Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Heavens declare the Glory of God

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. 

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.  It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6

Also, the sun rises and the sun sets; And hastening to its place it rises there again. Eccl.1:5

Make me a picture of the sun-so I can hang it in my room-and make believe I'm getting warm... Emily Dickinson

I originally saw this posted on Tim Challies's blog and it inspired me to do the same...

The pictures are amazing...God's wonders never cease to amaze me

The music put to video is simply poetic...

It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. Jeremiah 10:12 NASB

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beauty for Ashes

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The Via Dolorosa or Way of Grief; a forty-six day journey to the cross commences. Easter—new life is awaiting those that wish to partake. 

Ash Wednesday is observed with the cross etched on one’s forehead with ashes, a reminder of how small we are in the shadow of great, big, God. A God that loved us so much, that He sent His one and only begotten Son to die a brutal, torturous death. For me. For you. Small indeed. 

Like the waves of the ocean to the shore, I am compelled to travel the Way of Grief over the next forty-days; not out of obligation, or religiosity, but to practice abiding in Him; to know Him deeper on the other side; to encounter the Lord of Glory. The ashes used to engrave a cross, come from the burned palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. I did not have the foresight to save them to burn; so I improvised. I will be saving this year’s palms. 

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

I scribbled this on a sticky note to pray; I read it in a Brennan Manning book, and was moved when I first read that small, yet beautiful prayer scripted on the page; I carried that sticky note with me for days-like an appendage. How fickle we humans are and how quickly we forget; I may have prayed it once or twice. I pulled out a devotional today I began months ago and had not finished, and there, fastened to the front cover; Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. That sticky note has evaded me all these months. What did I do? I tore it from its home; it was embedded due to its long rest on that book, it did not leave easily, and threw it away. I thought, “That’s old.” 

Then I began On Broken Legs, by Wendy Murray Zoba; I read it in one day. If you have not read it, consider yourself deficient. Her brokenness is heart wrenching, as one reads the pages of her Dark Night, you cannot help but to feel the darkness she describes. Though I have not suffered the loss that she suffered, my journey is full of hurt and wounds and betrayal; my own Dark Night, I could relate to her pain. As she wrestles with God, one can feel her struggle; for we all wrestle. Jesus Himself was not immune to wrestling:

“It was the picture of my predicament: I was in a wilderness where the Devil prowled, a country of madness (as Thomas Merton called it). It was the same place the Spirit had driven Jesus: to the wilderness to confront the kings of demons.” [1]

Let me be content with whatever darkness surrounds me, finding him always by me, in His Mercy. Thomas Merton

I had not read one chapter through, when a hammer hit me square between the eyes. Jesus met me just a few moments from my encounter with the lost sticky note, to remind me what He spoke months before; Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me. That phrase jumped off the page and lodged itself into the flesh of my heart. I felt the piercing of the arrow.

In J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, Franny encounters the Philokalia, a book of prayers to pacify her desire to pray. Not knowing what to pray, Franny clung to that prayer book, and specifically that prayer. Had I only clung to that prayer the last few months, when the Lord first gave it me, perhaps my journey would have had a few less rocks. Many times I have found myself before God, groping in the dark for words to pray. I left it neglected, stuck to a book I had not finished, due to my father’s stroke. I have been engrossed in helping he and my mother, and the book went unfinished…until today. I pulled the sticky note out of the trash; to remind myself how callous I have become in my Dark Night.

“To pray ‘have mercy’ suggests that for the petitioner there are no names to drop, nor anything to bring, no hopes or dreams, no claim to stake, no honor to defend, no project or plan or intent to explain. Only nakedness and madness or queerness, things that typify the human predicament. Fatigue perhaps, perhaps, regret, perhaps collapse, that is all. It is opening one’s mouth wide and asking for nothing, waiting to receive whatever is given.”[2]

As all this transpired today, I decided it was best to follow my sudden desire to observe Lent. I would not toss it into the trash like the crumbled sticky note. I did not have last year’s palms to use for ashes, so I put pen to page and listed what I need to let go, and commenced burning them;  Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me: You laid down your life for me, I now lay down;

My plans. My expectations. My paradigms. My insecurities. My fears. My failures. My hurts. My wounds. Unforgiveness. Disappointments.  Shame. Regret. Deferred hope. Unbelief. Doubt. Wrestling. Restlessness.
After I burned them, I scoured the back yard for a rock to crush the ashes, without success. I found a broken piece from a pot that did not survive the winter; it seemed apropos. A broken vessel to crush the ashes of things which long ago needed to be severed. A picture flooded my mind of Job, agonizing on the ash heap, scraping his boil-infested skin. Complete surrender.

I did not sketch a cross on my forehead; I scratched it into the ashes.  

I eagerly anticipate this season of Lent. Though it is meant to be a solemn observance, I will walk through it with joy. Joy and expectation of what God has spoken into my spirit—His promises, His expectations. I gladly exchange mine for His. I gladly accept His beauty for my ashes.   

[1]Wendy Murray Zoba, On Broken Legs: (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004), 51.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

When Hearts Bleed

As I walk through the earth I see the wounded; beaten, bruised, disappointed by the church
When hearts bleed, your brothers, your sisters, their blood cries out to Me from the earth
Why do you take the Cross of Christ in vain, and put the fallen on the Cross in my place?
My heart breaks from tears shed by hearts that bleed; they will feel the peace of My embrace

When hearts bleed I bleed
When hearts bleed I bleed

When hearts break Mine breaks…

I will take the heart that bleeds, I will wash it and repair it and give tender-loving care
I will hold the heart that bleeds and wash her in My Mercy and Grace and I will restore
I will massage that heart with My healing balm of Gilead and bring it back to life and heal
I will lead her into solitude and there I will speak to her heart, gentle words of comfort and peace

When hearts bleed
When hearts bleed

When they cry out to Me, do you not think I will answer when they call?
I will be their Refuge, and Strong Tower, I will come-I Am their All in All
Have I not poured out Mercy and Grace when your life took a hard blow?
Though your sins were scarlet, by the Blood of My Son they are white as snow

Cease fighting each other, remember who the true enemy is—that one that accuses
Flesh and blood is not the enemy—why do you eat your own? They need serve no penance
My Grace is sufficient to cover a multitude of sin, I freely give with true repentance

When hearts bleed
When hearts bleed

Pick up the cordial of healing and touch it to the hearts that bleed and restore the land
I Am one with My Bride and She with Me…I need My whole Bride and My Bride whole
Restore. Heal. Nurture. Care. Hold. Love…Love, when hearts bleed.

 I will lead her into solitude and there I will speak to her heart.  Hosea 2:14

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hope: A Golden Cord

It has been rather warm as of late; seasonally warm for January. Freezing temperatures welcome the New Year, yet we are soaking up the sun’s rays as water unearthed in a dry, parched desert. 

The days are exhibiting the likes of spring. The sun came and warmed the earth; warmed my skin. Should you turn your ear toward creation, you would hear the stretching and wakening of the leaves that had gone to sleep for the winter; naively fooled into believing it was time to awake. A lone, puzzled honeybee buzzes my head.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the hinds of the field, That you do not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases {Song of Songs 2:7}.

Suddenly, like an undesirable guest, the cold startles me back into the reality of winter. The season is unrelenting; it leaves a reminder with a blanket of fresh snow and bitter temperatures, evidenced in the vapor of my breath, that it is not ready to leave. A wind so bitter, it blankets my bones with a chill not easily remedied.
The warm days brighten and defrost the soul, but when the cold of winter rears its chilling head, it seems more brutal; a cruel aide-mémoire that the warmth will not last; winter taunting. The leaves that awoke curl back into their protective cocoons until spring arrives in a pageant of celebration.

But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture {Malachi 4:2 NLT}.

So it is in our walk with God. It is inevitable that we will endure a winter season, so whatever needs to die, will die. The cold causes us to forget that the warmth of spring will bring fresh life. The winter taskmaster is cruel. We experience glorious moments with Him in the midst of the cold, dark winter, and the warmth defrosts the immobilizing effects on our soul, but the reality of the present season rudely interrupts; we ache for the warmth again. The days of warmth offer a glimmer of hope that spring is on its way, and that winter will not endure forever.

Hang on to hope. Hope is a golden cord to heaven. The hope that spring will arrive, enables us to endure winter; the seasons in our Chronos are changing; the cycles of the earth are ever faithful in the hand of its Creator. It is preordained; winter will blow its chilling frost to the other side of the globe, as the earth revolves in its orbit; awakening my hemisphere to the trumpeting of spring.

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night shall not cease {Genesis 8:22 NASB}.

If only I felt the same inevitability of the seasons of my soul. I have lingered in this winter for so long…must I endure this cold and death another day? I do not yet feel the promise of spring;

Blow, blow, thy winter wind…although thy breath be rude. ~Shakespeare

Oh, but the golden cord of hope glimmers bright. When the high priest entered into the Holy of Holies, a golden cord was fastened to his ankle. Should the high priest die while serving, the remaining priests were able to pull him out.

God has fastened a gold cord to our ankle, to pull us out of the hopelessness of death and winter, and into the spring of new life. Though we can’t see or feel the change, and we linger in the season longer than we care to, He will interrupt the season of our soul, the Chronos with His Kairos; a divine interruption I can only grab hold of by faith. Hold on to hope; hope is the golden cord to heaven.

For we walk by faith, not by sight {2 Corinthians 5:7}.

Don't you know that day dawns after night, showers displace drought, and spring and summer follow winter? Then have hope! Hope forever, for God will not fail you! ~Charles Spurgeon