Sunday, November 30, 2014
Health challenges and unanswered questions have been circling me lately. How quickly you feel your own frailty and humanity when health and energy are no longer at your beck and call. It is a helpless feeling to be praying for healing and yet acknowledging that God may not choose to answer in the way you would want. While discussing this with God today, the words to this song came to mind. Never had they been more meaningful.
Ultimately, what I long for is that God's will be done in and through my life. I have nothing to fear as long as I abide in His love. Let health or illness come, joy or sorrow, sun or rain...as long as He is glorified.
You cannot control what happens. Whether your life seems charmed or tragic, you are not forsaken. God is still at work. Whether you receive the best news or the most horrifying, He is still holding you. May these words soothe your soul like they have soothed mine.
As Long As You're Glorified
"Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?
Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified
Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled?
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well?
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night."
- Sovereign Grace Praise
Saturday, November 22, 2014
How is it possible to feel at home in a place you've never been? It is strange and wonderful. There you are in a place entirely new and yet there is a comforting feeling of peace and belonging. Ireland is such a place.
Paris had filled my days with excitement. Every second was filled to overflowing. My eyes drank in the sights as my mind feverishly plotted how to see everything on my list. When our 4 days in France drew to a close I was happy, but quite exhausted. With a weary body I dropped into my seat. We took off and I calmly stared out at the clouds thinking how nice it would be to see my dear friend who I hadn't seen for a year. How lovely to be all together as a group! I was ready for some green instead of city. At that moment I was content, but not overflowing with boundless excitement. I was too tired for that.
Alternately I dozed and chatted with Mom about inflight magazine articles. As we started the descent into Cork I closed my eyes to rest and wait. Just then, Mother poked me and said "Look!". I glanced over in time to catch the first glimpse of a landscape greener than green and golden in the afternoon sun. It was a "Moment". I couldn't take my eyes away. The lower we flew the more I could make out a patchwork of farm land, small cottages and the coastline cliffs. For the rest of the landing I was glued to the window, speechless.
There are moments in life. You know...the "Moments" that freeze frame in your mind. I treasure them. I hang them up on a memory hall of fame. They are moments when you have great clarity about life. They are moments when a part of your soul finds a match in that place of beauty. They are moments when you know its the end of life as you know it.
My time in Ireland was filled with such moments. The day I stood on the cliffs of Inishmore and heard the waves crashing against them was the end of life as I knew it and the beginning of life where that sacred moment is forever a part of me. As I looked out over Killarney a little piece of my soul found a match. Ireland didn't just make me feel at home, it made a home in me.
I believe there can be more than one place on this planet that feels like home. And when your heart finds a home, it never fully leaves.
If an earthly place can so quickly embrace us and feel like home, how much more will our eternal home be like finding the resting place we've been searching for all our lives? I can't wait!
Friday, November 14, 2014
The sun, with all it's rosy colors, was just coming over the horizon as the plane descended into Paris. I was drinking in the morning rays of brightness as most everyone slammed their window shades shut, hoping for a few more moments of sleep. I was too excited to think of sleep. Anxiously I leaned forward and back, straining my eyes to see through any remaining open windows. A quick glance around revealed a crowd of passengers that regarded this glorious morning arrival in Paris as calmly as one might wait for toast to pop from the toaster. I settled in to enjoy my excitement solo. Smugly I decided I would enjoy it on their behalf. It felt very much like taking a delicious dessert off someone's hands. "Oh, you don't want it? Here! Let me take that off your hands. All the more for me!"
When I caught my first sight of the Eiffel Tower from the air, bathed in purple sunrise splendor, my excitement knew no bounds!
Paris: a classy city of dichotomies. My eyes were enthralled with the lovely architecture, flowering window boxes and cozy cafe's. My nose was assaulted with the occasional stench that inevitably plagues big cities. My ears were drawn to the soul moving resonance of Notre Dame's bells pealing out the hour. My body was often surrounded by the press of humanity that flocks to this City of Lights. Though braced for rudeness, I continually stumbled upon a deep kindness in local Parisians that astonished me. At the end of the day, when I summed up her pro's and con's, Paris still shone with a charm and beauty that was undeniable. Every garden begged to be explored. Every bench practically asked to be sat on. Every bakery enticed with thoughts of fresh bread.
At each and every turn, during my exploration of Paris, I was carrying on a lively inner conversation of discovery.
"A bridge! I've always wanted to see the bridges of Paris!"
"O look! A castle! No that's not a castle...it's just a beautiful building that looks like a castle, like ALL the beautiful buildings in this city!"
"Dodge the asian tour group."
"Wonder if I can see the Eiffel Tower from here?"
"I'd sure like a crepe..."
... so on and so forth.
Some of my thoughts were less touristy and more filled with profound contemplations. Often, while silently riding the metro I wondered at the fact that all the people around me were carrying on their own inner dialogue, yet in a different language. What might their thoughts sound like to me? What might my thoughts sound like to them?
Because of it's fame as a place to vacation, Paris is a melting pot of cultures like none I've ever experienced. An afternoon of simply watching people would be exceedingly fascinating.
There is something freeing and spectacular about seeing a city from up high. The Eiffel Tour is striking and iconic, yes. But let me say, the view from it is far more striking and lovely! I was sore for days after tackling it's many many steps, but the memory was priceless. The weather that day had been positively miserable. Cold. Umbrella destroying winds. Driving rain. We were just about to call it quits when the sky cleared and revealed an evening of balmy breezes and a freshly washed, blue sky. It was perfect!
When I was 15 years old I distinctly remember dreaming about the Louvre Museum. I took every virtual tour online I could find, willing myself into the scene with my powerful imagination. Walking it's halls was surreal and awe-inspiring. The masterpieces of people long gone are still there, inspiring the masses of people that pass through every day. If a legacy of art could make such an impact, how much more powerful the legacy of a life of faith? Deep thought.
We took a reprieve from the bustle of Paris. Out of all my time in France, this day will forever stand out. After the noise and crushing masses of Parisian streets, the unbroken stillness of the french countryside was a taste of heaven. Without another person in sight, we wandered the gardens of the Chateau. The chestnut trees were blooming. It started to mist a light rain. The air smelled fresh and ethereal. I kept breathing in as deeply as I could, eyes closed, trying to imprint the smell and moment into memory. It's still there. I think it always will be.
Friday, November 7, 2014
My family has a tradition. Every Friday night as we welcomed the Sabbath we would kneel in a circle, join hands and repeat the Lord's Prayer. Afterwards, still holding hands and with eyes closed, we would sing the first verse of "Abide With Me". What could be more lovely than inviting Someone you love to stay with you?
May the beauty of God's presence abide with you throughout this taste of heaven called Sabbath.
"Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me."
SDA Hymn 50
Saturday, March 1, 2014
I recently read an article about obedience. How easily that word can sound harsh and exacting to my sensitive ears. Too often I associate it with my failings and the with-holding of love or stinging punishment I fear will follow. Where have my idea's of mindless submission or struggling effort come from in regards to obedience? None of these characteristics fit with the character of God. Instead it has more in common with the flawed obedience humans demand of humans. Is obedience really that way? Is it the proverbial older brother charging up a hill yelling "Follow Me!" and the younger brother desperately trying to match him step for step with his shorter legs, only to tumble down crying in frustration? I'm beginning to see it in a new light. What if obedience wasn't a performance or a test of my abilities after all? Let me try to explain.
What if obedience was a gift, like a Christmas gift, a birthday gift, a "just because I love you" gift?
What if obedience was a promise, a sure thing, a "don't worry I've got this" assurance?
What if obedience was an invitation, an outstretched hand , a "come walk with Me for the rest of your life" kind of proposal? There are so many things obedience could be when you start fitting it into God's context of love. It's a safety railing on a high bridge. It's the hard decision to be selfless for the sake of one you love. It's the trusting of One greater than you to be who they say they are. Here is a quote from the article that got me thinking in the first place:
"God promises all that we need for life and godliness; with no exception. And when the Bible says all that we need, it means...All! Our good and gracious Father does not give us a little sliver of grace for obedience, and then leave us exhausting ourselves in futile attempts to draw strength from the well of self-effort. He gives the full measure of grace needed to victoriously live the Christian life, not just sometimes, not just when our "if only" ideals become reality. Right now, in your current situation and season of life, God has made available to you all that is needed for glad obedience. It is when we are relying on our own strength and power to obey, and not on the power of Christ, that we find ourselves failing and faltering...allow [God] to build you into a woman [man] who walks in instant, joyful obedience unto the Prince of your heart!"
~ Elsje Zornes, Set Apart Girl Magazine Jan/Feb 2014
Did you see it? The words "promise", "give", "build"...God's actions. God promises. God gives. God builds. What do we do? We rely. We walk. Jesus said "If you love me, keep my commandments."(John 14:15) Another way of saying that would be "If you love me, you will walk with Me". Now when I think of obedience I think of safety, of love, of a couple walking with their arms around each other.
do thou turn me
all into love
And all my love
And let my obedience
be without interruption
--Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)