Monday, December 15, 2014

a song in the night

It is advent, and the darkness gathers.
I walk through the yard, my way lit only by the lights from the school.

Within, only one room is lit: the cafeteria, where we meet for Bible study.  I'd rather go to bed early, but I have to lead this thing. My mood is also dark, and I am weary.

But God does what He always does; He meets us in the darkness and lightens while he enlightens.  

His Word never denies the hard realities of life in this world. The darkness is oppressive, sometimes suffocating.  Never once does He tell us to deny it, or to pretend it is light. 

Nor does He tell us to fight the darkness in our own strength. 

There in that small lighted room surrounded by a dark building, dark parking lot, dark fields, and a dark and fallen world, a small handful of God's people come in to the light of His presence.

It is not entirely comfortable. Our weakness is exposed. Our part in the darkness is also exposed: we belong here, really, as we consider the darkness that we have invited into our own hearts. The light burns as it exposes.

But He wounds only to heal.  
Turn us, O Lord, that we may be healed, and grant us repentant hearts.

By grace are we healed; by grace we are called into His presence, and covered with the robes of Christ's righteousness. By grace, we are given strength to wait, strength to look forward, even as the darkness gathers, to the breaking dawn.


Come, Lord Jesus.  

(If your soul needs a song of inspiration to sing while you wait through the oppressive night, listen to this wonderful advent hymn)


 

The hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:11-14

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Our story

“It is in fact more important for us to know what God did to Israel, to His Son Jesus Christ, than to seek what God intends for us today. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact that I shall die, and the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead is the sol ground of my hope that I, too, shall be raised on the Last Day. Our salvation is “external to ourselves.” I find no salvation in my life history, but only in the history of Jesus Christ. Only he who allows himself to be found in Jesus Christ, in his incarnation, his Cross, and his resurrection, is with God and God with him.” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, p. 44)

God is the Great Author,
and we, minor characters.

Our little stories have been swept up,
taken into and mixed with the one Great Story,

Love caused His incarnation,
For love He endured the cross.
Loving mercy pours from heaven,
that not one may be lost.

We are small,
minor characters,
and yet, 
His acts on our behalf are not minor.

In, with, and under the suffering 
He is.

The great I AM,
He is, 
and He is for us.

making all things new,
even us. 




On My Heart Imprint Your Image

On my heart imprint your image,


Blessed Jesus, king of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation!

(LSB 422)

Saturday, December 6, 2014

O Lord How Shall I Meet You?





Advent is a time of repentant expectation. This hymn emphasizes the heart of advent, the heart of our faith, in verse four: “Love caused your incarnation.” Remember, as we anticipate Christmas: He came so that he could die for us. The cross was always in view, always a shadow over his life in this broken place. And yet He embraced it because of His love for us.

And now, this love- what more in this life could we possibly need? We have all things in Christ!
If Christ is not risen, we are of all men most to be pitied.
But if he IS (and He is!) than we who are in Christ have everything!
We may suffer loss and trial, but what loss is it when we have the love of God? Let us not refuse so great a salvation!

Listen to the podcast here: IssuesEtc.

Written by Paul Gerhard, the so-called “Suffering poet of the heart.”
Below, the lyrics, each stanza followed by a personal reflection from me, inspired by a recent Bible study discussion and the above podcast.

O Lord, How Shall I Meet You
By: Paul Gerhardt

O Lord, how shall I meet you,
How welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
My hope, my heart's delight!
Oh, kindle, Lord most holy,
Your lamp within my breast
To do in spirit lowly
All that may please you best.

Eyes to the sky, prepare yourself soul, your Lord IS coming to you! God, grant us repentance and faith that we may meet him with eagerness and joy! For all things, even our faith, let us look outside ourselves: God must kindle, and does so generously through His Word and His Spirit. As we grow in faith in Jesus, may we also grow in understanding of his condescension to us; His humility; His willingness to set aside all things to minister to us. May that love grow in us, that we learn to welcome others with a lowly and generous spirit.

Your Zion strews before you
Green boughs and fairest palms;
And I too will adore you
With joyous songs and psalms.
My heart shall bloom forever
For you with praises new
And from your name shall never
With hold the honor due.

Praise the God of your salvation, soul! He who has come to die and rise for you and for all- celebrate Him, and rejoice in Him! When His love for you overflows into praise, and you are God's joyful child, you are blooming as you were made to bloom. Let the name of Father, Son, and Spirit, be a name you wear proudly. Honor His name in love and truth.

I lay in fetters, groaning;
You came to set me free.
I stood, my shame bemoaning;
You came to honor me.
A glorious crown you give me,
A treasure safe on high
That will not fail or leave me
As earthly riches fly.

O soul in captivity, heavy with sin, feel the weight of your sickness and slavery! Abandon hope in yourself and in this world, and look to Him who gives His Own honor, covers you in His own righteousness. You are now free to rest secure in the safety He gives.

Love caused your incarnation;
Love brought you down to me.
Your thirst for my salvation
Procured my liberty.
Oh, love beyond all telling,
That led you to embrace
In love, all love excelling,
Our lost and fallen race.

Take heart- your God thirsts for your salvation! He eagerly desires your healing, He aches for your return to His arms. He seeks, finds, frees, and even now embraces you and all people.

Rejoice, then, you sad-hearted,
Who sit in deepest gloom,
Who mourn your joys departed
And tremble at your doom.
Despair not; he is near you,
There, standing at the door,
Who best can help and cheer you
And bids you weep no more.

This is life in this broken world: crumbling joys, breaking hearts, uncertain futures. And yet He is near, even at the door, and soon our time of weeping will be past. He is making all things new.

Sin's debt, that fearful burden
Cannot His love erase;
Your guilt the Lord will pardon
And cover by His grace.
He comes for you procuring
The peace of sin forgiv'n,
His children thus securing
Eternal life in heaven.

Our debt is tremendous, His Love covers it all. Covered in His bloody mercy, we are safe. We have peace with God; His good will toward men has been shown plainly to us in Jesus.

He comes to judge the nations,
A terror to his foes,
A light of consolations
And blessed hope to those
Who love the Lord's appearing.
O glorious Sun, now come,
Send forth your beams so cheering,
And guide us safely home.

Only those who refuse to be saved need fear. His children look forward in joyful hope to His coming our final, perfect, eternal welcome home.




Come Lord Jesus,
come quickly.

LSB 334 by Paul Gerhardt
Public Domain








Thursday, December 4, 2014

Be adjusted!

“Thank you God for this day and help us have a good day, and bless everyone who's sick, and Jesus? Please come back soon, even today!”

Wait, what?

Jesus come back today please? What kind of a prayer is that? Sure, we day “Thy Kingdom Come” and “Come Lord Jesus” now and then, but when you put it like that... I'm not so sure. It sounds almost. . . threatening.

Why? What is threatened? Well, my plans. My pet sins. My comfort in life in THIS world, how it is right now. My sense of control.

Ha, control. Why in the world do I even have such a sense?
What evidence is there in my life, or in yours, for us to assume that we have control over ANYthing that matters, really?

A sense of control, of trust in my own hands, this is something God should threaten, and ultimately, destroy. There is no hope in my hands, only in His.

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, even today.
Thy kingdom come, the church cries... kind of.

What if you heard the trumpet now? What would you run and hide under your mattress? What would you try and finally get done “real quick?” What would you repent of, real quick, for real this time?

What if God gave us one month's heads up that He was coming- how then would we live? What if we knew our time is short?

And why don't we know it already?

Our time is short! Security is not to be found in this place!

We are forced to face this when our comfort is shattered- when loved ones get sick or die, when tragedy strikes. Those things that destroy our illusions of control, our comfort in this world, have the effect of adjusting our perspective.

It's painful, this adjusting.
But it is also God's good work in us.
Let it happen, friend; let it happen, self.
Be adjusted.

All men our like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:6b-8

Be adjusted.

Isaiah (40) describes mankind as grass, nations as a drop in the bucket, as dust. You are called a grasshopper, a tiny speck under an all powerful God. We are small, indeed.

photo by Fred the Flyer

Be adjusted!
God's Word shouts to us of our smallness, our sin, or desperate need for redemption.

And God's Word also redeems.

Come, ye who are small, to God; your rock, your gentle shepherd. Seek comfort and security where it may be found!

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak (Isaiah 40:28-29)

He gives forgiveness to the sinner,
bread of life to the hungry,
peace to the troubled,
freedom to the captive.

That which you seek is not in yourself, nor is it in the comforts of this world.

See those things crumble, and be adjusted.
Fix your eyes on Jesus, author and perfecter of our faith.

Even youths grow tired and weary
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)

Lift up your heart to the Lord,
this advent season, and join the saints in waiting with repentant expectation for our Lord's coming.

Come Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent morning


“For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day's work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of the night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs. “ 

(Bonhoeffer, Life Together p. 33)




Wake, awake my soul, a new day dawns,

a day your Lord has made. 

Look first to Him,
before the noise of the day begins,
stretch and yawn before Him,
stand before Him,
created before her Creator. 

Begin your day in repentant expectation,
hastening the coming of the Lord.

Remember your smallness 
and number your days.
Recall your need,
and open your hands for His provision.

Open, soul, like a flower
for you have been planted under an open heaven.
Your God showers down his mercies,
new, again, this morning.

This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it. 


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sit and be satisfied

“Get your church shoes and I’ll help you put them on.”

“Is it a church day?” he says, and then he sighs. “Is it going to be a long church?” I don’t like his attitude, though I understand. How long will we be sitting still? How long must I be quiet? How long will I be forced to leave other tasks undone while I sit in a pew?

Later that same morning, he complained again: “When will church be over mama?” He flopped himself back on the pew, bumping his brother who responded with a fist that I barely intercepted before it hit his nose. My heart did NOT overflow with patience and compassion, to put it mildly. I wondered when church would be over, too.

There in that pew, I fought the battle I always fight- the one between love and selfishness, obedience and rebellion. The old nature longed to fall to temptation, to resent or pout or discipline for my good and not his. The new nature tried to fight. And that new self was proven a weakling.

And it was there in my failure that I saw it: the soul-hunger. The attacks and temptations in my life are too much for me, and I am too weak to fight them on my own. My soul was shaky and weak, like a body with low blood sugar. And yet there I was, sitting at the table overflowing with exactly the food my soul needs.

“Take and eat,” I’m told. “Receive what you need from your Father. You are soul-hungry. Sit and be fed.”

Why is this so difficult? Physical need is easier to accept, I think. When I call, “Lunch is ready, boys!” they come running. Not one drags his feet. Not one walks slowly, with dread, asking me questions in fear like, “Will there be too much food? Do I really have to eat?” I don’t whine about mealtime either. My body needs food, and not only that, but eating is pleasant. In fact, the hungrier I am, the more I enjoy the food I eat.

Soul hunger is something I feel too, but like a child begging for ice cream when he really needs nourshing food, I try to meet this need by filling myself with empty calories.

Distraction fails. Naps do not refresh me for long. Escape only delays the inevitable. And then, my kind Father brings me to the Divine Service; He sits me at the table so that He can wait on me, fill me with exactly what I need.

Those who are blind to their need complain, “Will it be a long church? Is it almost over?” When my son said that to me for the third time, I replied, “We are hearing God’s Word right now. This is the most important thing you will do today- maybe all week long. So sit down.”

I need to hear this, too:

Sit down.
Take and eat.
Hear and take to heart.
Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
Feast on what truly satisfies.

Sit, and enjoy a nourishing meal; a long church; a church decadent and rich with the Word of God, permeated with Christ himself poured out for your soul and mine. Make time to feast at home, on God’s rich Word, on the nourishment that you truly need.



My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
(Psalm 63:5-7)



Friday, November 21, 2014

My dear sad son...

My dear sad son...

I thank God for you, and most of all for your big heart. I do not think you appreciate this as a gift right now, especially since it aches so...  

Do you remember yesterday, the beautiful fall afternoon, when you and I and laid on blankets under the tree in the yard?  It’s been a rough week for all of us, and though you have said nothing, I could tell you’ve been running from emotions too big to handle alone. So this afternoon I determined to be there, near you, with open heart and ears. You were strong and composed, until piano music entered your ears and broke down all the walls around your heart. “Turn it off mom!!! It just… I hate piano and… it just makes me so sad about Kristie!” you cried, We talked and I held you. We lay together while the ugly feelings came out, in hiccups and gasps and hot tears. Oh son, I wish I could take them from you. I wish I could let you skip this part, skip the pain of growing up in Christ, of learning the brokenness of this world and grieving for it.   I cannot feel the feelings for you, but I do feel them with you.

As you grow, will you be one who seems to experience deeper sadness than others in times of suffering? If you are, son, and if you feel alone in this, know that you are not. You are so much like me in this way.  We see and intensely feel the brokenness of this place; we take the grief of others on ourselves. Son, I know you do not like this about yourself, but don’t you see? Your compassion reflects God’s compassion for us. Jesus suffers with us, is moved by compassion, takes it upon himself. This is a learning to love like Christ does, learning to love with His love instead of mere human love.
Oh son, I know it hurts terribly. It hurts so bad that none of us could survive long in this place if we only shared in our Lord’s hurt over the brokenness of this world. So my earnest prayer for you is this: May God fill you with hope and comfort in Christ, deeper and richer and fuller than the suffering you feel. I do not pray that he takes the suffering away… love growing in you is a gift, though a painful one.  I know, the ugly feelings are impossible to bear. May you not seek relief in numbness of hardness of heart. Instead,may you seek help from them in our Lord, in His Word, and in the comfort of his church family (and in my arms, as long as God allows!)
May God fill you with resurrection hope, and even joy in THIS place, as we wait to see his promises fufilled.

-- Mama

2 Corinthians 1:3-5English Standard Version (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

an excerpt from My Gliead; 10/3/14

Monday, November 17, 2014

just focus


They painted my room pink because I’m a girl. I hate pink. Tinkerbell wallpaper to boot. Why don’t they just put doilies on my dresser and be done with it? I will not do this to my little girl if I ever have one.
My mom is on her computer again. I need help with my homework, and she “just a sec’s” me, and I know better than to believe it will only be a sec.
There’s my brother. He’s licking the remote control and someone should stop him.
“Mom?”
“Just a sec, hon.” And she types on.
I sigh and grab the remote from him. He screams, and mom snaps, “Laurie! Would you leave him aLONE?”
“ But I was just..”
“Oh, whatever, just put something on TV for your brother. Make sure it’s a cartoon or something. I need a minute here.”
I do it because what else can I do? Maybe later I’ll talk to her. I'm still smarting from those words Jessica said to me today. I want to tell mom about it, but now’s not the time.
“Honey do you think you can warm up some chicken nuggets for you kids for dinner tonight? Daddy’s not going to be home so it’s just us and I really need to focus on this thing…” she trails off, implying that her computer work is dreadfully important and also highly confidential.
Perhaps it is, but I’d really like some real food to eat tonight. At least Junior’s happy watching those ridiculous minions again. “Sure, mom,” I say, moving slowly so she’ll notice I’m none too pleased. She doesn’t notice. I hear keyboard clicks frantically.
Dinner served and we are done, and I’ve even carried dishes to the kitchen. Finally mom shuts her computer. “Time for a bath, junior,” she says, and she takes him. I sit on the couch with my book, not really reading it. My stomach hurts like I’ve eaten Jessica’s ugly words, and I don’t know how to make it stop.
I hear junior splashing, and mom putting stuff away in the bathroom. I hear her walk into her bedroom and shut the door.
I should finish my homework but I can’t get off the couch. I pick up a book. Suddenly, Mom comes into the room and sees me, really sees me. She’s changed into her soft PJs and robe, and she sits next to me on the couch. Whatever it was that caused her to type so frantically still troubles her eyes, but she is trying to put it aside while she plays mommy.
I slide next to her, falling into her soft robe. I accept her act, and I play baby though my feet are as big as hers. She put her leg over mine and sighs. I am not ready to talk to her, but maybe if we sit her for longer I will be. Suddenly her body jerks, “Wait, is your homework done young lady?”
“Almost mom, but…” We here Junion cry from the bathroom, “I weewy weed to go potty!”
I flop on my bed, and as I hear mom yelling about the mess in the bathroom, I try to concentrate on photosynthesis.



This month I'm participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I am actual a Rebel because I am focusing on several short stories, but my goal is to write 50k in the month of November. This post is just me playing with fiction, warming up my fingers.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

unforseen sweetness

“Take and drink.”
I do.

The bloody mercy is sweet to the taste. Yet on that day, who could have forseen this?

Sinful men with violent hands
Agony of the innocent,
The sweat of a tortured brow,
Body and blood, given for you;
A crimson sign from heaven, declaring mercy,
Forgiveness,
and peace with God;

A sacrifice of life, that we may have life.

The body and the blood of Jesus:
it has trickled down, down centuries, to these receiving lips.

And it is sweet to the taste.
Yet on that day, who could have forseen the sweetness?

Those who loved him hid,
Grieved.
They could not fathom a suffering God,
Suffering-for
Suffering-with

Darkness before glory,
Bitterness before sweet.

Take and eat. Take and drink.
Go forth in peace to love and serve.
Take in, and pour out.

But I can’t. It’s too much. I’m not enough.
I fear the suffering to come:
Will there be sweetness mixed in?

I consider past suffering:
deployment, the brain surgery,
soul-crushing grief and fear;

And I recall the sweetness; it is of a flavor I did not recognize before the suffering.

There is a hidden sweetness that is in with and under
a flattening of myself;
The worn knees from praying,
The heart-rending asking
And the being HEARD.

The view, from the journey taken on the edge of eternity
with opened eyes,
stripped of false comforts,
knowing that if one is to survive it will be by the hand of God and no other way;
And surviving.

The needing, desperately,
And marveling at God’s provision.

The way He proves His faithfulness,
And we find
Under the crumbling things of this world,
There is more of Him,

And what else could a soul possibly need?



Communion Cross with Jesus

Florence


I only recently discovered Crooked Still, but they are quickly becoming my new favorites.

Here's a lovely song, perfect for those who are looking forward with me...


Remembering...
From Alicia.

Displaying saints 1.jpg

Thank you God for blessing those who have gone before us.
Preserve us until that day when change and tears are past,
when you scatter all of the darkness, finally, forever.
Amen.


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