Saturday, November 26, 2022

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Small butterfly with very long snout nose and orange and brown wings. It is on a red-orange flower.
American Snout

Tricolor terrier mix with brown head, gazing at the camera, one ear flipped back. He is lying on a blue velvet blanket.
Moose Tracks

 O LORD our Lord, "You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster" (Jonah 4:2, ESV).


Lord, we give you thanks first and foremost because of who you are: you are good, and your steadfast love endures forever. No matter our circumstances, that still is true.

Thank you that you loved us so much you sent your Son to die for our sins when we were wicked, enemies, rebel sinners, hostile toward you in thoughts and deed. I was a child of wrath, deserving your judgment, just like all the other sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. But in your great mercy you saved me and all others who trust Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. By grace we are saved, through faith, and this is not our own doing but your kind, free, and undeserved gift. Nothing we can do will make you love us more, and nothing we can do will make you love us less. For this I thank You.

You saved us and called us with a holy calling. You gave us new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. You have filled your book with the poem of good works you prepared for us to do before we even took our first breath. You did not save us because of our works, but you saved us for the work of loving you and loving our neighbors through Your Spirit who dwells in us.

That same Spirit binds Your daughters and sons together in one body, a community transcending time and geography. You lead us to each other with perfect timing and providential preparation. You assign various gifts and empower us for service and stewardship in the building up of Your church. You set the lonely in families and watch over the orphan and the widow. When all human helpers fail and comforts flee, You are the help of the helpless and companion of the solitary.

For all these things, O Lord, I thank you.

Monday, November 21, 2022

For All the Lonely People

"…he himself has said, 'I will never leave you or abandon you.' Therefore, we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13‬:‭5‬-‭6‬ ‭CSB‬‬, quoting Deuteronomy 31:6 and Psalm 118:6

Flame-hued sunset after a stormy afternoon



Are you lonely, friend?

If news headlines and my circle of acquaintances are representative, there's a good chance you are, and I am so sorry. Loneliness causes such heartache in the best of times, and during the holidays it tends to cause even more pain. My heart goes out to you, truly. If you aren't lonely as you read this, it is likely you have been recently or we'll be soon. As Elisabeth Elliot says, we are lonely because we are human. Loneliness entered human life in the garden of Eden, when spiritual death resulting from sin separated Adam and Eve from their first and truest friend, the Lord God who created them.

Chronic illness (and really, any kind of suffering) tend to isolate sufferers and their families.  Holidays may intensify any preexisting loneliness, whether we can't be with our loved ones or feel lonely because of differences or tensions alienating us from the people around us to some degree. We all want someone who truly sees us, knows us, and loves us anyway. Any diminishment or lack of that soothing security can feel lonely, whether we are literally alone or surrounded by people. No human can satisfy that longing fully; hence, loneliness is part of the human experience of walking around with a God-shaped vacuum inside us, an emptiness that can never completely be filled in this life.

How is the Christian to respond to loneliness when it assails us? With heartfelt prayers for your encouragement, I offer four suggestions:

  • Lament the losses.
  • Let go of my rights, expectations, and any sin in my response.  
  • Love the communion of the saints.
  • Lean into the fellowship of the Triune God.

First, we may lament the losses that have brought us to this place of isolation and loneliness. Whether loss of health, friends, church, spouse, or job, whether empty nest or prodigal loved ones, whether estrangement and misunderstanding or some combination of all these fuels our loneliness, we can and should lament them.  We grieve because we love. We grieve because it mattered. We grieve our own sins and the sins committed against us that have fractured relationships. Lament is an act of faith that turns toward God in our grief; pours out our complaint honestly to Him who knows it all; asks Him to intervene and heal the brokenness causing us pain; and trusts Him to hear and answer, even if His answer isn't what we want. He loves us and wants us to come to Him in our need. He is not repelled by sorrow and tears and even anger, but catches our tears in His bottle like treasure.

Second, we may let go. We may let go of our right to retaliate at anyone whose sin has contributed to our loneliness. We may need to let go by forgiving others. We may need to let go of our rights and expectations regarding relationships, holidays, and others' treatment of us.  And we may need to let go of our own sinful responses to our loneliness: self-pity, resentment, bitterness, for example. We may need to let go of those things that will only infect our soul's wound and prevent it from healing well and fully.

Third, we may find solace in loving the communion of the saints mentioned in the ancient creed. Have you ever given much thought to that doctrine, beyond your local church fellowship? Prolonged periods of isolation have deepened my understanding of it. God, through the apostle Paul, says, "There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call--one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4:4-6, ESV). Again, in a different letter, God through Paul says, "For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13, ESV). The one body of Christ, then, comprises all  who belong to the Lord through faith, all in whom the Spirit dwells, all who can rightly call God Father. This is not constrained to one location at one point in time. All the children of God through faith in Christ, throughout all the world, throughout all of time, are united in one body, as we will fully realize in the coming eternal kingdom and must take by faith now. The same spiritual blood and breath unite us, and in that regard we are always in spiritual communion with our brother and sister saints, however alone we may be in body.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

6 A’s of Prayer


"…in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began."
‭‭Titus‬ ‭1‬:‭2‬ ‭CSB‬‬


American Snout butterfly on lantana



Sometimes in times of trial it's hard to know what to pray. Picking up God's Word and turning to Psalms or the prayers in Paul's letters are a great place to start.


Breath prayers can also help me. I've shared a few of those in the past, like “Abba, Father, as You wish” and “Father of mercies, comfort our afflictions.”

Saturday, November 5, 2022

Your Butterfly

 









Make me Your butterfly, O Lord.

Peel back layers and layers and layers

of wormy flesh and wriggling self

through myriad tiny deaths--

surrender and surrender and surrender--

till final entombment of old me

and rebirth with wings--

soaring, soaring, soaring homeward to You.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Fellowship with God in the "Whatever" of Life

Fall asters



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 (Colossians 3:17, ESV).


When we offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices and offer our work to Him, all our lives becomes worship. The most mundane and even dirty jobs are transfigured into prayer when we do them for the glory of God, in obedience to the commands of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The heavenly orientation of the heart can find communion with the Lord God Almighty here at the computer where I tap or folding the never-ending laundry or weeding a garden or taking the dog to the vet.

We are often tempted to find our identity in what we do--I surely was when we were missionaries--but the only identity that will never fail or fade or disappoint is our identity as God's beloved children through the death and resurrection of Christ our hope. When we rest securely in His love, our work ceases to be our identity and becomes as fragrant incense ascending in praise to Him.

I call this orientation of the heart the sacrament of the ordinary. A favorite slim volume on Christian living describes it this way:

"Only God Himself can fill that blank which is made in His shape.
If we will yield to this, some of us will have a new outlook on life.
We will have a new zest for life, even in the dreariest surroundings. 
As soon as the emphasis is changed from 'doing' to 'being', there is an easing of tension.
The situations may not change, but we have changed.
If fellowship with God is to be our first concern,
then we can have fellowship with God
in the kitchen, in sickness, in any kind of trying and difficult situation.
Whatever lies across our path to be done, even the most irksome chores,
are there to be done for God and for His glory.
Gone will be the further striving, bondage, and frustration.
We shall be at peace with God and ourselves."

~Roy & Revel Hession, We Would See Jesus, 16-17

Beloved Crumbles, may you find glimmers of God and of grace in all your ordinary ways today. May He keep drawing your attention back towards Himself and sweeten your tasks with His presence. May He fill your heart with song and shine the light of His countenance upon you, today and always, in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Prayer of Surrender

Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, 
by the mercies of God, 
to present your bodies as a sacrifice –
alive, holy, and pleasing to God–
which is your reasonable service.

Romans 12:1, NET



Surrender of my will to God's will is a fundamental and ongoing part of walking with God as a Christian. It is part of presenting my body--this broken, flawed, decaying tent which would never have qualified as an Old Testament offering--as a living sacrifice made holy and pleasing by the virtues of Christ.

Opening my hands for him to take and give what He wills can feel scary, especially when He is asking us to trust Him to take something very, very valuable from us or give something very, very painful to us. For me the key that unlocks my fists is to remember two things:
  • The good God asking this of me loves me. In the mercies of God, He gave His only son to rescue me from sin and the resulting death when I was His wicked, sinful enemy (Romans 1-5). He gives me freedom from sin's tyranny; it is not the boss of me any more (though it constantly tries to persuade me otherwise), because I have died with Christ and been raised to walk in new life (Romans 6-7). Now there is no condemnation for me in Christ Jesus, and nothing can separate me from the love of God in Him (Romans 8). Even though I am not a Jew and therefore had no place in God's covenants with Israel by birthright, He graciously grafted me into their olive tree and made me an heir to the promises given to Abraham and his descendants (Romans 9-11).

  • The loving God asking this of me is all-powerful. He rules over all. Not one electron on one atom is outside of His providence. He is able to accomplish His good plans for me.

Because God is great and God is good, and He is both those things for me, I can pray words like these:


Pink hydrangea blossom with white text: Lord, I am willing to receive what You send, to do without what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to suffer anything You inflict, to do what You command,  & to be  what You ask me to be, at any cost, now & forever. Amen.



"Lord, I am willing

to receive what You send,

to do without what You withhold,

to relinquish what You take,

to suffer anything You inflict,

to do what You command,

& to be what You ask me to be,

at any cost,

now & forever.

Amen."

~author unknown
(encountered in Jerry Bridges's book Transforming Grace and an Elisabeth Elliot Gateway to Joy episode)

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Testing, Testing,…




Happy Monday, Crumbles!

Something went awry in the RSS and email subscriptions after the October 5 post. This is a test to see if a small tweak fixed the issue.

In case you missed it, the blog posts during the accidental pause were these:
"This Is From Me," a blessing of a devotional more than 100 years old, on the sovereign providence of God;


and "Tested by the Word," on the patriarch Joseph's trials and trust.


Praying this works!

Much grace and peace to you in Jesus,
tinuviel

Friday, October 14, 2022

Tested by the Word




He [God] had sent a man ahead of them-- 

Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 

They hurt his feet with shackles; 

His neck was put in an iron collar, 

Until the time his prediction came true. 

The word of the LORD tested him. 

Psalm 105:17-19, CSB 

 

If you are unfamiliar with Joseph’s story, it appears in Genesis 37 and 39-50. He receives more pages of Genesis than any other patriarch, and his life story is beautiful and instructive. 

 

I know the end of the story, the fulfillment of Joseph’s dreams and the way God used the sins of others against him to rescue his family and preserve the line of Messiah. For Joseph, though, in the middle of the pit, in the dungeon, on the auction block, running away from the seduction of a predatory older woman, being abused and falsely accused and forgotten—in the middle of that, his feet and neck truly hurt. He genuinely suffered. 

 

How many days did he have nothing to hope for but the promise in his dreams and perhaps the family stories, like the tale of God’s covenant promise to great-grandpa Abraham and the mysterious angelic ladder vision and God-wrestling of his father Jacob? 

 

With no encouragement but God’s promises and the indications that “the LORD was with him,” helping him endure and making even his servitude in bondage prosper, Joseph endured. He didn’t have three faithful friends as Daniel did at the beginning of his exile. He didn’t even have written Scripture. Yet day by day, this young man faithfully executed the tasks set for him, in which he had no say. His one glimmer of freedom hope appeared to be disappointed when he was forgotten by one he helped. 

 

The word of the LORD tested him, and in Scripture we see that he passed the test. God did deliver him, and the long years of waiting and confinement with God made him generous in forgiveness and grace toward his brothers. The years of searching for the starlight of God’s activity in the dark dungeon gave him spiritual night vision, so that when his family came begging for food, he didn’t gloat and say, “I told you so.”  

 

He acknowledged that they had intended evil against him—they hurt his feet with shackles—and also, at the same time, God sent him to Egypt, to the enslavement that led to him being in the right place at the right time with the right God-given gifts to save the lives of a multitude of people during a prolonged famine. God sent him, by means of his brothers’ evil deeds, to save those same brothers and his beloved father and younger brother. God sent him to preserve the line through which Jesus the Messiah would come. In Genesis 45:4-9 when Joseph makes himself known to his brothers, he repeats the words three times: “God sent me.” 

 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please, come near me,” and they came near. “I am Joseph, your brother,” he said, “the one you sold into Egypt. And now don’t be grieved or angry with yourselves for selling me here, because God sent me ahead of you to preserve lifeFor the famine has been in the land these two years, and there will be five more years without plowing or harvesting. God sent me ahead of you to establish you as a remnant within the land and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 

“Return quickly to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: “God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me without delay.”’” 

Genesis 45:4-9, CSB 

 

The suffering was real. 

 

The sin was real. 

 

God’s mercy was more real and enduring. 

 

Years later, when Jacob dies, the brothers say to themselves, “Now we’re in for it. Joseph’s going to make us pay for what we did.” Joseph, though, holds fast to the same spiritual insight: “You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:20, CSB). 

 

To quote Joni Eareckson Tada, in Joseph’s story and in ours, “God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves.” To quote the apostle Paul, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, CSB). That good is conformity to the image of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Word of God testing us is sometimes the chisel accomplishing that end. 

Courage, dear hearts. 

 

A Prayer: 

Lord, You know where I am being tested by Your promises today. You know where I’m hurting and which of those pain points are caused by the sin of others. The seen material realities look hopeless with trial upon trial. Hopes of the end of the sorrows have so often proven to be only mirages. Lord God, God of miraculous transformations in circumstances, give me spiritual night vision to see Your invisible realities shining in the darkness. Give me eyes to see a hint of what You’re doing in the dark. Send encouragement in my endurance, grace to trust You in the dungeon, when things seem to be going in the opposite direction from Your promises. Don’t let the soul’s dark night be wasted, but use it to grow my trust in You. Set me free from every trace of resentment and bitterness toward any people who have contributed to my suffering. Fill me with Your forgiving love. When You lead me out and work mightily in and for me, make me an encourager to others in their endurance. Write me a testimony of treasures in darkness that will encourage others to persevere in theirs. 

 

I trust You, Lord; keep me trusting You, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.