27 June, 2013 16:23


What would be left of you if your faith was subtracted? What parts of your emotions, relationships, ethics would remain? Would your physical life change? Your finances? Granted that we are body, soul, and spirit, does that mean two-thirds would remain if that one, troublesome part, the politically incorrect faith, was amputated?

That math would perhaps make it easier to inwardly justify the compromise. I am all too familiar with this. But it is not some abstract faith I silence, it is the Creator of the universe. It is not a little personal conviction, it is the loving Truth who gave everything to penetrate our proud notions of knowledge. He is the source of the very empathy that motivates me to set Him aside in order to please people. As if I could birth His life on my terms. As if I had life of my own to give.

No. In my experience, there is nowhere near two-thirds of me left when I exclude Him. A grey, dead coral reef strangled by plastic packets of artificial vitamins comes much closer. Like those wrappers, I become void of the fruit depicted on the outside, “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2. Timothy 3:5) Like the reef, I lose color, life, purpose. If nothing changed, I soon would have nothing to offer.

Compared to the rescue efforts for coral reefs, restoration for depleted and polluted souls, is simpler, yet similar. “Using innovative techniques, like underwater coral farming and reattaching broken coral pieces,….the goal is to restore the coral reef to allow the natural inhabitants a chance to thrive…. Scientists have found that the corals grown in the nurseries are able to reproduce in their new homes.” (http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/coralrestoration/)

God’s innovative technique is simply for us to return to Him, the very Source of life, and allowing the Living Water of His Word to revive our detached faith.
“And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘ Live! ’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘ Live! ’ I made you thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and became very beautiful…” (Ezekiel 16:6-7a)

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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. “ I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:3-5)

With power and insight beyond the most sophisticated scientists’, He invites us into the only habitat where we can thrive and be fruitful: in Him.

“For with You is the fountain of life;
In Your light we see light.”
(Psalms 36:9)

“O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are
born to Eternal Life.”

[ title Thrive]

[ tags Faith, Political Correctness, Soul, Depleted, Compromise, Restoration, Coral Reef, Pollusion, Thrive, Reproduce, Life]

Skillfully Wrought

I wish I could grow a garden. Lush landscapes of exotic, flowering plants, pomegranates, and fragrant herbs in terra-cotta pots, discretely lit by torches decorate my daydreams. In real life, I can’t even keep the basil plant from Publix alive beyond its first week’s residual strength – it’s pathetic. The only exception to this are plants given to me by people I love. I don’t know why, but Annisette’s lime and Humberto’s flower trees flourish, while the orange tree we ourselves bought is a sorry sight.

If not for the help of compassionate friends, my house would be a complete disaster. In stead, shall we say, it is very well lived in. It will never grace anyone’s Pinterest board. At times, it has been a real source of embarrassment for me, not because I ever had illusions of being related to Martha Steward, but I thirst for a beauty I am incapable of creating.

My soul was saturated from weeks of sweet togetherness with beloved friends, sentimentally grateful for the passion-fruit vine they added to my collection of love-plants, when it struck me: The people I love comprise my true exotic garden. While I am bewildered and confused by the physical, practical world, I feel at home in and intuitively understand the emotional realm much better. That’s how I am made. That’s where I thrive and bear fruit.

What a freedom to accept and embrace our Creator’s design. I am profoundly grateful to be surrounded by people who cherish each other’s uniqueness…. They are strong where I am weak and vice versa. We complete each other.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
― Albert Einstein

“He fashions their hearts individually;
He considers all their works.”
- Psalms 33:15

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.
- Psalms 139:14-18

Overcome Evil

Must we constantly pick sides? Must we be labeled either Republican or Democrat, for or against every issue of life or the public square? Don’t get me wrong; there are causes I would fight for, die for, live for. But how easily I become what I fight against!

When I think of the idealistic revolutionaries throughout history, whose opposition truly was tyrannical, how tragically frequent did they themselves become the oppressors once in power. Is there a way to fight evil without becoming it?

In “The Pastor’s Wife,” Jewish-Christian Sabina Wurmbrand describes life in Romania, first under the Nazi steel boots, and then under the totalitarian regime brought by their Communist “liberators.” When the hunters become the hunted, she hides from the now cowering left-over Nazis, caring for the very people who sent her family to their deaths in concentration camps.

Later, free after years behind barbed wire (Sabina served three years, Richard fourteen), she and her husband receive their torturers as guests in their home. I cannot imagine their internal turmoil, as they transcend their own profound suffering, extend forgiveness, and introduce Love Himself to these former agents of unrestrained hatred.

When I think of our last election, friendships torn to shreds in the us-against-them battles on Facebook and elsewhere, I fear we might have lost more than the Wurmbrands did in prison. Facing the gruesome abyss of brainwashed souls, where creative torture becomes a passion, they chose a Love that lays itself down to rescue an enemy. The Love that rescued them – and me.

I treasure real affection for people from all walks of life with all kinds of worldviews – some actively fighting against my own, actively attacking the God I adore. Should I join the battles of smart remarks online? Reading Sabina’s book again, resolve is steeling my heart: I will not fight eternal souls over temporary issues, no matter what. I will fight FOR them on behalf of their Maker. In words, ascribed to Einstein, “The rest are details.”

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2-3)

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Prayer for the Graduate


My son, my firstborn graduated high school yesterday. The awareness of letting go spent all our tears – probably a necessary catharsis. Yes, the little feisty boy who scaled every doorway and then pounced on us like a ninja is gone. Yes, I miss holding him on my lap and for a moment believing I was everything he needed.

But I profoundly treasure the friend he now is to us, steady, wise, and with an empathy I wish his younger mother would have had. But rather than replaying regrets, I marvel at the miracle of a man he became. As I am loosening my grip, I am releasing a healing gift to our broken world.

We are sending him out like an arrow aimed at eternity. Free from our limitations, we trust his Father to carry him as an extension of His rescuing hands, as a refreshing taste of God’s Kingdom wherever he goes – and that when people meet him, they meet the most fascinating Person in the universe – Who lives inside him.

Our ambitions for him are painful. A fellow mother confided that this prayer scared her, as it does me. But the alternative scares me more. Anything glorious involves suffering; as a seed must die to bear much fruit, so God’s molding a soul into His image requires what this prayer by Kendall Payne expresses:

“May your heart break enough that compassion enters in
May your strength all be spent upon the weak
All the castles and crowns you build and place upon your head May they all fall, come crashing down around your feet
May you find every step to be harder than the last
So your character grows greater every stride
May your company be of humble insignificance
May your weakness be your only source of pride
What you do unto others may it all be done to you
May you meet the One who made us
And see Him smile when life is through
May your blessings be many but not what you hoped they’d be And when you look upon the broken
May mercy show you what you could not see
May you never be sure of any plans you desire
But you’d learn to trust the plan He has for you
May your passions be tried and tested in the holy fire
May you fight with all your life for what is true”

“The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place. ’” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)

Surrender

Like the pressure of a slowly approaching tropical storm, this was a year of gradually increasing weight on my aging shoulders. Too much for one so clumsy in life, still learning to be an adult despite the spiderweb of lines on my face.
I have informed my Maker of this on countless occasions.

My own plan was reasonable: to be as faithful as I knew how with my existing responsibilities, which were more than enough, I argued. This last year before my son leaves for college could use a margin for sanity. My system worked.

But into this illusion the familiar quiet voice of conviction, who had guided me for decades, whispered again: “Time to move into the next season.” -Not now, Lord, surely You see that it’s too early; I don’t want to be too busy for my kids these last precious days with them. These new tasks will send me over the edge.

“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place. ” (Deuteronomy 1:29-31)

And like my reading glasses, without which all is blurred and confused, He refocused my worldview: He is God and I am not. He, Who loves my children more than I, deliberately provides the precise environment for their growth. The privilege of still expanding responsibilities have broadened their shoulders, as well as mine, and brought life and joys I well-meaningly would have “protected” them from.

“You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
(Psalms 16:11)

With the promise of summer in view, I remember that even the concept of seasons is from Him. After the thundering spring rain, the air is free and cool. Refreshing. I lift my face and fill my lungs, enjoying the light, new breeze while it’s here . When the season changes again with new pressures, I will probably protest, but underneath all my fretting this assurance expands my soul:

“The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by Him,
Who shelters him all the day long;
And he shall dwell between His shoulders.”
(Deuteronomy 33:12)

“He has made everything beautiful in its time….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11a)

Shades of Tenderness


Pain cast heavy shadows in the lines around your mouth, yet a will to persevere flowed through your lips,

Your eyes testified of agony and of battles fought and lost in loneliness, yet a tender vulnerability peered through, calling out to be embraced.

Soft uncertainty carried your voice in a melodious minor key, and it was easy to listen.

You feet were weary to the bone from your wanderings.
There HAD to be a place to rest – where bloody feet and tortured thoughts could begin to heal.

One day, exhausted beyond sense, you stumble into welcoming arms, open and enveloping. Though you feel their strength, you are not afraid. You lean your forehead into His chest and allow Him to hold you tight.

Even stronger than you first thought, He now lifts and carries you close to His heart. You utter a small sigh from the unexpected sense of safety, and a whimper escapes, as from a child who has cried hard and long.

The expression in His eyes turns a deeper shade of tenderness, as His scarred hand gently strokes your hair. Your soul echoes His Words, “And no one can snatch them out of My hand.”

- Written by my lifelong mentor, Brita, who loved me like that. May that love, His love, spread like rings in the water of our lives.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.”
(Isaiah 49:15)

Dance Me To The End of Love

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love”
~ Leonard Cohen

Like a fresh wind from a freer place, these words, sung in their author’s unique, gruff voice backed by rich, sweet, female harmonies, began to blow through me. I hadn’t actually heard it since a late night show on a Friday night decades ago. Now, in a different era of life, claustrophobic busyness was crowding in on me with toxic claws. As my blood pressure was rising and my jaw tensing, an eternal perspective beckoned to me from this poetry set to rousing violins.

After listening to it feverishly, repeatedly, I finally searched out what the singer’s inspiration might have been. Outside the Nazi death chambers, string quartets would play classical music, before they themselves would enter the crematorium. This macabre blend of beauty and death, in the name of civilization, infused further by the marital passion in this song, is still a rising burnt offering, which is what “Holocaust” literally means.
From the death camps in North Korea to the unspeakable horror raids in Sudan, the panic is still raging. Recently in Egypt, a Coptic church was captured and used as a torture chamber by Muslim radicals. More Christians have been murdered for their faith in the 21st century than in all others since Christ’s ultimate sacrifice combined.

In our privileged life, let perspective push back self-pity and spoiled entitlement. Let us dance through whatever panic may rip through life, because we hear the sweeping violins. Let us hear the sweeping wings of our homeward Dove. Soon we will be lifted like an olive branch to the Beauty behind the veil. We will dance with Love that has no end – Love Himself.

Hebrews 6:19-20a
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus…”

www.persecution.com

Image by Kirah Zoellner

[ end]

Soli Deo gloria.

The Impossible


Luke 18:27
But He said, “ The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”

No pain pierces me more than that of watching helplessly when a loved one is in agony Like an unprotected nerve, it sends jolts of sharp shocks through my system, and everything inside me is in that primal, raw state of I must act! I must stop this. Now!

And so I reach into my messy storehouse of experiences, emotions, and untested assumptions with the best of intensions – and pull out solutions that don’t quite fit. After the immediate relief, the pressure on the raw nerve eased at the mere attempt at providing help, the wounded look in their eyes punches me with the fact that some pains are beyond human intervention.

Those are the times, at the very limit of my own power, when no amount of my love or wisdom or good intensions suffices, when I grasp the sober reality: I need God! My dear one needs His touch. And in that realization, helplessness gives way to faith that He will indeed step in and is already working wonders in the unseen.

From eternity, C. S. Lewis whispers, “If you had caught one breath of the air that came from Him, you would have felt yourself taller than before. Though you were a cripple, your walk would have become stately; though a beggar, you would have worn your rags magnanimously.”

Like an animal facing into the wind, I life my face upward with open mouth, inhale His breath, and exhale it in prayer. The Lord will step in.

Romans 8:26-28
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Psalms 18:28-30
For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Soli Deo gloria.

Inside His Garden


A garden enclosed
Is my sister, my spouse,
A spring shut up,
A fountain sealed.”
(Song of Songs 4:12)

More than any other verse in the Bible, this one has preserved me through all kinds of seasons in life. It is still my retreat, my protection, and my reservoir of beauty. To my easily frazzled soul, torn by the many voices of responsibilities, this Scripture has become my oasis from where I sift through the demands from outside the garden, as well as my own loud emotions.

Before anything or anyone else, I belong to the One who breathes life to me. I am not a public park where people walk their dogs and feel no responsibility for the place. I am His enclosed garden. And in here, my blood pressure can calm down, so its rush doesn’t deafen my ears. In here, the unessential separates from the essential, and my life finds order and simplicity again. In here, I remember whose I am, and I exhale in His care.

To those who expect from me more than I can give, He fills the gaps. To the tasks that demand more from me than I have, He works the impossible. And the longings in my hungry soul, He gently saturates in His presence ~ when I come into this garden of devotion.

There is a place in His garden
I rarely come to enjoy
The tenderness there is so naked
Its quiet I fear to destroy

There is a depth in His Presence
I hardly dare to believe
For in His heart lives the essence
Of all I could hope to achieve.

There is a victorious Promise
Inviting me into its dance
There, beyond my shy hesitation
I find life itself in His hands.

Come


Welcome to my virtual garden at the ocean’s edge. Come, lean into the winds blowing from eternity and let them touch you where you need it most. This is a place of holding raw reality in open hands to the Creator Who gives beauty for ashes, Who understands every fluttering heart beat, and Who loves us at our worst.
I am drawn to explore the space at the end of our human strength, where life is too much, and we are too small ~ but God…. But God steps in, so precisely where we need Him most, illuminating blind spots, caressing bruises, bringing order in chaos. So gab a hot cup of your favorite tea, exhale, and savor His invitation with me: “Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.”
(Isaiah 55:1)