Jun 29 2012

Friday Florilegium

There is nothing to do with people but to love them; to contemplate their virtues with admiration, their faults with pity and forbearance, and their injuries with forgiveness. Task all the ingenuity of your mind to devise some other thing, but you never can find it.

To hate your adversary will not help you; to kill him will not help you; nothing within the compass of the universe can help you, but to love him. But let that love flow out upon all around you, and what could harm you?

How many a knot of mystery and misunderstanding would be untied by one word spoken in simple and confiding truth of heart! How many a solitary place would be made glad if love were there; and how many a dark dwelling would be filled with light! –Orville Dewey (1794-1882), Boston pastor


Jun 28 2012

Every Thursday, Thanksgiving

Counting thanks to 1000 and beyond…

761. As I pray through the requests for prayer from the Bethany community, I am grateful that as followers of Christ, we can come before God and bring our needs, and God has promised to hear and answer:

Ask and it will be given to you;seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds;and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good giftsto those who ask him! — Matthew 7:7-11

762. A lovely Sunday…the twins asleep with Alexander guarding…

763. ….and great conversations after watching the movie Amazing Grace, about William Wilburforce, the 19th century abolitionist, here rolling out the 300,000 signatures calling for the end of the slave trade:

764. Crows who have decided they prefer eating the cookies I offer as I walk rather than attacking my hair.

765. One of the best months in a very long time…renewed sense of purpose in ministry and in writing.

766. Friends’ continued support as I work on this dissertation and figure out job stuff.

767. Little ones who now call me Zhazan and run to greet me.

768. Sunshine and summer warmth.

What are you thankful for? Join Kimberlee and I as we give thanks on Thursdays together.

Jun 22 2012

Friday Florilegium

Karl Barth does not mince words and in this quote skewers false humility and perfectionism. We are called to follow Christ to the best of our abilities, not moan about our inadequacies. From The Christian Life, 265:

[Christians are] forbidden the lazy excuse of all lazy servants that since all they can do will always be imperfect anyway it is not worth exerting themselves and growing weary in the causes of petty human righteousness.

No, precisely because perfect righteousness stands before them as God’s work, precisely because they are duly forbidden to attempt the impossible, precisely because all experiments in this direction are prevented and prohibited, they are with great strictness required, and with great kindness freed and empowered to do what they can do in the sphere of the relative possibilities assigned to them, to do it very imperfectly yet heartily, quietly, and cheerfully.

They are absolved from wasting time and energy sighing over the impossible limits of their sphere of action and thus missing the opportunities that present themselves in this sphere. They may and can and should rise up and accept responsibility to the utmost of their power for the doing of the little righteousness.

Photo of St Benan’s Church, Inishmore, County Galway, part of a 6th century monastic village.

Jun 21 2012

Every Thursday, Thanksgiving

Counting thanks to 1000 and beyond…

750. Answered prayer for a lovely, quiet, and affordable living situation.
751. Crossed the 120 pages mark on my dissertation, and wrote 4o pages in the past three weeks. (And Kimberlee, Lori, and Jane, praying for me and calling me to get me writing!)
752. Just stopping by to say hi to a friend. (I love living so close now!)
753. Drawing trees with Jane.
754. Watching a young person hear (and enjoy) Gregorian Chant for the first time.
755. Grace and forgiveness.

756. An answer to prayer: More house-cleaning and house-sitting work.
757. A wonderful Sunday worship ensemble.
758. The mossy hanging softness of a bush tit’s nest.
759. Metro 15 bus route. Takes me everywhere I need to go.
760. The Q-Cafe and hours of productive work there.

What are you thankful for? Join Kimberlee and I as we give thanks on Thursdays together.

Jun 15 2012

Friday Florilegium

God has an especial tenderness of love towards thee for that thou art in the dark and hast no light, and His heart is glad when thou dost arise and say, “I will go to my Father.”

For He sees thee through all the gloom through which thou canst not see Him. Say to Him, “My God, I am very dull and low and hard; but Thou art wise and high and tender, and Thou art my God. I am Thy child. Forsake me not.”

Then fold the arms of thy faith, and wait in quietness until light goes up in the darkness.

Fold the arms of thy Faith, I say, but not of thy Action: bethink thee of something that thou oughtest to do, and go and do it, if it be but the sweeping of a room, or the preparing of a meal, or a visit to a friend; heed not thy feelings: do thy work.

–George MacDonald

Photo from St Enda’s School, Inishmore, Aran Islands. The monastic village of St Enda began in the 5th century. St Enda would never know that his labor would spread the Gospel in the Celtic and British lands through those trained at his monastery. Do thy work, and God will bless it beyond your life.



Jun 12 2012

Practicing Thirst

One of my good friends has a life practice of reading and reflecting for a year on the Isaiah chapter that coincides with her age. I love that idea. Admittedly, I don’t really understand much of Isaiah–oh, there’s awesome parts like the burning coal passage in Isaiah 6 (though, can I just say, Ouch!), or Isaiah 40:31 about eagles and renewing our strength by waiting for God, or the Christ passages in chapter 42, or the calling of the teacher “to sustain the weary with a word” in Isaiah 50:4, or my all time favorite “Ho, everyone who thirsts come to the waters…” of Isaiah 55, or the call to ministry with the poor in Isaiah 58.

Okay. Isaiah is amazing. But I, either from a misperception of the rest of Isaiah (which God will remedy, I’m sure) or a real leading of the Spirit, I decided to meditate each year on the psalm according to my age.

Psalm 42. (And yes, there was a brief instant of, do I really want to put my age out there?)

I made the decision to do this before reading the psalm and was stunned by how perfectly it captured my experience of prayer this year. (A good sign that God pointed me to the psalm.)

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance. –Psalm 42:1-5 KJV

I’m using the King James version because the language forces me to stop and think through the text more deeply. It’s also beautiful to read aloud, something that can enliven scripture.

(Try it sometime, if you find scripture uninteresting. Speaking the Word aloud is akin to proclamation and we are promised that “God’s Word does not return void.” Oh, right, that’s another cool Isaiah passage, 55:11.)

Reading between the lines of some of my posts, you may have picked up on the tears, transitions, and general turmoil during these past months as I (and many others) deal with job-hunting and downsizing, alongside discerning some difficult ministry decisions and dissertation writing in a world where higher ed has become a huge question mark.

The line “My tears have been my meat” made me laugh and cry at the same time when I first read it because it captured my experience so completely. I felt God saying, See, I do listen.

As I continued to read, the old praise chorus played in my mind, “As the deer panteth for the water, so my so longeth after thee O God.” When I glibly sang it in my twenties, I didn’t understand.  Longing for God seemed so romantic and epic, and fit my long-skirts, long-contemplative-walks all-for-God persona. I had zero compassion for the deer.

Reading it now, it hit me painfully:  Panting is unpleasant. Thirsting, even in KJV language, is not epic, it’s uncomfortable.

I feel sorry for the deer. Imagine the last time you were parched on a hot day and knew water was not readily available.

I think of West Texas in the summer, where my parents live, with temperatures over 100 degrees and a horizontal hair-dryer wind. After a few moments of walking in that sun, this Seattleite wilts. Dusty mouth. Dry eyes. Weary limbs. My usual dislike of water transforms into desperate need.

At the beginning of this year, I begged for a sense of God’s presence. I remembered how it used to be years ago, as the psalmist does in verse 4, how prayer and worship was easier and more joyful back in the day (whenever that was). I wanted that again. Now.

God used this psalm to reveal that, first, I was thirsty, desperately so, and that all my tears and nostalgia prayers were an expression of that thirst.

And second, he revealed that I needed to stay thirsty for awhile. God was not going to take it away, at least not immediately, and then never completely, this side of heaven.

It is so easy to reach for distraction–media, internet, smartphone, facebook, work, relationships, even worship, when it’s focused more on the experience, not on God.  We often expect all our interactions with God to be sweet and peaceful, and take away any discomfort. But the danger is that we stop looking to God as the Lord and Almighty Other with whom we are in relationship, but a good-feelings vending machine. We can forget that we are travelers and that this current experience of life cannot be completely satisfying.

Thirsting for God is only quenched by one thing–one Person–God himself, and everything else that offers to quench that thirst, as good as it may be, will only make the heart sick if it’s put in God’s place.

It’s like a dehydrated person drinking only salt water.

Staying with the thirst helps us discern what’s really going on. It reveals our coping mechanisms.  It’s teaches patience and grace with our human relationships and circumstances. It helps us to not react unwisely in an effort to find relief. It inspires compassion for the thirstiness of those around us and around the globe.

But just as our bodies need water, so do our spirits.

Thirst invites us to follow our thirst back to God and allow God to quench our thirst.

The choices involved in my moving, taking on a new ministry responsibility and saying no to others, trusting God for job, living situation, and finances, and focusing on the writing, brought me to a place where I asked myself verse 3’s question, Where is your God? I realized I couldn’t do it on my own, that I needed–thirsted–for God to show up, any way He wanted. I wasn’t going to dictate how anymore, in nostalgia for the good ol’ days, that worship would be a great experience, that prayer would be renewing, that I’d enjoy writing.

Just show up, God. Please.

And oh my, He has!

The promise: God is the living water and all our thirsts will be quenched in him.

“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters!” (Isaiah, of course, 55:1)

What are you thirsting for? Stay with it and look for God to show up.

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