Makairos and Corrie’s Pit

Makairos.

Blessed. Happy.

It was a Greek word reserved for demigods, elite, the ones “who lived above the normal cares, problems, and worries of normal people.” Then Jesus came and shattered the old conception with a line of astounding phrases. Maybe the lowest…were actually the highest.

I am beginning to see the blessedness.

It is frightening. And glorious beyond my imagination.

I read the “Blesseds,” hear them proclaimed in my ear, softly beckoning and comforting as my CD repeats and I heard the round of eight verses followed by the breathed awe. “Rejoice! And be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

How does the soul-emptiness, the mourning, the readiness to accept the wrongs and hatred and persecution, the starving, the unrequited outpouring of myself turn into the blessedness? At what point do I realize the rejoicing instead of the dread that I might be wronged?

Jesus does not phrase this conditionally. This is reality, who I am in the kingdom. This is how this world will recognize me.

But what price must I pay to realize the fullness, the comfort, the abundance of Christ? What corners of my heart am I clutching so tightly that my fingers throb and I can’t imagine the searing pain of being pried loose from my autonomy. That scares me.

Until the light started to come. I don’t know what it was, but I started to see.

That the break in the clouds, when the sun pierces through with glory, would not still our souls with thrills without the clouds.

The turn for the better in the hospital when your heart has wrung dry and bitter and then the eyes flutter and the one you love is going to live. Could we feel the soaring without the wringing?

When my pillow is wet every night because she’s still running from God and I can’t understand but I’m still clinging to Him because He’s all I have left, I am stilled and find the sweetness at the dead core of the hurt. A sweetness I would never have found without this pain.

I start awake in the night. There’s fear I can’t be sure of and longings that I can’t fill and I can’t find any rest until I’m laying in His arms again. In that quietness, I bless the ache that drove me back to Him again.

I start to grasp the unutterable and He’s here. I see the “Blesseds” and know that they’re not just promises or bewildering spiritual paradoxes or a shortcut to happiness.

These radical blessings are where Jesus can take me. They are reality when I bring my soul poverty and unquenched thirst and He brings His love that knows no blight and His strength that conquers all. They are the proofs of His power, because now I can live impossibly and love impossibly and die impossibly. What limitless power!

Fallen at His feet, I let Him strip away the brokenness. He gives me His abundance.

I recently watched the film “The Hiding Place,” as Corrie ten Boom clutched her dying sister close and tried to block the inevitable from her mind. Betsie whispered in the dimness, words that became a victory cry long after the Ravensbruck ovens had cooled from their ghastly work. “…(We) must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

And maybe the only way people can see His glory today is for me to be crushed and still sing.

I’m on the altar again, sisters.

Will you join me? It’s glorious, because He’s here and I am truly blessed.

This Place, Again

rain with imprint

“Ask rain from the Lord
    in the season of the spring rain,
from the Lord who makes the storm clouds,
    and he will give them showers of rain…”

– Zechariah 10:1 –

On some days, grace seems to hide.

Maybe it saw how I looked when I got out of bed and just ran.

But I do know better. Really, I do.

I know that when God seems distant, I am usually the one who did the running away.

Why can’t I just abide?

My thirst for my Lord ekes out in a halting, broken lilt on the pages of my journal…

        “As the moment settles into silence, I feel a wall that hides me from Your face. It’s not a conscious sin  or a rankling heart scattering the peace. But when I finally look up from a task that consumes me, I reach out and cannot find Your hand.

Where am I?

This place, I’m here again, when your nearness seems to melt away. Your presence hiding like the rain that I pant for, I thirst for. I cry out again. For when my heart starts drifting, Your presence starts lifting. And I’m left in my mess, kneel to cry out again. Where am I? Where am I?

Fallen to the ground, back to laying down the pieces of a life that I always seem to take back again. Some aching emptiness or a fire kindling deep in my heart. And I finally look up to the Love that consumes me. Amazing grace that draws when I drift far away.

Here am I.

This place, I’m here again, where your nearness never really goes away. Your presence quenching like the rain that I pant for, I thirst for. You fill me again. For though my heart keeps drifting, Your strength is forever lifting. And Your blood cleans my sins–I sing out again. Here am I! Here am I.”

You see, I’m learning that abiding isn’t some mystical presence or a mind emptied in meditation. Abiding is how we live. Abiding is the ONLY way we can live. The only way to bear fruit–Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4, NKJV).

So how do I abide today? How do I live with One Thing in mind, One Thing that is the only song of my soul? How do I fix my eyes on the goal and keep running for the rest of this wearing-out-earth life?

I can’t wrestle myself into submission. I can’t live pure enough, abide hard enough.

To live, abide, in my Jesus is both a striving and a resting all in one. Yes, I must be quiet, let his “Peace. Be still” settle soft into my soul. And yet I must discipline myself, bringing everything into captivity. Straining for the goal. Running, not as one who runs aimlessly. Fixing my eyes on Jesus.

All I can do, without mounting the hamster-wheel of fruitless striving again, is pray.

Cry out that my hunger will grow. Ask for strength to dive into Scripture, savoring each saving wave.

Plead for things I forget to pray–that the Holy Spirit will work powerfully in me and through me.

Praying one prayer from the Bible, and the soul’s sea calms. Wrestling still, yet at peace. This prayer?

Help, Lord.” David said it first in the Psalms. The great preacher Spurgeon reminded us of this prayer in his writings.

Can our Father forget us, who cares about each flower and bird He has formed? Would He shut his ears against this prayer, who knows our prayers before we even ask Him?

Can it be, that this place, again, becomes enough of a burden to send me back to the foot of Calvary, where even the weakest cry for help will never be turned away?

Amazing love! Can it be that the burden turns to blessing, the pouring-out turns to filling, the desolation becomes delight?

My weakness engulfed by the power of Almighty God.

This place, again, becomes Bethel.

The house of weakness…swallowed up in glory, becomes the House of God.

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”

As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him…”

– Psalm 103:11-17, NKJV –

A beautiful photo from Atalie Bale Photography–Thanks so much, sweet Atalie!

The Stick Wedged in the Door

Lanek-1-3“For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;
Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal,
My companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together,
And walked to the house of God in the throng.”

– Psalm 55:12-14, NKJV –

I don’t really get how everything can be so clear and formulated and true–but then one who names Christ can turn so much against another of His children. Turned on…Betrayed.

I guess I’m angry sometimes at men who turned on brothers, women who turned on those once loved. Mad at sin natures for clashing and gutting friendships.

On these nights, I just want to sink, crying, into Everlasting Arms. I want heaven on these nights.

On these nights, sin is too small a word for this globe-mass of inhumanity. My heart aches, with a pain one part hurt and one part asymmetry.

Asymmetry–because something in me twists and there is a gut-knowing, less than a whisper, that this is not what relationships were made to be.

On these nights, I know why this crazy world needs a Savior.

On these nights I see what the so-called “good” are capable of–and know how staggeringly amazing is this grace.

On these nights, from the pit of my stomach presses the groan for redemption.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

– Romans 8:20-23, NKJV –

Subjected to this. Yes, subjected. Slaves, it seems, to be hurt and hurt, to be betrayed and betray, to be our own idols. On these nights this earth yoke weighs hard.

But not only subjected–subjected IN HOPE. To whisper, “There is hope,” is to wedge a stick into the fast slamming door. In hope. Then, maybe, in all this clenching, brain-twisting rawness there is a purpose, a glimmer in Redemption’s eye?

We have this hope as an anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19).

So there is a stick wedged in the door.

So there is an anchor, with life-gusts straining at the ropes.

Will it hold?

Yes. Because He is a faithful Creator. This promise of no pain to come is enough to carry us on.

This pain bows us.

It can ruin us, taint us–or bend our knees.

In this creation-groan life, a light is steadily growing.

Hold on…Stand firm…Hold fast…Remember…Entrust yourself…

There is a way to survive.

There is a way to greet eternity’s dawn with a smile.

Can you reach out and believe me, that my faithful God–and yours–can do more than keep you from falling?

He is able to make you stand.

Hope endures.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”
– Emily Dickinson –

A big hug and a lot of thanks to Atalie Bale Photography for a lovely photo!

Guest Post: “Four Words” By Emily Shiflet

     { I am honored to announce Called to Joy Blog’s first guest post, written by my wonderful friend Emily. She has a beautiful style and I hope you all take to heart her message. This is us, girls. This is who we were, and who we now are. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NKJV). Thanks, Emily, for sharing with us! Your writing inspires me! – Shelbie }

Four words…
…and a dead heart beats.

Four notes sung by holy lips…
…and lifeless eyelids tremble,
stiff limbs stretch,
cold veins warm…
…and the people fear.

They are amazed, dismayed, afraid.
Afraid of the power of four words.

A young girl crowded with loneliness, surrounded by people but alone. Longing for love but fearing…fearing that once people know her, they will despise her, a blushing bride afraid to lift the veil.

There are no doors and the window is barred, I feel the concrete walls closing in, preparing to crush me. The air is stifling-stale. I gasp. Sweat runs down my temples and a deep-seated sob catches in my throat. I must escape or die. The room continues to shrink or else I am going mad. I must escape or die. Through the barred window I catch glimpses of green, of wide open spaces, of fresh air and of freedom just beyond my grasp. My mind struggles to piece together the missing parts of the picture blocked by the bars. The picture eludes my imaginings. I must escape or die. SOMEONE! please show me the rolling green hills where I can rub off my saddle sores and gallop through the wind, a pony who answers to only One Rider.

In a downward spiral, the maelstrom continues: feeling wanted and loved for only a time, times and half a time. Like the addict after a drink, one glass is never enough. The height is followed by a plummet, the ship dipping further and further into the raging sea until it rises no more. Moments of happiness marred by the shadow that lurks behind every fleeting compliment. It will not last…soon they will know.

The lion was waiting for me. He was waiting till it was quiet and I crawled into bed alone. Many a night I put my pillow over my head and cried myself to sleep, thinking that my sobs would drown out the voices in my head. But when I awoke they were always there, ready to pull me down like a millstone around my neck, ready to suck the very life out of me.

Desperate for love, anxious to please, always left empty.
Dry bones are all that is left.
My name…is “no mercy”.
Lo-ruhamah.

When a friend was silent, when an older woman pursed her lips, when my parents were reserved, I felt rejected. It must be my fault. How could anyone love me? Every rebuke seemed to me a confirmation. It should not matter what others think–do as unto the Lord. But the smiles of God seemed so far away. Afraid of man-centered religion I relegated God to the role of indifferent benefactor in place of loving Father. Surely being saved from wrath was enough?

And yet…it did not matter to me that I was saved from Hell because without assurance of God’s love I lived Hell every day.

And when I doubted God’s love, human love became more necessary.

Don’t be a man-pleaser–this said with scorn. So to please man I stopped pleasing men and the drunkard returned to his drink, the dog to his vomit and the small boat teetered on the brink, took one last look at the abyss beneath then vanished in the swirling foam…

Dry bones glisten white in the valley of the dead.
In the valley of the forsaken, I weep and mourn
because I doubt the power of four words.

But from the four winds of Heaven the mouth of God breathes…
…breathes life into dry bones and whispers four words: “I have loved you.”

“Now, child, arise.”

Four words…
…and a dead heart beats,
lifeless eyelids tremble,
stiff limbs stretch,
cold veins warm…
and I fix my eyes heavenward and see the prison has no roof.

“I have loved you.”

the smell of green grass fills my nostrils,

pure sunshine warms my skin,

I cough up water and I sing…I sing of the power of four words.

What I perceived as a maelstrom was actually the Spirit’s Baptism.
The Valley of Achor, the valley of the dead and forsaken, has become the door of Hope.

I have loved you.”
The Son of David has had mercy on “no mercy”.
He has given her a new name.
I am the disciple whom Jesus loved.

“I have loved you.”
welcomed invasion of my heart.

“And when I passed by you
and saw you wallowing in your blood,
I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’”
{Ezekiel 16:6}

It was Love that invaded my prison, Love that saw the begrimed walls and rolled up His sleeves, Love that stripped me of my prison rags and clothed me with redemption’s robes.

Love is messy

love is invasive

but it is this love that will. not. let. me. go.

it’s only an invasive-love that knows my ev’ry thought and loves me still,
only an invasive-love seeps into my soul, sprouts a leak, and floods the streets,
this is a holy invasion: this drop of heavenly love that into a torrent grew.

Love which makes the lover ugly, thereby making the loved lovely.

“I have loved you.”
four words that raise the dead, cover the shamed adulteress,
breathe life into dry bones and set the captives free.

freed by love–now freed to love,

freely given–now freely give,

freed to live, glorious freedom…

…But what of the broken lives, broken hearts, a city of darkness-dwellers, enslaved in their own prisons of fear and doubt and hate?

Oh, we of little faith who doubt
the resurrection-pow’r of four words.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea,
a Great High Priest who’s name is LOVE, who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands, no tongue can bid me thence depart.”

– from the hymn “Before the Throne of God Above” by Charitie Bancroft –
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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       Emily Shiflet is a young writer–and dear friend of mine–with many talents. She describes her life like this: “I’m a sinner saved by grace, ransomed by love and adopted into the family of God. I’m also a homemaker-in-training, big sis to five, daughter of a Reformed Baptist pastor in the Houston, Texas area, owner and jewelry maker of DesignCraftJewelry, aspiring author, sometime pianist and all-the-time singer.”