Friday, September 28, 2012

Where the Heart Is - Exhortation to the Christian Sisterhood

Picture this scenario. I invented it to illustrate some thoughts about love and where the heart is. Though a bit silly, I hope it gives the intended color to my thought:

You are at a day event and sit down to lunch with two other ladies (assuming my readers are also ladies).
The woman to your right is a believer - a sister in Christ who is generous and kind, and the woman to your left is an unbeliever who is nice enough but does not share fellowship in Christ.
So much for the characters. It's time to eat.  Hummus-olive lettuce wraps, fermented vegetable sticks and a mason jar of kombucha are your highly sensible lunch. Eating healthy is important to you and you have been expanding your crunchy creativity in the kitchen. The dear sister to your right is eating a PB and J on white bread and gives you a friendly smile as she opens her small bag of chips. The lady to your left opens her organic salad and looking over at your lunch says, "Are those fermented carrots? How do you make them?"

Now for the question: To which of these ladies does your heart feel drawn out in a sense of unity? (Not to ask whom you end up talking to - varying good motives could lead you to spend most of your lunch conversation with either one of them, and talking to the unbeliever might be exactly what God would have you do.) With whom do you feel like a true 'bosom buddy' because you have similar identities? With whom can you most easily fellowship? The person with whom you will share eternity?  Or the person who shares your style of living? Eating habits are just one of many lifestyle choices that could define a scenario like this. Child-rearing practices among moms, clothing styles, sports teams and many other things invisibly snip and paste groups of ladies into snug, but sometimes un-Christ-like cliques. Life-style commonalities can be a great means of reaching out to others, but exalting these preferences over love for Christ as a basis for our dearest form of fellowship is dishonoring to Him. I'm sure I've done it before, and will have to repent of it again before I breathe my last. But whatever form it may take, it's not okay to love our style of life more than our Savior from death. It's falling short of the glory of God, losing the flavor of HIM in our lives.

"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.  Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up into salvation - if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." - 1 Peter 2:1-3, ESV

Have you tasted that the Lord is good? 

"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." - 1 Peter 2:11, ESV

We are strangers here. The world with its hobbies, styles, information, toys and habits is passing away and my friendships must rise above these things to a sharing in "pure spiritual milk" with those who have "tasted that the Lord is good" - even if their life style is different from mine. (You there, in the Giant's sweatshirt, feeding cheese curls to your child, I see Christ in your loving attitude and I love you!)

Friday, September 21, 2012

I Am Who...

Recently I was walking in the park and came upon a pleasant, white-haired lady sitting in her walker seat in the sunshine. I had my hair tied up in a scarf and was carrying a bunch of wildflowers and a worn-out memory work paper, so perhaps looked a strange peasant, but I couldn't miss the chance to stop and chat with her about the sunshine, the goldenrod and life in the neighborhood. As I walked on, wishing I could have addressed her soul, and wondering if I should have troubled her at all with my sudden friendliness, wondering if she thought my manners bad, I thought of the 'old days' when everyone knew what polite manners were and what there place in society was. I had nothing of the sort..always wanting to be polite and always terribly fond of people or slightly afraid of them, and not really knowing when to laugh aside reticence, or reign in affection.

Inwardly, I sighed and began to philosophize,"Well, I am who I am, and that's just it."

Do you just realize what you said? That's God's name: "I Am Who I Am"

What of it? Am I not also who I am - not self-existent like God, but nonetheless myself?
No, I am not. I am continually becoming what I am being made. God is who He is, was, and always will be. I am always becoming, being formed by Him who is into what He wants me to become. This is what I realized as I reflected on my botchy conversational skills and irregular personal charms. The creative work of God in my life is ongoing and real. Here is the very cheer that a self-weary heart needs to hear - I will not always be who I am. I am not who I was, and tomorrow, much more in eternity, I will not be who I am today. Here is joy! "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17) And the new that has come in Christ will keep on coming till He comes.

Here also is hope for the earthly union of two sinners in marriage. My spouse is not "I am who I am". Neither am I, and God is using our very union in the process of becoming who He is making us to be. I can be patient with my spouse's imperfections, and he can be patient with mine, because we are redeemed for further redemption. Also, we can 'submit ourselves to one another out of reverence to Christ' (Ephesians 5:21) and accept our need to change personally. We are meant to change, dying to ourselves and living no longer for ourselves but for Him who for our sake died and was raised. Failure is not cause to despair but through the Spirit to eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness and press on.

Thanks be to God that He is who He is - so perfectly good! - and that I am not. Life is a glorious adventure - even when it's messy and embarrassing - learning to become what He is making us for that final great day, when we shall stand "blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy" (Jude 1:24). Oh to look at myself and others with such eyes of faith always!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rejoicing Always is Always Hard

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice."
 ~ Philippians 4:4, ESV

There is no time when the command to rejoice in the Lord is easy to obey. It is hard on bad days. It is harder on good days. But I have heard words like these many times:

"It is easy to rejoice in the Lord when things are going well, but when times are hard, we are tempted to lose our joy."

I have never found that statement to be true. I am constantly tempted to rejoice in everything but the Lord, and were it not for grace, would have hardly a moment in which to claim that I had been resting wholly and sweetly upon the "solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion's children know."

Recently, I had a good day - one of those days when everything actually does go right. I was pretty happy with the day and my life in general as I walked out in the park that afternoon. But as I reviewed a piece of Scripture memory, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of my failure to rejoice in the true goodness of the Lord.
Good days, if our hearts are right, are to help us rejoice in the Lord - thankful that He has given us a spot of brightness on our heavenly journey. But most of the time, we let them do just the opposite. We forget that we are journeying to heaven at all. We say, "God is sooo good!" simply because He has given me the stuff I wanted. If our good days are the base of our declaration of God's goodness, that declaration has a dark meaning underneath: that when God doesn't give me the stuff I wanted - when He just holds before me the promised inheritance of the resurrected Christ, while ripping from my hands everything else my life holds dear - He is actually not very good at all. This is not rejoicing in the Lord. To rejoice in the Lord is to put the conditions for our joy upon Him, and then, knowing that He does not change, to never cease to be glad.

Foolish children that we are - rejoicing in the Lord is hard on the best of days. Sometimes the rejoicing is easiest on the worst of days, when the sadness and failure of everything that frustrates makes the hope of the resurrection stand forth like a warm, bright lamp in a window on a cold, wet night. But we must not let a fortuitous flash light turn us from the light in the window. There is one solid foundation for unshakable joys: the crucified and risen Christ held in the arms of our faith, taking us to Heaven.

"So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." ~ John 16:22 ESV

Saturday, September 8, 2012

For My Husband On the Evening of 6 Months of Marriage

My dear husband, this evening the sunset came like a surprising smile across a gloomy countenance. The clouds that had been gray before dinner were suddenly strewn with the most ravishing glory. 
I pronounced to my parents who were cleaning up the kitchen that there should be a law against washing dishes during sunsets and ran outside - with my camera because you could not be here to see it with me.

The canopy of deepest blue spread with ruffled gold was breathtaking. I must have smiled exceedingly because I came home with a pain in my jaw - quite worth is. Isn't it lovely, dearest?

The puddles from this afternoon's rain storm calmly drinking in the sky. Oh what a night to be a puddle!
I was so eager to be clear of the houses that I ran the last quarter of the block until I reached the clearing (blessed clearing - what sadness it would be to live without a space for sky to look through) and saw this.

and this...

and this...

...the heavens telling the glory of God. Oh how beautifully they told it tonight!

I miss you, my dearest companion. 
I would be desolate on evenings like this if I did not know that He who casts the rosy light across the clouds casts more dearly a smile upon my heart, and upon yours, wrapping us in the beauty of His beloved Son.

We are not alone.

The passage you read with me today came to mind:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
(Isaiah 43:1-7 ESV)

We are safe in His love.

and I love you