what we receive.  And what we receive, depends again on prayer.  This applies not only to the work of God in us, but also to the work of God through us.”  Far from wasted, time spent “by the brook Cherith” shapes who I am.  There He enlarges my understanding of Himself, shows me my sins, and ministers to my fears.  As I see Him more clearly, I am “transformed by beholding” (2 Cor. 3:18) into a vessel fit for His purposes.  Clearer vision of the Lord also produces clearer vision of His purposes for me.

We again find this illustrated in Elijah’s life when he flees Jezebel and brings all his fears and complaints to the Lord under the broom tree and at Horeb.  In the solitude of this other lonely place, the Lord comes to him in gentleness, comforting and commissioning him for perhaps his most demanding work, that of training up Elisha to carry on in his place.  In fact, the next we see of Elijah is prophesying the death in judgment of Israel’s king before being taken to heaven by a whirlwind, leaving Elisha behind “with a double portion of his spirit” to fulfill his uncompleted work.

The farther I travel in life, however, the greater the temptation to relegate this time apart to second place, to minimize it and move on to the tasks and people clamoring for attention.  Early on in my walk with Christ, the Lord led me to set aside the first portion of each day, and one day each week, to turn from the demands pressing on me and spend time before Him with no agenda of my own.  As I have grown in this discipline of trusting Him, I have seen over and over again how dependent I truly am on Him.  When I have done this, so often I see His hand straightening paths, dovetailing duties, enlarging steps, and multiplying strength.  Often I realize the clutter of the unnecessary on my list.  Often I find the grace to accept peacefully the things left undone, or done later in His timing.  Seldom do I emerge unchanged, knowing Him better and exchanging my weakness for His strength.

Having experienced God’s grace and faithfulness so many times in the past, I am all the more culpable in my recent struggles and failures in this area.  How easy to neglect the unseen work of prayer for the showy work the flesh loves!  I hear the rebuke of Hudson Taylor:  “Do not be so busy with work for Christ that you have no strength left for praying.  True prayer requires strength.” (And this from a man known to meet with God from 2-4 am in order to find quiet amid the bustle of Chinese life!)  Another missionary, Andrew Murray, reminds me that Christ Himself faced the same challenge, but intensified:
Christ knew how the holiest service, preaching and healing, can exhaust the spirit, how too much intercourse with men can cloud the fellowship with God, how time, full time, is needed, if the spirit is to rest and root in Him, how no pressure of duty among men can free from “the absolute need of much prayer.” 
Martin Luther, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, George Mueller, . . . all learned the lesson of Elijah, the lesson demonstrated even by Christ Himself, that greater ministry requires deeper prayer, and most battles are won or lost in the secret place before an audience of One.

Lord, teach me to pray.  Take me to Cherith.  Prepare me for what You have prepared for me.

Just. . . Thanks, Lord

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding.
Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NET

The above well-loved bookmark came home with me from a family vacation to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in the first half of my lifetime. . . maybe 1989? The Christian bookstore in the Victorian downtown area had a stack of these by the cash register, free to those who wished. It has traveled with me to college and across the Pacific. Amazingly, it has survived many moves, purges of extraneous belongings, and simple carelessness. It caught my attention again at the start of this work week, and I have followed its advice, with one modification: I'm starting with thanks instead of waiting until the end of the day.

In case you are not able to view or read the above photo, here is the text on the bookmark:
Let me suggest a project for you each day. Begin each day acknowledging your need for Jesus in all things. Commit yourself to him with all your heart as your day begins. Then commit the day to him, believing that God will govern what your day brings. Trust him to give you victory every time you need it. At the end of each day, look back and see the hand of God in the events of that day. I think you will say with Paul, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord for all His many multitudes of graces poured out on me and mine over the last week:

His goodness and protection
His grace to take me out of the muck and mire of sin
in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God, I am washed,
and justified!! (1 Cor. 6:11)
a timely reminder that my body has beauty and dignity because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
the challenge to treat it accordingly and glorify God in my bodily conduct today
the price paid to buy me

my dear husband
celebrating 14 years this week since our wedding and first kiss
all his hard work on the house
doing errands together on the weekend
holding hands

family time Tuesday on my mom's birthday
nephew laughs
showing them photos on my phone
one of them saying (about the butterfly festival photos), "I want to go to your house!"
a quick stop at Nonni's too

appointment changes
credit card confusion cleared up easily and at perfect time
first college teaching job for Mezzo
kind e-mails
construction dust gradually clearing
trace of rain
wrens and hummingbirds visiting briefly
cool mornings
Artizone delivery of some groceries
Bach's Suite for Unaccompanied Cello on the radio at bedtime (I think the first suite was what we heard.)
"Though You Slay Me (featuring John Piper)"--so very deeply encouraging
the ineffable comfort God's truth brings in hard times
the Lord's great and frequent mercies for all the times I look elsewhere instead
(gratitude journal, #1470-1500)

P.S. Are you acquainted with WORLD Magazine? It's an excellent Christian news magazine which publishes every two weeks. They have sent me a free introductory offer to share. No credit card information is required, and there's nothing to cancel. If you'd like sample the next 6 issues, visit and enter the word "world" in the promotional code field.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

On This Day in August 2013

FOR August 15, 2013

Outside my window...
The temperature is in the 70s F. At midday in August. In Texas. This is unheard of. I took my second cuppa outside this morning. We still very much need rain, but the break in the heat is welcome.

I am thinking...
about the hope presented in this message by the professor who taught the one theology class I took at seminary:

I am thankful...
Mezzo had two big financial answers to prayer this week;
my parents and I were able to spend most of Tuesday with Terza and her boys;
we got hugs from Nonni, too, while we were in her area;
my shoulder feels and moves better than it did Friday through Sunday (steroid injection in the joint);
for my mom's life and the opportunity to celebrate her birthday with her;
for Amore's hard work finishing up the bathroom remodel when we ended up having to replace the sink and vanity after everything else was done.

In the kitchen...
not much is happening. The dishes are caught up, and we're ordering pizza tonight.

I am wearing...
a butterfly tunic, long khaki shorts, and (still) hiking boots.

I am creating...
nothing at present. The prospective scarf still sits in my yarn bag, not yet untouched. We're watching through a Great Courses DVD set from the library called "Optimizing Brain Fitness." Between taking notes on that and icing my shoulder, it's been hard to start a project.

I am going...
on an overnight hotel stay with my Amore next week for our anniversary, if the Lord wills.

I am wondering...
if that will go any better than the last three attempts at sleeping away from home.

I am reading...
1 Corinthians, Psalms, Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas, Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (a British mystery of the cozy variety), and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (with the CraftLit podcast)

I am hoping...
my physical therapist can give me substantial help and advice on my shoulder and back within the 3 appointments of insurance coverage I have remaining, and that Amore's antibiotics have alleviated the cause of his jaw pain, at least until his root canal the last week of the month.

I am looking forward to...
the resumption of ladies' Bible study at the end of the month.

I am learning...
from my younger self's words in the "Reflections on Prayer" Monday posts. It's peculiar and convicting to see how little ground I've gained in some areas (and how much lost in others) in 13 years;
and about the brain's function and how to cultivate it, especially with a view to counteracting the effects of the aging process.

Around the house...
the big parts of our house projects are all done. There is some painting left and some trim to cut and attach, but the master bath is fully operational again, thanks be to God.

I am pondering...
why the Lord might be bringing me messages on the "out of your comfort zone" theme this week. (Should I be worried? Haven't the last 3 years pretty much been out of my comfort zone?)

A favorite quote for today...
"The extraordinary hides behind the camouflage of the ordinary" (Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs).

One of my favorite things...
nephew hugs and giggles.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
working on my physical therapy home exercises for neck, back, and ankle;
trying to arrange an ankle MRI in advance of my appointment later this month;
grocery shopping and an anniversary card purchase;
asking Amore to put my carry-on bag where I can access it to start packing things a little at a time, in an effort to pace my preparations for our overnight escape.

A peek into my week...

The skyscape from the parking lot of a fast food restaurant Sunday

"Rocky" decided a hands-on approach was the best way to make sure his big brothers saved him some of the leftover movie popcorn.

Sharing with Peggy Hostetler's The Simple Woman's Daybook today

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Abiding Life {Reflections on Prayer}

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.”

Yes, Lord.  Here in the quiet place it’s so peaceful.  I know You love me, and I love You, too.  There’s nothing I’d like more than just to stay here.

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.”

If you. . . oh.  Um, which commandments exactly, Lord?  There are so many. . . .  Love God with all my heart, maybe?

“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”

But that means I’ll have to leave this place and go back out there into the. . . the noise and busy and unpredictable, and after all You did say my joy would be full.  How can I have full joy fighting traffic?  I must have heard you wrong.  Let me look at the context.

Oh, here’s more about more about love:  “If anyone loves Me. . .”  (I do, Lord; You know I do!)  “. . . he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him.”

So are You saying that the only way I can abide in Your love right now is to clean up the breakfast dishes?  But if I do that, You, the entire Trinity, will make Your home in ME and my joy will be full?  I don’t feel very joyful about housework and e-mail and errands, but I’ll take Your word for it.

And so I leave the prayer room, and it’s back to business as usual until the next crisis hits.  That attitude flies in the face of Christ’s promises in John 14-15, though.  Again, my understanding of God is far too small, and I settle for just a smidgen of what He desires to give me.  He brings me to His banqueting table, and I only eat the salad!

He doesn’t want me to “leave the prayer room”; He wants me to take it with me all day long, abiding in His presence and love through step-by-step obedience to His commands.  He wants to give me His fellowship just as continuously as Christ knew the fellowship of the Father.  In John’s Gospel especially, we see Christ Himself as the model of the abiding life, “prayer without ceasing,” to use Paul’s words.  Throughout the book, He converses with the Father, thanking Him for the loaves and fishes and for hearing His prayers.  He does only what pleases the Father, what He sees the Father doing.  He speaks only what He hears from Him.  We receive the impression that He is always “gazing with inward eye upon the wonder that is God” (A.W. Tozer), always listening, the windows of His heart open toward Jerusalem.  Fittingly, we see a life of true prayer, communion with the Father, throughout John’s account, and we read one extended conversation with Him in John 17, but I have not been able to find the word “prayer” a single time in that gospel.  And wonder of wonders, He offers us the same continuous experience of His presence and love!

He offers the experience of prayer as “the breath of the soul” (Hallesby).  Tozer writes much of this in The Pursuit of God, as inwardly beholding God, and living the whole of life in the Holy of Holies.  Writing from kitchen duties in a medieval monastery, Brother Lawrence’s letters (published as Practicing the Presence of God) speak of “a silent, secret and nearly unbroken conversation of the soul with God.”  He also describes making “our hearts a spiritual temple where we worship Him without ceasing.”  Through over forty years of practice, he discovered indeed the joy of abiding in His love:  “One must be acquainted with a person before loving him.  To be acquainted with God one must think often about Him; and when we do love Him, we will also think very often about Him, for our heart is where our treasure is!”

As only a novice in this, I still become distracted, worried and bothered about much service, a Martha.  Dust that I am (but Your dust, Lord!), it takes creativity and effort to keep my heart fixed.  So I may keep a hymnal in a cookbook rack by the kitchen sink, carry (on a good day) Scripture memory cards with me for grocery lines and stoplights, and tape verses and quotes all over the bathroom mirror and kitchen cabinets.  For the same reason, my husband (who has taught me much on this) has crosses of liquid paper on his watch and on the frame of the computer monitor.  When I lose focus, these small reminders draw my mind back to my Lord.

Even more than Paul, I do not by any stretch of the imagination write as one who has already become perfect, however, but merely as a fellow pilgrim, lifting up the Lord and His work for us and  pressing on until the Perfect comes.  My deep desire and prayer is for all my life – and yours – to be coram Deo, before the face of God; for life itself to be a prayer, a sacrifice of praise to Him, a love-offering broken at His feet.  Lord, teach us this love.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Blogiversary Giveaway: a Touch of Comfort {Three Years}

Update: This giveaway is closed. chose number 3, which is Deanna. (Comments appear in reverse chronological order, newest to oldest, but numbers were assigned in chronological order.) Congratulations, Deanna!

As a small thank-you to those kind enough to share life with me here, I'm offering a giveaway to celebrate three years of this blog (as of August 7, 2013). If this giveaway has a theme, as my youngest sister Terza's gifts often used to, it's comfort. If you or someone you know is in need of some Christian comfort, please leave a comment below (at this actual blog post, if you're reading by e-mail or RSS feed) to enter the giveaway. The winner will be chosen by at 5 pm, CDT, on August 16 (next Friday).

Without further ado, here are the giveaway items:

~one copy of the visually stunning and truth-full children's devotional (which I actually bought and read for myself before giving my first copy away to someone with, you know, actual children) Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, by Sally Lloyd-Jones;

For a transcription of this particular spread, please see the earlier post about this book here.

~and one holding cross made of our native Texas pecan wood by a local family business.

Mine is a different wood, and the giveaway cross is not engraved, but this gives an idea of scale in a smallish adult hand.
If this offering (and possibly a little sweet something extra) appeals to you, please leave a comment below the giveaway post on the blog itself. If for some reason Disqus should misbehave, please e-mail me at crumbsfromhistable at gmail dot com and I will assign you a number based on the time stamp on your e-mail.

To simplify the drawing, if you'd prefer *not* to enter the giveaway but would like to leave a comment about the blogiversary, would you be so kind as to click this link to the previous retrospective post, "A Different Me" and comment there instead? Thank you so much.

Whether you choose to enter or not, no matter what brought you here or what your day may hold, let this be true for you, Crumbles:
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Numbers 6:24-26, ESV

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Different Me

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
Romans 11:33

Olivia looked at the photo in the lid of the jewelry box and said, "That's you," the surprise uplifting her voice in audible punctuation. Then her eyebrows knit together, a hint of musso drooped her lower lip, and she said, slowly, "That's a different you." What was that tone? Wonder?

I looked at the photo, from our anniversary dinner out in 2004, trying to see it through her eyes while gazing through mine. In the pause to formulate my reply, I thought of how my philosophy-major youth minister used to say you couldn't step into the same river twice, because each passing moment made it a different river and a different you. (No, too sophisticated for our 4 year-old neighbor. And slightly sarcastic.) I looked at those cheery faces and hair without much grey and remembered that me. That us. Two and one-half years from an official diagnosis of systemic lupus, I was able to exercise and care for my home and errands without much help. Compared to today, that me was strong and healthy. I remembered, and blinked back tears. (No, too depressing.)

How did I answer her comment?

"Yes, I had shorter hair then."

True, but the difference is so much greater, and suddenly I didn't have words or energy to try to explain it to a child too young to pour her own milk into a glass or cross the street alone.

Quietly, almost whispering, she gently touched the photo and said, "You had shorter hair then." Perhaps that was enough for that day, because she has rummaged through appreciated my jewelry boxes once or twice more since then and not mentioned it again. Her amazement on the next visit was that I have sisters, and a mommy and daddy, and a grandma??!! (The italics multiply when she comes to visit. She's as emphatic as she is adorable.)

This encounter has lingered in my thoughts since then, as though there's still something it has to teach me. That something may be for me to look in the mirror and ask God to show me the good things this present me has which that me lacked. It's still easy to focus on the losses of the intervening years, especially of the last three. No, four. No, five, starting with my grandfather's death. I tend to look in the mirror (which Amore says is my first mistake) and see how tired and worn that face looks. To my eyes, the last three years seem to have aged me disproportionately, relative to any other three-year period in my life.

God's breathed-out Word, however, says, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28, ESV). The next verse clarifies that in part, at least, "good" and "His purpose" here mean "to be conformed to the image of His Son," His Son who was rejected, mocked, scourged, betrayed, crucified, resurrected, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.

How, then, am I more conformed to the image of Christ than I was in 2004? The three-year retrospective post, "Balance Sheet," answers that in small measure. Some of the other things God has been doing do not belong in this post and possibly not on this blog. Perhaps we need outside witnesses to to be our mirrors and reveal some of the rest, and my friends are generous in their words of affirmation about how they see the fruit of the Spirit in me. Perhaps also we could not bear to know in full measure how we have begun to become "little Christs," which is the meaning of "Christian," lest we be tempted to pride beyond our strength.

Today marks three years of the existence of this blog. It's quiet at Wits' End this afternoon after a medical appointment and errand earlier and chores in progress, and I am pondering in what good ways I might be a "different me" than in that first post, written at a time I was too weak to unload the dishwasher without stopping to rest. Physically I am stronger than I was then, though not what I had been 6 months prior to that flare and not where I'd like to be 6 months from now.

The biggest difference, perhaps, might be that I'm a better socially-supported me. Through friends directly from this blogging journey and friends I've met at the ladies' Bible study at my new home church, I have no shortage of praying friends, and I'm not ashamed to call on them for back-up in the battles of life. (I love my biological family and am blessed to have one who prays, but when one's whole family seems to be under fire, it's ever so consoling to have the prayer and support of my family in Christ. Maybe you've been there too?)

Part of living out the life of Christ in this mortal tent-body means taking my place in His body, embracing my dependence on the rest of it, and letting others depend on me. By God's grace, I may be a bit more integrated into the whole after three years. To think He could have used confinement to my home for six weeks to broaden and deepen my relational foundation! Truly His ways are unsearchable. Inscrutable.

Thank you, kind Crumbles, for helping me along this path God has appointed. I truly do thank Him every time I remember you, which is often. May He pour into your lives all you have poured into mine and beyond, pressed down and running over. Grace and peace be multiplied to you in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:36

P.S. Stay tuned for a small giveaway post soon. If I don't manage it today, look for it tomorrow. For now, the laundry beckons, and I'm thankful today's me can sort, fold, and stash it.

In case any of you were wondering, which--let's face it--you probably weren't, the gratitude journal is still fully operational, even though it hasn't been published here as consistently of late. I'm still counting "the ways God loves me" day by day. Are you on a joy hunt yet?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Inner Silence {Reflections on Prayer}

“Lord, Lord, don’t You care that we’re perishing?”  In my sense of helplessness, panicking at the waves swamping my little boat, I barge into Grace’s throneroom, spewing forth my fears like an incoherent child with a scraped knee.  How thankful I am that the King of grace is my loving Father, well-pleased to take me in His lap and whisper, “Peace, be still,” as much to my anxious heart as to the waves about me.

There, in the silence, He administers the balm of His Spirit of comfort to my aches and pains.  As a Father asks His child to “show Daddy where it hurts,” as a Shepherd examines His sheep on their entrance to the fold at night, so He gently responds to our, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts, And see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps 139:23-24).

 It is in the silence after the tears that we relax into the knowledge that He is God, the Mighty One, Ruler of the wind and the waves, and He never says, “Oops!” (Ps 46:10).  The torrent of words slows to a trickle, then ceases.  “My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation” (Ps 62:1).  Weary of striving, we can make Amy Carmichael’s prayer our own:

O Lord, my heart is all a prayer,
But it is silent unto Thee;
I am too tired to look for words,
I rest upon Thy sympathy
To understand when I am dumb;
And well I know Thou hearest me.

I know Thou hearest me because
A quiet peace comes down to me,
And fills the places where before
Weak thoughts were wandering wearily;
And deep within me it is calm,
Though waves are tossing outwardly (Gold Cord, 54).

What a comfort it is at those moments to know, in the deepest part of my soul, that “in the same way the Spirit helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for all the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:26-7).

Sometimes, though, the silence frightens me.  I want to hide from God’s searchlight, afraid of what He may show me, what He may command me, how He may change me.  Like a child fleeing from the needle that removes the splinter or stitches up a wound, fleeing from the hands which wish to set the broken bone, what if the cure gives added pain?  Like my dog fleeing his bath, it’s not that I like being dirty, but that I dislike the cleansing process.

And so the torrent of words resumes.  Or I seek to quench the silence with noise, or busy myself as a distraction.  Even the prayer of words can be an attempt to distract myself when God seeks to deal with me in silence.  “After all,” I think, “if I am still, who will bail all this water out of the boat?”  Then, when silence seems least affordable or desirable, I need it most.  Turning off the radio, the TV, the computer monitor, even physically leaving all the things crying to be done and getting away for as little as fifteen minutes, I face God in the silence and receive His peace.

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold, I shall not be shaken” (Ps 62:5-6).