Sunday, December 28, 2014

wake, artist!

Gifts from God, this Christmas;
one of my favorites-

Sitting at the table with my mother, for hours, with the paints.  

I got to see her joy at the way the colors bleed and mix, her creativity and laughter at the mistakes.   I see her mind spinning with possibilities and smile when she tells me in the morning that she was laying in bed plotting a trip to Hobby Lobby.  

The artist in her reawakens, and she is beautiful.

Thanks for sharing those moments with me, mom.
I hope you keep painting.

(Penmenship is not my strength, and I was tempted to crop my messy words out, but I'm going to let them stand, because that's exactly the point. Stay awake, imperfect artsy person within me, and do your art!)

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. 

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