Friday, January 31, 2014


Not long ago in my journey of steeping my soul by Ephesians one verse at a time, one tiny preposition arrested my attention: "for," as in "always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:20, NIV1984).

For? Really? But the Bible teachers say we don't have to give thanks "for" everything, just "in" everything (which is in fact the preposition in 1 Thess. 5:18). How did "for" get in here all of a sudden? Maybe a different translation will correct this:

giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (ESV);
giving thanks always for everything
to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (HCSB);
always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (NASB);
giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (KJV);
giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the God and Father (YLT).

All right then. I stand corrected. Always, for all things. But...

How, Lord? How do I thank You for the dashed hopes and failed medical treatments? How do I thank You for the believing Christian families in desperate financial difficulties? For the friends whose hearts break daily over the addictions and substance abuse of their loved ones? For the little ones who don't know why Daddy is always angry and doesn't play with them much anymore? For the families weighed down and oppressed by mental illnesses? For the mother lost in a fog of dementia, for the father whose nervous system doesn't obey his will anymore, for the stroke victim who is changed for the rest of this life? For the wounded and broken marriages? How do I thank You for the pain in this fallen world? Isn't that unkind, even cruel, to the suffering ones for whom You call me to intercede?

Then something nudges me back to a text 11 days old, words of wisdom from a Barnabas friend:
I know that His grace is sufficient, not because of anything we see, but because of His unchangeable nature. Our response of faith brings that hope to sight. Even when everything looks hopeless, we are held fast in His Love. I don't understand why you must walk this path. And I would wish it away if I could. . . . But that would be because of my finite perspective. Because of His goodness, I know He has purpose and a plan for setting your feet to this path. I know it like I know He is Good. And so I must thank Him, my friend, for what you are facing because I trust Him fully, though my mind wants to beg Him to "fix" it. Rest in the knowledge that you are sharing in the suffering of Christ, becoming more and more like Him as you receive these trials that reveal your deeper and deeper dependence on Him. You are very dear to His heart. And no tear you shed goes unnoticed. May your heart be filled up to overflowing with praise, gratitude, worship, and joy (shared with my friend's permission).
She thanked God for a few hard things in my life we were discussing, yet all I felt from her was love because her thankfulness was grounded in the character of God. Because of His goodness. Because I trust Him. By His grace, I can give thanks for all things, for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever.

I can give thanks to My Father for all things for the opportunity for my dear ones and me to know Christ in the fellowship of His sufferings.

I can give thanks to God for all things for the opportunity to become more and more like Christ.

I can thank God for the thorns, for they reveal our deeper and deeper dependence on Him.

I can give thanks for our afflictions, yours and mine and theirs, for they are light and momentary and producing for us "an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory" ( 2 Cor. 4:17, HCSB).

I can give thanks for all things, for You are strong, and You are loving. You love each of these hurting ones more than I do. You love me more than my little pea brain is able to grasp. You would not allow a single hard thing to touch us unless it was ultimately for our good.

I don't understand, Lord. I would wish these hard things away if I could. I ask that you would let these cups pass from him, her, them, me. Yet not my will but Yours be done. You are good. Your love endures forever. So thank You... for all of it. Thank You for the pain, for the heartache, for the unfixable problems, for the storms. Help me to mean that thanks and feel it with my whole heart. Oh, for grace to trust You more!

And for you, dear Crumble, if you are struggling with a "for" in your life today, a "how can I thank God for that?" situation, I offer my friend's words and prayer to you: "Rest in the knowledge that you are sharing in the suffering of Christ, becoming more and more like Him as you receive these trials that reveal your deeper and deeper dependence on Him. You are very dear to His heart. And no tear you shed goes unnoticed. May your heart be filled up to overflowing with praise, gratitude, worship, and joy." May our Lord grant you grace to offer Him this sacrifice of thanksgiving for your good and His glory.

Thank You, Lord, for You are good, and Your steadfast love never fails;
for the glory awaiting Your children;
for the power of Christ's resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings;
for a few more verses of Ephesians stored away in my heart;
for the "new" things You keep showing me in Your Word because I didn't notice them the fifteenth or fiftieth time;

for wise friends;
for happy times with family this month;
for date nights with my Amore;
for sleepy puppy smell;
for Ebony's tail wagging in his sleep;
for enormously generous and unexpected gifts;
for the love of my Bible study friends;
for loving notes and even gifts from some of you Crumbles;

for my new autoimmune medicine;
for no change noticeable after 6 weeks;
for new custom orthotics to try and heal my ankle;
for insurance exclusions;
for the last several years of chronic pain;
for all the treatments that haven't worked;

for sharing the pain of friends;
for prayers not answered yet, or not answered the way we want;
for problems I can't fix;
for the blessing of troubles that drive me/her/them to deeper dependence on You;
for all the ways I fall short of Your glory;
for the sufficient work of Christ;
for daily reminders of the gospel: in Tim Keller's words, "You are ore sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, yet you can be more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope at the same time because Jesus Christ died in your place."
(gratitude list 2014, #307-332)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Photo Journal {January 2014}

The lovely haven where Mezzo took me to a birthday lunch early in the month

Ebony's "refuge"

A glimpse of the interior of a cathedral where the daughter of friends was married this month: the only true refuge, in Jesus who died for my sins and rose again for my justification

At Amore's belated holiday office party

Our Texas skies breathe peace into me so often.

A new charm for my bracelet: a memorial stone to remind me of a friend's prayer for "hope anchored in truth"

A notebook gift holds my "refuge" sightings in Scripture, song, and other readings

"What? It's cold and I want to go back to bed. You gotta problem with that?"

Another "refuge" song

My Jesus, my Savior,
Lord, there is none like You;
All of my days, I want to praise
The wonders of Your mighty love.

My comfort, my shelter,
Tower of refuge and strength,
Let every breath, all that I am,
Never cease to worship You.

Gift from my Nonni, a reminder of Hebrews 6:18-20
" two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 6:18-20, NASB).


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Focus {Soul Rest Sunday}

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV

The "gratuitous Ebony photo" Laura requested :)

These last three weeks have been full, the kind of full that always leaves more "to do" than "done." Each day leaves me farther behind on the list of tasks and projects, some I'd like to do but most I ought to do. Two more plumber visits, an electrician's help, a wedding, an office party, four medical appointments in two weeks, and the first two sessions (and weeks' homework) for Bible study have meant silence here.

Outlines of posts dance around in my head, sometimes tapping me on the hand insistently, like small children, but I can't seem to get myself here to the computer at the same time there's enough mental energy to string words together into sentences.

In the midst of the melee, as I prayerfully and uncertainly seek to leave the right things left undone each day, an essay by Lilias Trotter has frequently come to mind. Miss Trotter (1853-1928) left behind a promising career in the visual arts in order to pioneer as an unmarried female missionary in Muslim North Africa. She first came to my attention through the words of Elisabeth Elliot, particularly in A Path Through Suffering, and I'm so thankful that she did. Though you may not recognize her name or her essay "Focussed," you may well recognize the name of a hymn her essay inspired: "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus."

If we were sitting across the tea or lunch table from each other, these are the words I would share with you, the words my soul is pondering these days, excerpted from an appendix in the biography A Passion for the Impossible, by Miriam Huffman Rockness:
  Gathered up, focussed lives, intent on one aim--Christ--those are the lives on which God can concentrate blessedness. It is "all for all" by a law as unvarying as any law that governs the material universe.
  We see the principle shadowed in the trend of science; the telephone and the wireless in the realm of sound, the use of radium and the ultra violet rays in the realm of light. All these work by gathering into focus currents and waves that, dispersed, cannot serve us. In every branch of learning and workmanship the tendency of these days is to specialize--to take up one point and follow it to the uttermost.
   And Satan knows well the power of concentration; if a soul is likely to get under the sway of the inspiration, "this one thing I do," he will turn all his energies to bring in side-interests that will shatter the gathering intensity.
   And they lie around, these interests. Never has it been so easy to live in half a dozen good harmless worlds at one--art, music, social science, games, motoring, the following of some profession, and so on. And between them we run the risk of drifting about, the "good" hiding the "best" even more effectually than it could be hidden by downright frivolity with its smothered heart-ache at its own emptiness.
   It is easy to find out whether our lives are focussed, and if so, where the focus lies. Where do our thoughts settle when consciousness comes back in the morning? Where do they swing back when the pressure is off during the day? Does this test not give the clue? Then dare to have it out with God--and after all, that is the shortest way. Dare to lay bare your whole life and being before Him, and ask Him to show you whether or not all is focussed on Christ and His glory. Dare to face the fact that unfocussed, good and useful as it may seem, it will prove to have failed of its purpose.
   What does this focussing mean? Study the matter and you will see that it means two things--gathering in all that can be gathered, and letting the rest drop. The working of any lens--microscope, telescope, camera--will show you this. The lens of your own eye, in the room where you are sitting, as clearly as any other. Look at the window bars, and the beyond is only a shadow; look through at the distance, and it is the bars that turn into ghosts. You have to choose which you will fix your gaze upon and let the other go....
All aims, all ambitions, all desires, all pursuits--shall we dare to drop them if they cannot be gathered sharply and clearly into the focus of "this one thing I do"?
   How do we bring things to a focus in the world of optics? Not by looking at the things to be dropped, but by looking at the one point that is to be brought out.
   Turn full your soul's vision to Jesus, and look and look at Him, and a strange dimness will come over all that is apart from Him, and the Divine "attrait" by which God's saints are made, even in this 20th century, will lay hold of you. For "He is worthy" to have all there is to be had in the heart that He has died to win (288-289).
He is worthy, and I trust that He will guide. As we walk into a new week, dear Crumbles, let's focus on Jesus with our soul's full vision. "There's light for a look at the Savior," as the song says. May we look, and may He clarify for each of us what to drop day by day that He might fill our vision more and more until we see Him face to face.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Refuge for the Weary

Searching Google for "hymns refuge" on a whim led me to this profound and beautiful hymn I'd never before encountered. It might just be the theme song for my 2014. Perhaps someone else needs this sung prayer today too? Our Lord is a faithful refuge, beloved. He is our security and our strength.

Here is the full text by Anne Steele, which includes a second verse omitted in the arrangement above:
1 Dear refuge of my weary soul,
On thee when sorrows rise;
On thee, when waves of trouble roll,
My fainting hope relies.
2 While hope revives, though pressed with fears,
And I can say, "My God,"
Beneath thy feet I spread my cares,
And pour my woes abroad.
3 To thee I tell each rising grief,
For thou alone canst heal;
Thy word can bring a sweet relief,
For every pain I feel.
4 But oh! when gloomy doubts prevail
I fear to call thee mine;
The springs of comfort seem to fail
And all my hopes decline.
5 Yet gracious God, where shall I flee?
Thou art my only trust;
And still my soul would cleave to thee,
Though prostrate in the dust.
6 Hast thou not bid me seek thy face?
And shall I seek in vain?
And can the ear of sovereign grace
Be deaf when I complain?
7 No, still the ear of sovereign grace
Attends the mourner's prayer;
O may I ever find access,
To breathe my sorrows there.
8 Thy mercy-seat is open still;
Here let my soul retreat,
With humble hope attend thy will,
And wait beneath thy feet.
The Christian's duty, exhibited in a series of hymns, 1791

The sheet music is available to print at no cost here:  .

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Refuge {One Word 2014}

The word began nipping at my heels December 5, 2013; I think it blew in with a cold front. The meteorologists said an ice storm was coming, a severe one. I had to be out that afternoon to look after the family dogs at my parents' place and go to a long rheumatology appointment, the first time at this new doctor without a companion for the wait. It seemed likely the sleet would begin before I drove home, and I've never driven in ice before. Before leaving, I belatedly turned the page on the calendar in my study and discovered this perfect image: two Victorian girls sharing an umbrella in a winter storm.  The accompanying text by Nancy Leigh DeMoss read, "God doesn't promise that we will never face danger, but He does promise to shelter those who trust Him--'under His wings.'" The Scripture heading the page was one I'd memorized in 2009 or 2010:
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me. for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by (Psalm 57:1).

 "Refuge," I thought as I sent the image to my sisters (one of whom expected to commute an hour and a half after dark in the imminent weather). "Refuge is what I need today. Lord, You are my refuge, not someone else to drive me and hold my hand. You can keep me and the car and my family safe in the freezing rain ahead. Please protect us from harm, but even if You don't, thank You that we are sheltered under Your wings even in the scary things."

The sleet did come, arriving as I sat in the doctor's waiting room. By the end of the long appointment, ice covered the windshield, the door handles were frozen shut, and the light had begun to fade. "Refuge," I thought as I prepared to drive home. "You're on, Lord. I'm counting on You to get me home safely." Amore gave me a pep talk while I sat in the car waiting for the defroster to clear the windshield, and Handel's Messiah in the CD player reminded me I wasn't alone after all. In fact, the final notes of "Hallelujah" sounded as I pulled safely into my own garage.

Later in the month, adjusting to a new medicine and a bad cold, concerned for family members in trials, anxious about the different sort of family Christmas this year, I turned again and again, almost daily, to Psalm 31:1-4, 19:
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
for you are my refuge.

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you
and worked for those who take refuge in you,
in the sight of the children of mankind!
There it is again: refuge; refuge; refuge; refuge. Such a consoling, heartening word. Refuge doesn't deny the storms and battles of life, but it promises security in the midst of them. In fact, the English definition includes both the storms and the safety. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary delineates it this way:

Full Definition of REFUGE

:  shelter or protection from danger or distress
:  a place that provides shelter or protection
:  something to which one has recourse in difficulty

When the blogging community began inviting readers to choose their "one word" for 2014, I felt mine had already chosen me. "Refuge" is my word for the year.

I would really prefer that the storms stop altogether for a while, but that's not my choice, is it? It is my choice how to respond to them. This word reminds me that my Lord who redeemed me will not lose interest in me midlife. This word reminds me that He alone is my shelter, protection, and recourse. When I'm embattled, storm-tossed, or just a little blue, He is my safe place. Comfort food is no true refuge. Shopping for more books when I have not read all I own is no true refuge. Even phoning a friend or texting a family member, if I have not run to my Rock of Refuge first, is no true refuge.

No, I can't control many of the circumstances which will come my way in 2014, but I can seek grace to respond in a God-honoring way, running to hide myself in the name of the Lord (Prov. 18:10). I pray that the Lord will grow my trust and experience of His strength and protection as I do.

Already, the first 8 days of the year have provided opportunities to practice this. One of my dearest dear ones experienced alarming post-op complications. Refuge! The water heater failed late on Friday afternoon before the coldest weekend of the season. Refuge! Mere hours later, a square of drywall fell off the garage ceiling. Refuge! Ebony came in from the garden with two wounded paws. Refuge!

The dear one is fine now; the plumber fixed the water heater Saturday morning; no one and nothing were hurt by the drywall; the vet tells us Ebony's paws will heal without intervention. In the moment, though, each situation brought a temptation to respond in panic, in scurrying about for help and hope. I did feel some anxiety, to be sure, but by God's grace this little word's presence in my life (and my sister's timely reminder of it) invited me to a different path, on my knees with my Bible propped open to Psalm 31, praying it out loud.

Right now Ebony is teaching me more of this word. He will be fine, but he's uncomfortable enough that he periodically goes off to hide. Monday night he hid in his crate and in the bathroom. Yesterday he hid himself in the corner between my desk and my computer, in my study closet, and in his "nesting" bed in a different room. I watch him and know how that feels, that urge to hide myself under the covers or in a corner and wait for the storm to pass, to hide from pain that only follows you into your hiding place. I rub his head or his tummy and tell him it's going to be ok. I try to entice him to my side for comfort. I recognize myself in him and want to choose a better, surer refuge than a tangle of cords and the base of a lamp between two pieces of furniture, a better refuge even than a soft fleecy bed. I want to take refuge in God, in the shadow of His wings, until the storms of destruction--all the storms this life brings--pass by.

Have you found a word for your 2014? If so, I'd love to hear it. In any case, I pray this year we would fall in love with Jesus all over again (or maybe for someone here, for the very first time?) and trust Him with all.

Sharing today with Bonnie and Laura:

P.S. In case you're interested, a number of Beth Moore's eBooks are free through Friday, January 10, 2014.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year's Prayer to the Lover of Our Souls

My lips will glorify You
because Your faithful love is better than life.
So I will praise You as long as I live;
at Your name, I will lift up my hands.
You satisfy me as with rich food;
my mouth will praise You with joyful lips.
Psalm 63:3-5, HCSB

Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high.
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.

Other refuge have I none, hangs my helpless soul on Thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone, still support and comfort me.
All my trust on Thee is stayed, all my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head with the shadow of Thy wing.

This third verse is omitted from the rendition in the video above and is absent from my hymnal.
[Wilt Thou not regard my call? Wilt Thou not accept my prayer?
Lo! I sink, I faint, I fall—Lo! on Thee I cast my care;
Reach me out Thy gracious hand! While I of Thy strength receive,
Hoping against hope I stand, dying, and behold, I live.]

Thou, O Christ, art all I want, more than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name, I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am; Thou art full of truth and grace.

Plenteous grace with Thee is found, grace to cover all my sin;
Let the healing streams abound; make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art, freely let me take of Thee;
Spring Thou up within my heart; rise to all eternity.
~Charles Wesley

Wherever you may find yourself in this hymn, dear Crumble, may you indeed find in Christ all you want and more than all for the year our Lord has planned for us. Plenteous grace is found with Him. Let's drink deeply of His pure living water in every need we face. Grace and peace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ.