The Mist

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“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.”

 – Anne Bronte –

Orange and gold, the fireball

Arrested my attention with light millions of miles from home.

The gold trail sneaked over the heads of the trees and fell across the lake,

Still, silent, all-brightening.

The mists started climbing the warming air,

Air convected by a distant, near, all-present flame.

Over the skin of the water, sometimes blue, gray, green,

The mists rose in columns and drifted in untraceable, rolling threads of vapor.

Sun lit across the rising, blowing cirrus wisps, and the air itself shone with glory,

Wisps that will disappear in the later heat of day.

I sat on the dock in the mist and watched the sun golden itself on the visible currents,

And I thought how life is a vapor, and my God like the sun.

Soon, my mist will blow away and shimmer free in the heat of life,

But now, while it is morning,

I will rise up and catch the Sun’s rays.

A mist with a message, I will glow in the gold of a distant, near, all-present Flame.


Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

 – John 8:12, NKJV –


Harbinger of Mercy

Sunrise


 by Shelbie Williams,

October 7, 2011

“Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the Lord will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.”

– Isaiah 60:1-2, NKJV –


When morning paints the thin air gold

And stencils the clouds with silver linings,

Then all the dark hills their life-green unfold,

The rocks like embers gleaming.

 

Oh, Morning, harbinger of mercy’s store,

Creation of the Most High Lord,

Declare thy Maker’s praise the more,

With snowy clouds and flowers’ bud.

 

As this live sun unfolds its ray

To shine on my o’erflowing heart,

It faithfully sprints on the race of day,

Rejoicing in the morning’s start.

 

Maker, Father, Redeemer, Lord,

What faithfulness is Yours!

Before mornings were, Your plan was formed,

The first morn blushed awake when You gave the word.

 

Night soon did fall, and with it man,

But morning came again, just the same.

Unshaken in Your sovereign plan,

O God, You loved beyond our shame.

 

Though day and night pressed on for years,

Darkness reigned, and with it tears

Of sorrow, grief, and sin,

But sun-drops of light could still get in.

 

But hush! Look up! The Morning Star

Has dawned. Bow down and give Him awe.

For the dark has gone–true light now shines,

Piercing this darkest heart of mine.

 

Each morning as the sun peeks out

Into a world still sinning,

I believe that soon a morn will come

And Light will have no ending.

 

Oh Morning, harbinger of mercy’s store,

Shout praise unto Salvation’s Lord.

Declare thy Maker’s praise still more,

For Night has fallen ‘neath His victory sword.

These Subtle Weavings

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“This is what the past is for!  Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
– Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place


The apostle Paul called our earthly life a dark glass for a reason (1 Cor. 13:12). We can only see pinpricks of light, shadows of a reality to come.

Although our Present moments are often chaotic and the Future is murky, the Past is one direction that God seems to shed a little more light on than others.

Past.

What does that word stir in you? Thoughts of childhood? Joy? Bitterness? Thankfulness….or regret? Embarrassment? Or, perhaps, a mixture of these things?

Unlike other points in time, the past is unchangeable, something our plans and intentions can never influence. The Past can be a Tormentor or a Teacher.

If I stop to think about it a moment, the Past can assault me with all the ridiculous things I’ve done. It doesn’t take long for one embarrassing episode after another to pop into my mind, making me groan. “How could I have thought that was a good idea?”

As I reminisce, I think of my more recent escapades, especially a not-long-ago phone call that could have resulted in disaster. “What possessed me!” I think. Then I remember that this particular “bright idea” was barely six months ago. Forget bewailing my indiscretions as a five-year-old! At twenty-one, I’m still keeping up with the blonde stereotype quite nicely, thank you.

What a Tormentor, with the memories of friendships broken, things that were and things that will never be! They can haunt and hound me, nipping at every day’s heels. The Past, sometimes, seems like a merciless enemy, intent on sucking us in and trapping us between the re-living of nightmares and the impossibility of beloved things lost.

But, it can be gentle too, the Past as wise and insistent as a gray-headed teacher, commanding our gaze, pulling us again and again from the Future’s window. God so often commands us to “Remember” and that is what the Past is truly for. Although a redeemed Past does not hide us from the ugliness of our committed sins, with the right way of seeing, a journey into the Past can be a path to hope.

“How,” you may wonder, “can all my mistakes and foibles and sins and wanderings be hopeful?”

Because, my sweet sisters, the very Past that has the power to torture us is the same Past that God has in His hand. No horrible rebellion, no hopeless destruction, no fathomless pit, no dark forest, can make us so lost and so unreachable that God cannot reach into it and bring us out safely. While not diminishing His disgust of sin, our God can take a lost soul–like you and I were–and dress that soul in His own white holiness, purchased at the price of the very life of God Incarnate.

“The very Past that has the power to torture us is the same Past that God has in His hand.”

But it is not only the death of Jesus that brings hope to our Past. It is the LIFE of Jesus! If He had remained in that tomb, we would still be hopeless ( 1 Cor. 15:12-58). But His rising showed that His death-price was accepted by the Father, freeing us from the chains of the past:

“It’s not that I have already reached this goal or have already been perfected, but I pursue it, so that I may grab hold of it because Christ grabbed hold of me for just this purpose. Brothers and sisters, I myself don’t think I’ve reached it, but I do this one thing: I forget about the things behind me and reach out for the things ahead of me. The goal I pursue is the prize of God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 3:12-14, CEB

 In Christ, we can move beyond our sins and failings into joy. When we look back to the Past, the Tormentor no longer has any power. Why?

Because God is not just in the business of redeeming our Present, or our Future. He is not limited to our approval ratings or our acknowledgement of His sovereignty. He told Moses His great name I Am, illustrating His perfect, eternal, unmarred control of Everything–my self-destructing Past included.

His touch is all over the places we’ve gone, the days we’ve lived and forgotten, the moments we wish we could hold onto forever, the times we wish we could sink into the ground and disappear. He was–IS–there, in our Past as much as any other time. Though history is inaccessible to us, God stands outside our limits and oversees it all, according to a plan we can not imagine for its sheer glory. God is not only the Master of storytelling. He also has a penchant for the surprising, the unlikely, the irredeemable and the unbelievable. In the way only He can, He molds scarred history into Redemption, a Messiah who takes the shame, becoming the Thing that must, above all, be believed.

Paraphrasing Romans 8:18-21, scholar and pastor J.B. Phillips wrote:

“In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited—yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!”

This glory is not wholly left to the future. Have you ever seen a Sparkler on the 4th of July? It darts and dances in the air, shimmering with combustion, warmth, power. Sometimes, we can look back and see a sparkle of God’s light in the places we’ve walked.

It is hard to see when we’re passing through. Often, we have nothing to go on but faith in the darkness, but looking back, the spidery fingers of glory still trail behind us. The lights flash dimly through this dark, foggy glass. But, for a moment, we can look over our shoulders and see, kindled for an instant of recognition, a sight that teaches us to hope. It is His shadow, the impression of His feet as God moved, unseen, in the dark places of our Past.

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Already Shining

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“The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining!”

– 1 John 2:8b, ESV –


Life can dawn on us gloriously, sun rays pushing back the night like an invading host of light.

Or it can come upon us like a thief, like a morning that dawns cloudy, rumbling, and pregnant with rain.

This sister has days of light and days of dark, and mostly days that are a mix of each. Today, instead of reminding you of a principle or telling you a tale, I am just going to pray.

This, my sisters, is for you and me, because we need Jesus every hour.


My Father,

Today I pray for my sisters, my fellow-laborers in Your work.

I pray that they will stand before you holy and blameless in your sight, radiant in your joy and peace, while still mindful of the places from which You have brought them. What glory, for You to take notice of us!

I pray that I will stand confident as a new creation while never forgetting the need of those who have not yet been made new. A girl resurrected, may I never think that it was I who raised myself, or that my own power keeps me alive even now. May You alone receive that praise.

I pray that we will bless the parents who have shielded us from the storm beyond and all around, filtering the hard drops so that we would not be deluged. May we always bless them, who have taught us and led us in light so that we may, as we too grow up, face darkness with the Light shed abroad in our hearts.

Help us remember. Give us hearts to embrace the lost rather than run from them. Give us enough memory of our own past slavery to be able to go back and lead others to freedom. They do not deserve it—but neither did we. What love is this, my Savior, to awaken new hearts and then send us out to bring more twisted, broken hearts to Your side to be made whole as well! What a God You are, to delight to bring life again and again to the dead.

Give us pure hearts. Please, grace us with power to be open and real, confessing our sins to one another. Only then can we see that the sin in us is just as bad as the sin outside. Let us first see the beam before turning to the speck.

And oh, give us encouragement. We’re fighting in a battle that wearies us. Sometimes the darkness seems to snuff out all the light.

Break forth, O Light. Flood our eyes. Flood our hearts. With Your brightness, cover our faces with Your joy. In a darkening place, let our hearts be full of the approaching morning, the glory of journeying toward the Coming Day with You as our truest, never-betraying Friend.

Let us walk in the light, as You are the Light.

I joy in this: You, the Light, shall never be quenched, but will rise as Morning Star until the dawn breaks and Your Light makes all this darkness flee for the last time.

Until then, give us the strength to keep pushing back the Dark, taking Your Light to thousands of lamps that have yet been lit.

And thank you, thank you, dear Father, for letting us be vessels of this Secret Fire that fills and warms and lights our way.

In the name of our Savior, the Light of the World, the Son that will shine on us forever, Jesus,

AMEN

Never Forgotten

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Is there a scene more to despise

Than a sparrow forgetting the air where she flies?

Or a trout disdaining the river he breathes?

But, oh how much worse when I forget Thee!

. . . . . . .

But there is a scene that I recognize

The sparrow cannot forget her fledgling’s cries.

Or a trout forget to swim up the river

Your sweet, “I remember Thee,” standing forever.

. . . . . . . .

This sparrow is missing the glory today,

The trout has no joy in his watery play.

But I have now this unfading delight

That though I forget, my Savior will not.


“…they have forgotten the Lord their God.” (3:21)

Recently, I read through the book of Jeremiah. Israel was seeking things that do not benefit her (2:8), forsaking the fountain of living waters (2:13), forsaking God Himself (2:17,19). And, in all of that, proclaiming her own goodness (2:23). God’s charge: adultery (3:1) But, how merciful our God is! “Yet return again to me….” (3:1). What does she give in return? A brazen face, a refusal to be ashamed.

This leads up to that dreadful pronouncement–You have forgotten the Lord (3:21). And inside my soul, I tremble, for this is the sin that I dwell in every day. See, outright rebellion begins with that small choice to forget. “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1).

I seem to be a record-time forgetter.

I pray.

And God, to my amazement, hears.

He answers and I could shout.

Because of His awesome timing, His creative answers to my pleas, His mercies that span wider than I had dared dream.

And the next instant, I forget.

 I feel, in an moment, like a lost child in a monstrous world of enigmas. Situations are screaming at me. Questions of right are nagging me to decide between one desire and another. I can’t–or maybe I don’t want to– loose my death-grip on life. How can I possibly shudder enough at this idea–I’m always forgetting God.

My heart flies, undone, to the Rock that is higher than I. (Psalm 61:2). I lean, panting against it, a child afraid of the dark and afraid of the Light. There is a voice, an ancient, ageless Word:

“I remember thee” (2:2).

Me! He remembers ME! In spite of my constant cycle of forgetting Him, in spite of my daily relapse into the things I’ve grown to hate (Romans 7), in spite of the sin that still clings like a rotten cloak–He REMEMBERS.

Over the many past weeks as we’ve studied love, I came closer and closer to the realization of my utter deficit of love. In the same way, as I see my heart’s forgetfulness, I begin to understand just how unbelievable it is that I could forget how much God has done. But dwelling on my lack of consistency will not solve my problem.

Only dwelling on Christ’s faithfulness, his totally reliable memory, will give me the strength to run back to Him again after another episode of straying. He has set his seal on us–graven our names into his hand  (Isaiah 49:16). There is a good reason for me to turn in disgust from my sinful forgetting–to repent and cry out for forgiveness. Our crime is not diminished by His mercy. But at the same time, I am not to continually live in sorrow over this error!

We have a glorious hope and a God at our side who wants to fill His dear ones with joy in Him. Like a lost child, run home! Whenever you see that you’ve gotten off the road, turn around and run back!

There’s a feast waiting for us when we get there!

“Go back, go back to the ancient paths, Lash your heart to the ancient mast,

And hold on, [girl], whatever you do, To the hope that’s taken hold of you,

And you’ll find your way, You’ll find your way

If love is what you’re looking for, The old roads lead to an open door,

And you’ll find your way, You’ll find your way,

Back home.”

– Andrew Peterson, “You’ll Find Your Way” –


“His Grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” – John Newton

The Paradox of the Holy Fire

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Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me.  All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.”
– Matthew 16:24-25, CEB –

We’ve talked about Love.

A language, a gift, a labor of prayer, a tree, a song.

For me, this Practical Love Series has impacted me in an unexpected way…


Love has grown from “practical” to Immense.

I can’t pretend I’m an extremely loving person anymore, because I’ve grasped a little more of Extreme Love. Seeing this, seeing Him, I feel no closer to application. I feel like I’ve stumbled into a Magnificent presence, and all I can do is empty compared to His fullness.

I’ve tried to figure out how I can practice Love.

But each day, I wake up on auto-pilot and my own gratification seems to be the destination.

I’ve gotten to Step A: I am not a very loving person.

Even Step B: There’s no way I can love the way I’m commanded to, on my own power.

But where do you and I go from there?

Let’s stop pretending.

People are NOT easy to love. People can be nasty, annoying, selfish, tactless, offensive, apathetic, distant, unjust. Frankly, pretty rotten.

BUT…Sisters, this practice of Love stopped being about “those people” a long time ago.

The problem is not Out There.

It is In Here.

Something inside me has gone desperately wrong and I cannot patch it up on my own.

Love is not a matter of getting everyone else fixed so I can stand being with them.

Love is very much like lighting a bonfire. The light gives–it must, by its nature. Love does not depend on how its object receives it, just as light shines on all around it. Some things reflect back the light; some only absorb it.

But to possess this fire, something in me must burn.

On cricket-creaking nights, I’ve sat by a campfire and seen dull, dry wood kindled. The fire animates it, a resurrection in miniature. And soon what was dead crackles with life–potent orange-blue flickers of heat and light.

And yet, though now alive in a way those branches never could have been on their own, they are being consumed. Living, they die.

In this same way, sin’s entrance into the world abruptly halted the previously unbroken exchange of Love, Creator to creature.Yes, in me, in all of us, something careened off the track. Our taste for good turned sour.

Love became a light that we blind men could not even see.

Now, Love’s restoration requires death. Jesus alone could bridge Love and unloving, or open eyes so the light could come. He, as Love Himself, defined history with the ultimate act of love: His own death.

Love dies.

I shrink from this. It sounds so final, so painful, so awful. Because I don’t want to die. My will doesn’t want to die. I like maintaining my own way, following my own road, chasing my own dreams.

To love, though, I must first die.

It was that way at the beginning, when I first began to breathe resurrection air. Dead in sin, He raised me up. The dry branch was hit with a spark of living fire.

That Spark in me began a cycle of flame that both enlivens me and kills me. It turns deadness into sparkles of flaming glory, but at the same time, it burns away part of me.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis talks about the sanctification of the believer:

“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Fire-starting is a radical thing. At the outset of our faith, we committed ourselves to unabashed following. What many people do not realize is that this commitment does not keep our hearts focused. We have to re-commit each day.

Each day, we must again die–every minute, if necessary. “Oh Jesus, take my life and let it be Yours, forever. Set my feet on Your path and not mine.”

The flesh that battles in us must be battled with this Holy Fire of Love until Jesus comes back to complete our transformation.

Until then, as long as we keep fighting with the power of God, life will be springing up in the ashes where the fire has scorched our sin nature.

Only as we give ourselves to flames can our light begin to shine.

Our parasitic sinful self, as it dies, makes room for our new self to flourish, a fire-brushed masterpiece of the Creator God.

Only then can we get down to the business of Love, as a practical thing.

Dying, we live.


 Join me next week as I launch a Grand Love Experiment! I don’t promise a burst of genius, but I do think it could be revolutionary for my life, at least.

It is simple, but not easy. It is achievable–but not without Jesus at my side. Will you come along?


 “Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity ―

 

 

 

Although Men Fail

 

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 “You have crushed beneath your heel the vile serpent. You have carried to the grave the black stain. You have torn apart the temple’s holy curtain. You have beaten Death at Death’s own game. Hosanna! O Hosanna! Hail the long awaited king, come to set his people free. We cry O Hosanna! Won’t you tear this temple down, raise it up on holy ground. O Hosanna! I will lift my voice and sing: you have come and washed me clean. Hosanna.”

– Andrew Peterson, from “Hosanna” –


 Anger. Disbelief. Accusations. Defense. Fear.

And rubble.

You’ve perhaps heard about them, how in half a year two “pillars” of Christian conservative teaching have fallen.

Followers of them, now seem a bit lost.

Some fly to defend the teachings–or question them in light of the ruined reputations,

Others are confused.

Still more, incredulous at the vain fruits of faith in men.

My mom has always said it: “Never follow a man.”

Never trust solely in another man than the God-Man.

Do not set all your hopes on one who is but dust.

Though so silver the tongue, so winning the smile, so lofty the aims–

A David, though king, can fall.

A Solomon, wisest of men, can choose a fool’s way.

A Peter, with close-clustered memories of three years hearing the Christ’s own voice, still somehow can deny Him at the last hour.

Hear me, dearly loved sisters.

Only one–One alone–is worthy of your trust.

Yes, hearts will still ache when respected men crash down from their pedestals.

But it should not shake you from the truth.

How can we understand these things?

How can we orient ourselves when the starlight blinks out above us?

All is not lost, my friends.

The Sun still shines, though His little lights flicker (Philippians 2:14-15).

It is good, certainly, to sit beneath a pastor. Wise, yes, to read and listen to men of God.

But never must we see any of these as flawless or above sinning.

News of scandals saddens me, and I’m tempted to cast looks of disdain.

But wait–there is yet a lesson for me.

When the first board of these shipwrecks washed up, at first I was startled.

It was easy to point my finger. But, as a thing etched to my soul, I can again feel the stone I weighed in my palm.

“Are you without sin? Then cast your stone.”

These men–stumbling leaders–are they not yet men? Corrupted, waging war inside themselves between flesh and spirit, light and dark. How am I different from them, when my own heart deceives me every day?

Be humbled, my heart. Pity the men, denounce the sin, and see! See, that for all their pomp and pedestals, all the woven lies and secret lives, those men are much like…me.

So then, how do we yet stand when leaders fall?

How do the sheep find pasture when shepherds stray?

God be praised–our standing before Him does not crumble with an erring man’s reputation.

You know, there’s only one Mediator between me and God.

Only one Intercessor,

Only one Priest, the Highest Priest.

And, all the King Davids fall short of this position; today’s Solomons aren’t wise enough to compare.

When the foundations  shake, only one Rock doesn’t shift in the sand.

“Remember those who rule over you…considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat.”

– Hebrews 13:7-10, NKJV, emphasis mine –

An altar that even God’s Levites could not touch? Sisters, fear not, fear not–a table has been laid in the wilderness.

Jesus is the One who stands in the gap for me–Him alone and no other man.

That Calvary day, the veil ripped down.

And now I can enter–a chosen one, a part of his Bride, a member of his holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). Boldly, I can step into the holy presence of God Most High, through the veil of Christ, not barred by a heavy cloak of separation (Hebrews 10:19-22)…No need of another Christian to bridge the chasm–God Himself has already brought that job to completion. It is finished.

So, when you hear of apostasies and scandals and unthinkable deeds by those who claim our Master’s name, remember in Whom you trust.

Men, however well known, do not hold this world in orbit. That job is owned by a fully-capable God.

And that, though darkness still thrashes, is the Light that makes me hope.


“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

– Ephesians 5:8-14, NKJV –

 

 

 

 A big thank you to George Hodan and Public Domain Pictures for today’s photo!