Friday, February 24, 2017

"Day by Day"

Although or because it's a difficult pain day here with anxiety over this afternoon's medical appointment tapping at my heart's door, the Lord brought this hymn to mind early this morning. It challenges and invites me to entrust myself and my loved ones day by day, moment by moment, to Him. I associate it with my maternal grandmother, so it may also have been one of the hymns she used to play.

Day by day, and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here;
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
I’ve no cause for worry or for fear.
He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure,
Gives unto each day what He deems best,
Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure,
Mingling toil with peace and rest.

Every day the Lord Himself is near me,
With a special mercy for each hour;
All my cares He fain would bear and cheer me,
He whose name is Counsellor and Pow’r.
The protection of His child and treasure
Is a charge that on Himself He laid;
“As thy days, thy strength shall be in measure,”
This the pledge to me He made.

Help me then, in every tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till with Christ the Lord I stand.

~Carolina Sandell Berg (1832-1903), trans. A. L. Skoog

Lest the reader think Mrs. Berg knew nothing of real suffering to have written such words, such is not the case. Her father fell overboard and drowned before her eyes when she was 26. By God's grace, after that tragedy hymns overflowed from her heart and pen. Her name is largely unfamiliar to American believers, but she is as beloved in Sweden as Fanny Crosby is in the States.

Even in the hard, crumbles, our Father is good and loves His children. Especially in the hard, perhaps. May the Lord give us, also, songs in the dark nights of our souls. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Through A Shadowed Valley

Psalm 23:1-3, ESV

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Cindy at a family gathering in 2014
My sister-in-law Cindy Davis is an accomplished artist and photographer. Three of her works grace our home. Like Amore, she is a missionary kid who spent much of her youth in East Africa. She married another missionary kid, and they served together as missionaries for many years in Zambia and Papua New Guinea. They also spent a decade in vocational ministry in the United States between missionary assignments.

In 2012 they relocated in order to move in with our Moore parents and provide the care they needed to continue to live at home safely. Jim has full-time paid employment and serves on the preaching team at their church, so Cindy is the primary caregiver.

A year ago, Cindy was diagnosed with peritoneal cancer, even as Dad Moore's health was declining and needing more of her time and energy. After months of cancer improvement with chemo, her cancer stopped responding to the first course of treatment. She is still fighting, now with the help and support of Cancer Treatment Center of America in Phoenix. Please pray with us for her complete remission. Prayer is the most important part of this fight, and we are grateful for everyone who fights alongside us in that way.

If you would like more details on her journey and how you might help, the family has set up the following site for her (or see the sidebar of the blog):

Update, 7 March 2017:
Cindy is in Phoenix again for her second treatment. Thanks to the generosity of many people, her financial need for this course of treatment is nearly met. Her tumor marker is still high but has dropped by 45% because of the first round of treatment. Please continue to pray for her to receive complete remission and withstand the miseries chemo inflicts on the body. Thank you for reading and praying. Medical updates are being shared at the website above, under the "Fundraiser Updates" section.

Update, August 12, 2017:
Cindy transitioned to home hospice last month. Her body is slowly shutting down, and we are praying for the Lord to ease her suffering in her last days here. Thank you for your prayers for her and for all who love her as we grieve and walk with the Lord through the coming transition to life without her here. We do not grieve without hope, and we thank the Lord that she will soon be in His presence without pain and that her believing family and friends will see her again.

Update, August 20, 2017:
Cindy passed away in the early afternoon with her sister holding her hand and singing a hymn. We miss her but give thanks that her suffering is over and she is fully and permanently healed. The family welcomes your prayers as we grieve and make preparations for travel and her memorial services.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Refiner's Fire {From the Archives}

Missionary Amy Carmichael wrote in Gold Cord about what she learned on an outing with the Indian orphans in her care:

One day we took the children to see a goldsmith refine gold after the ancient manner of the East. He was sitting beside his little charcoal-fire. (He shall sit as a refiner: the gold or silversmith never leaves his crucible once it is on the fire.) In the red glow lay a common curved roof-tile; another tile covered it like a lid. This was the crucible. In it was the medicine made of salt, tamarind fruit and burnt brick-dust, and embedded in it was the gold. The medicine does its appointed work on the gold, "then the fire eats it," and the goldsmith lifts the gold out with a pair of tongs, lets it cool, rubs it between his fingers, and if not satisfied puts it back again in fresh medicine. This time he blows the fire hotter than it was before, and each time he puts the gold into the crucible the heat of the fire is increased: "It could not bear it so hot at first, but it can bear it now." "How do you know when the gold is purified?" we asked him, and he answered, "When I can see my face in it [the liquid gold in the crucible] then it is pure" (pp.69-70.)

For a variation on the theme from my poetry stash, try this on for size:

Sonnet from the Fire
How hot the flames burn round my alloyed soul!
My heart churns wildly—restless, tossed with fears,
Dross rising to the surface, bathed in tears.
I cry out, “Jesus, cleanse me; make me whole!”
The skilled Refiner’s hand still stokes the fire;
The flames I think unbearable climb higher.
Still more dross rises; will there be no end
To fiercer heat that purges hidden sin?
“Dost thou not know?” the Master Smith inquires.
“The kettle bears the fiercest heat, not thee.
Thou know'st no flame save that which scorches Me.
I know thy nature; thou wilt stand the fire.
Thou shalt not perish, but shall shine forth grace
When once I look on thee and see My face.”
~crlm, 7/1997

Beloved, if this finds you in the midst of the heat of affliction, may God grant you comfort in His presence in the furnace with you, in His wisdom to know exactly how much will refine and how much will destroy, and in His sure promise that eternity will reveal the brevity of these trials and the greater glory gained through them. I don't know what you are walking through, but the Lord Jesus does, and He is near to all who call.

You may also like: Sifted

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Scars That Have Shaped Me {Book Review}

Twenty-one surgeries by age thirteen. Years in the hospital. Verbal and physical bullying from schoolmates. Multiple miscarriages as a young wife. The death of a child. A debilitating progressive disease. Riveting pain. Abandonment. Unwanted divorce.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner begged God for grace that would deliver her. But God offered something better: his sustaining grace. 
In The Scars That Have Shaped Me, Vaneetha does more than share her stories of pain; she invites other sufferers to taste with her the goodness of a sovereign God who will carry us in our darkest of days.
The folks there also put together a video introduction in which we can glimpse Vaneetha and her family and hear her own voice:

Vaneetha Rendall Risner's occasional blog posts at had already won my respect and provided me much help, so even without those introductions I knew that her first book, The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering, was one I wanted to read, and soon. The book, adapted from material first presented on her personal blog, did not disappoint.

If you have found encouragement in the words of Joni Eareckson Tada or Amy Carmichael, writing as they have from suffering into suffering, you will probably appreciate Mrs. Risner's words as well. If you are groping for a candle in a dark season of pain, you will find one here.

My eBook is replete with highlights. At some point, the markings lose some of their meaning and the question becomes, "Okay, what's not highlighted?" Here are a few of my most favorite passages, in the prayer that they will encourage you and pique your interest enough to read the whole book.

On lament:
Lamenting keeps us engaged with God. When we lament, we invite God into our pain so that we can know his comfort, and others can see that our faith is real. Our faith is not a fa├žade we erect to convince ourselves and others that pain doesn’t hurt—it is an oak tree that can withstand the storms of doubt and pain in our lives, and grow stronger through them (Kindle Location: 409).
On knowing God:
God is valuable not because he makes our lives easier. He is valuable because he is the Lord of the universe and knowing him is better than anything in this life. Knowing him is the ultimate joy. Knowing him is worth any ordeal we may endure. This is a God worthy of worship (Location: 918).
On how to work through the spiritual deserts:
So what do we do when we feel drained and empty? When no one understands our suffering and no one seems to care? When we feel discouraged and tired and unbearably lonely? Read the Bible and pray. Read the Bible even when it feels like eating cardboard. And pray even when it feels like talking to a wall. Does it sound simple? It is. Does it also sound exceedingly hard? It is that as well. But reading the Bible and praying is the only way I have ever found out of my grief. There are no shortcuts to healing. Often I wish there were, because I’d like to move on from the pain. But in many ways, I am thankful for the transformative process I undergo. A process requiring that I read the Bible and pray (Location: 1039).
On suffering for the kingdom and glory of God:
God’s glory is on display for the angels and demons when people demonstrate that their hearts are satisfied in God alone rather than in his gifts. When we declare that God is more precious than our health, our happiness, even our very lives, we highlight his supreme worth to an immense, invisible audience. That message helped me through years of struggle. I speak and write about suffering, and sometimes my words inadvertently make it sound wistful and romantic. Almost noble. Talking about “crying myself to sleep” sounds a lot more beautiful than what it really is—feeling nauseated in a dark, lonely room, with an empty box of Kleenex and a raging headache from sobbing. There’s nothing even remotely appealing about raw pain. When no one sees or knows or even seems to care. When morning brings a cold numbness that permeates your soul and makes you feel completely dead inside. When every day seems harder than the day before, and you wonder how much longer you can go on. When life seems grueling and gritty and even gruesome, and death seems like it would be a welcome relief. And yet, in the midst of crushing circumstances, we know something else is going on. Something bigger than we can imagine. Something that puts our pain into a larger context (Location: 1192).
 On the merits of grace that comes daily like manna:
Delivering grace or sustaining grace. Which is more precious? We Need Both
In delivering grace, we see God’s glory. Everyone can see the miracle he has wrought for us. And usually our lives are easier as a result. We have what we asked for. And we thank God for it. But after a while, we go back to the business of living. New difficulties come up. And we may even forget about what he’s done because we aren’t continuously going back to him. Sustaining grace also showcases God’s glory. But with sustaining grace, people can see the miracle he has wrought in us. Our lives are easier because our perspective is different. With sustaining grace, we must continually go back to God. This grace is not a one-time thing, just as manna was not a one-time event. We need it every day. And it keeps us dependent on God. With sustaining grace, we get more of Jesus. His comfort, his nearness, his very presence. Both delivering grace and sustaining grace are essential in the Christian life. They are interconnected. Delivering grace is vital. We need to pray for it. It’s biblical. Life can be relentlessly hard, and we need to know that deliverance is possible. That our prayers are effective. That our situation can change. Without the possibility of deliverance, we’d lose hope. We might stop praying. We could succumb to total despair. But it is in the asking, even begging, for deliverance, and in the subsequent waiting for it, that we get sustaining grace, the grace to press on in the blazing heat. And this grace is accompanied by the intimate presence of the living God. So when I am sustained but not delivered, God is inviting me to see the miracle I have received. It is a more precious answer to prayer than I ever realized. Manna, my daily bread, the Bread of Life himself. He alone sustains me in the desert (Location: 1329).
My only (and very minor) quibble with this book was that there were some formatting issues in the Kindle book. For me these were not deal-breakers, but I mention it because I know there are some readers for whom that would be enough of a distraction that they would prefer the paperback because of it.

In short, Mrs. Risner is a bell sheep, one who has listened to the heartbeat of the Shepherd who sustains her and who now rings her bell to point others to His presence, even in the darkest valleys. My heart goes out to her and her family in the intense suffering they have endured and are enduring, but I praise the Lord for the miracle of His sustaining grace in her life and the bell-ringing testimony in this book.

The link in the first paragraph is a blogger affiliate link. To purchase from Desiring God instead, here is the link: