Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Fiction: The Church Dance

Friday Fiction

I wrote this a few years ago to describe the exhaustion, loneliness, pain, and longing of a life lived in fearful hiding...and the hope that was barely beginning to blossom at that point. I should note that the feelings recorded below weren't reserved for church. This was how I felt whenever I had to be around people and pretend I was okay. The part that was unique to church was the hope at the end of the poem...a hope which God is now fulfilling.

There's joy for me in reading this now, because going to church no longer feels like this to me. God is calming fear, building trust and love. I hope you will read this in a way that allows the pain to become real to you...because there are doubtless many people who feel this way...but also in a way that praises God for His deliverance.



The Church Dance






We can dance, you and I, but only for a little while.

It’s too hard being close to another person. You brush up against me, you see. If you do that too often, my smile might rub off.

Anyway, if we’re going to dance, then I have to lead. When others lead, I get hurt.

I only know one kind of dance. It’s called a Promenade. I walk out on the floor, I smile, I curtsy, I briefly hook arms with you, and then you’re supposed to pass me off to someone else. Only this is my promenade, so I don’t let you decide how long we linger together. I remove your arm from mine, and if I do it skillfully you’ll think it was your idea.

Smile, greet, laugh, twirl, do it all over again.

I tire very quickly when I dance. Leading is hard work, but I must do it or I might end up trapped in the dizzying whirl of your dance. That’s scary. My fa├žade has clumsy feet, and my mask obscures my vision so it’s hard to see the little footprint patterns on the rug that tell me what you expect of me.

Besides, I don’t know where your steps may take me.

Smile, greet, laugh, twirl, do it all over again.

I can’t breathe well around so many others. My soul has asthma.

Often I can’t bring myself to approach the dance floor at all. Just the thought of it exhausts me.

I’m running out of strength. If you were to ask me why, I couldn’t tell you. I cannot point to anything about this dance which should have sapped me. But I am panting now, gasping for air.

I see the way you look at me. I have become a curiosity to you, an pitiable oddity, a one-woman band providing her own accompaniment, keeping her music to herself and never dancing to anyone else’s.

Smile, greet, laugh, twirl, do it all over again.

You waltz in your circles. I dance alone on a conveyer belt.

We wave at each other as I go by.

Why do I come here? Because this is the place where we talk about Him, the only one who has ever really held me. But I don’t want to dance with Him. Oh no. I want His arms to wrap around me and hold me tight to His chest until I stop whirling.

When I let Him hold me long enough, eventually I can even stop spinning on the inside.

Perhaps here, in His embrace, I can learn to waltz in circles with you.

I would like that.


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Today's "Friday Fiction" is being hosted by Lynda at "On the Write Track." Be sure to drop by there for links to other Friday Fiction entries.

And by the way, Happy Reformation Day!

And happy 44th birthday to me!

According to Wikipedia, on the day that I was born, President Lyndon Johnson pledged the creation of the Great Society. I'm honored that he would think my birth would make society great!

That was what he meant, right?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Between Earth and Sky

I wasn't looking for a life lesson. I was only looking for the school bus.

A bit of motion caught my eye, just across the invisible line that divides my yard from my next-door neighbor's. There, in mid-air, a single leaf danced.

It didn't fall. It just danced.

Now, I've been on this earth long enough to know how that leaf managed to stay between earth and sky, but I thought for a moment of how magical that would appear to eyes too young to understand.

As if it's held up by nothing at all...

I wasn't listening for the Spirit. I was just listening for the school bus. But the Spirit grabbed my heart anyway.


You know the unseen web is there because of how it holds the leaf up.


(Photo from Stock.xchng by vespir)

Can people see the unseen God because of how He holds you up?

Instead of sinking to the ground, do you dance?


I wish I could have given a different answer.


Oh Lord, I have tried to glorify You with my words, but I haven't glorified You with my life. I haven't let people see You holding me up, because I've refused to let go of the branch, refused to take that particular plunge of faith.

I want to learn what it means to be suspended between earth and sky...but with an important difference from that dancing leaf.

The leaf's natural direction, it's destiny, is downward. Ours reaches for the Heavens.

We're pilgrims who refuse to call this earth our home (Heb. 13:14). We live here because we must, to the extent that we must. But our call is upward (Php. 3:14), toward a place we can't yet see. We're stuck in between.

Can the world see Him holding us up?

I'm thinking of someone else who was suspended between Heaven and Earth. Someone who was held in place by nails and wood...or was He?

What held Him up during the torment of Calvary? He never ceased being Lord of the universe. He could have spoken himself off of that cross at any moment.

Some would say it was love for us that held Him there, and of course that was part of it. But in and of itself that wouldn't have been enough.

The deepest darkness that day was not the quenching of the sun. It was the reality which screamed in the words, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?"

Jesus couldn't feel His Father any more. All seemed lost. He felt abandoned, unloved, rejected.

Is an abandoned, unloved, rejected Messiah going to be able to save anyone? And if not, why would He stay there on that horrid hill of execution? Why not cut His losses and get out of there?

Because He still believed, even when He couldn't feel.

Love for God held Him there. Love that refused to believe the Father could betray Him like Judas did.

And faith held Him there. Without faith, love would have ceased to believe it had something to give us, or that there was anyone to whom we could be reconciled (2 Co. 5:19).

It was a holy moment. I don't think I dare touch it any more than I already have.

I only know that I want others to see the unseen God holding me up. I want my witness to speak not only from my words, but also from my life as I trust Him to sustain me. And for that to happen, I must have an ever deepening love for God, and faith in who He is - - not a theoretical faith that can write down words, but a practical faith that stops writing and does housework with love.

Praise God, He has given us His Holy Spirit, who pours out His love in our hearts (Rom. 5:5) and increases our faith!

But there is one more aspect to this witness of the spider's web. The fact is, sometimes I could see the web. When the breeze caught it and moved it just at the right angle in the sunlight, there it shone in its silver glory.

An old friend told me many years ago, "I used to think that Php. 4:13 was a call to 'Lone Ranger' Christianity. Just me and God, going it alone. No need for anyone else. Then when I went through my divorce, I felt as though life was a bucking bronco, and my hand was caught in the saddle. I was flung every which way, out of control, suffering more bruises with every passing moment. I needed my brothers and sisters in Christ. And that's when I realized what Php. 4:13 really is. Christ has a body on this earth, and my brothers and sisters are the hands that He uses to touch me. That, too, is Christ strengthening me."

I also tried for too long to be a "Lone Ranger Christian," but now I am learning the joy of true Christian friendship. You, my brothers and sisters, are the shining silver threads that I can see. Yes, it's really He who holds me up, but He does it sometimes through you.

Thanks for being here with me, between Earth and sky.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Honking, Leaf Jumping, and Books in Green Ink


A while back I started what's called "A Thousand Gift List." I got the idea (and the graphic) from Ann Voskamp at Holy Experience. This will be my second installment, an entry devoted to thanking God for His simple (yet profound) gifts.

You know...I'm tempted to apologize here, or put in some sort of disclaimer that says, "I normally write much deeper posts than this. Please don't be disappointed in getting a 'lightweight' entry today. I promise the next one will be meaty."

That's so wrong.

Yes, "deep and meaty" are good, and God has designed me to think and write that way. But simple thanksgiving is good too, very good, and I should never relegate it to second place.

Lord, please teach me how much You love gratitude!


I Am Thankful to Almighty God for:


Geese who honk but never get in traffic jams
(though I've known them to cause a few...)
Something about their winged conversations
brings a smile to my heart every time.


and I am thankful for:

A blanket of Fall leaves,
a backyard to play in, manpower (and boy power)
to make a big multicolored pile...



and the joy of jumping.


And I am thankful for:

The fertile imagination of a ten-year-old autistic son,
who uses his markers to share his world with us.
A son whose initials are PJM,
whose favorite color is green,
and who loves cell phones.

The other day I found a three-page "book" made of notebook paper taped together.
The 1st page said,


"SUPERPJM 2 And The Cell Phone."




Page 2 said, "Once upon a time there was a cell phone on the ground"




And page 3 concludes our story with this scintillating climax:


SUPERPJM saw it and said heres my cell phone



You just gotta love that kid.


More than that, you've just gotta love the God who gave all of these wonderful gifts to us.



Why not start your own, "Thousand Gift List?"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Psalm 91:10-11 "In Other Words"

"In Other Words" Tuesday




What does this mean?

Surely no one reading this, at least no one who has been a Christian for any length of time, can say that they have lived a charmed life since coming to Christ. We know that no verse is a magic wand that we can wave over our lives and guarantee ourselves a walk down Easy Street. We've hobbled along life's hot asphalt long enough, and gotten enough blisters, to know better.

And yet, this is the Word of God! And not one jot or tittle of it will pass away until all is fulfilled (Matt. 5:18). His word is like silver tried in a furnace, purified seven times (Psa. 12:6).

Maybe we just have to live a holy enough life to make this verse work for us. Maybe our problems are all because of our sins. That's what the modern-day "Prosperity Gospel" would have us believe. You're supposed to lie on a bed of roses, and if that isn't happening to you, it must be because you don't have enough faith. (Prove your faith by sending that preacher money, and you'll be blessed for sure!) Surely, according to this kind of teaching, the more you see of holiness in a person's life, the more they'll be rolling in money, health, and comfort.

Right?

Well, let's put that theory to the test in the crucible of Scripture. Today's passage is quoted twice in the New Testament, once in Matthew and once in Luke. Both were re-tellings of the same incident. Do you remember what it was?

It was Satan's temptation of Christ (See Matt. 4:5-6). Satan wanted Christ to claim this promise selfishly, to use it for His own purposes instead of remaining in submission to the Father.

Jesus refused.

He was the holy Son of God, in whom was no sin (1 Peter 2:22). Was His life a bed of roses?

He bore the lifelong stigma of illegitimacy. His family was obscure and poor. He had to work by the sweat of his brow for the bread that he ate. For the three years of His active ministry he did not have a home of his own. He had no riches. He went about doing good, healing and forgiving and saving and even raising the dead. He received accolades from some, but endless persecution, ridicule, slander, and blasphemy from others. Eventually He was arrested on trumped-up charges, condemned by an unjust court, beaten and scourged within an inch of his life, and crucified.

Did evil befall Him?

Can we say it was because He lacked faith?

Some would say that He suffered so that we would never have to suffer. But is that what Jesus said?

"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." (Mat 24:9) Please also read Matt. 10:22-25.

And what was the experience of His disciples? Every one was persecuted, beaten, imprisoned. All but one were martyred, and the other one died in exile.

The apostle Paul said that through Christ he had the power to (among other things) be abased, to be hungry, and to suffer need (Php. 4:12-13). Please also see Col. 1:24 and 2Tim. 3:12.


One has only to read "Foxe's Book of Martyrs," or tune in to "Voice of the Martyrs" to see that persecution and suffering have been the norm for Christians throughout the ages. Our few centuries of religious freedom in America and other Westernized countries is an anomaly, one that's not likely to last much longer.

Where is Psalm 91 in all of this? What happened to "No evil shall befall you?"

Perhaps it would help if we understood God's perspective of evil a bit better. Morrison (1866-1928) gives us some help here. He doesn't actually address evil here, but rather death itself. Yet his insights are very helpful. He says in his comments on Mark 5:39:

For Christ spiritual death was more real than physical death. Hence the latter he called sleep. [Mere physical death] was life, though it was life asleep, in the mighty arms of the eternal God, and death was something more terrible than that. The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth; but— this my son was dead and is alive again (Luke 15:24). The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth; but— let the dead bury their dead (Matt 8:22). The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth; but— he who believeth upon Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25). Christ did not find the dead in Jairus' house, nor in any sepulchre among the Galilean hills. He saw the dead where men and women were...who have a name to live and yet are dead."

Could it be that, just as God's perspective on death is different from ours, so is His perspective on evil?

How could that not be the case? After all, He has promised us that all things work together for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28), and that we are conquerors...not in the sense that we avoid suffering, but rather that we are conquerors over all that we suffer (Rom. 8:35-37).

Self-centeredness hates that idea.

Love embraces it.

"Rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings" (1 Pet. 4:13).

"Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all." (Php. 2:17)

When we stand before Him in Glory, basking in the joy of all his perfections, finally understanding all of the "whys" of our lives, we will rejoice in the fact that, no matter what we suffered on earth, truly no evil has befallen us.

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Today's "In Other Words" is being hosted over at Writing Canvas. Be sure to drop by there for links to more insights on this passage.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Why the Old Hymns Bring Tears

from the mid50s fsodImage by PinkMoose via FlickrI had a precious time in the Scriptures with my two youngest children Sunday morning. It was a divine appointment. We were supposed to be at the first hour of church/Sunday School, but we just weren't able to get it together in time. My hubby took our oldest to youth group, but the two youngest stayed home with me and got ready late.

And somehow I just knew that God wanted to meet with us.

When the kids were ready, we sat down in the Living Room and opened the book, "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper. I read to them from it, and some good conversation came out of that.

Then I got out the old hymnal and went looking for a song that would fit what we'd been discussing. I came upon "Jesus is All the World to Me," and I knew I'd found what I was looking for. I knew I wouldn't be able to sing it. I get too choked up. But I figured I could at least read the words to the children.

Wrong.

I got partway through, and suddenly the tears came. It worried the kids a bit, until I helped them understand that these were caused by joy, by beauty. In the end, those tears added a great deal to the sweetness of our time together.

Why can't I sing hymns any more? Why the huge lump in my throat, and the streams from my eyes?

Partly its the joy of seeing old friends. The songs themselves, I mean. So many precious friends rest hidden in between the covers of that old hymnal...friends that filled my mouth not just on Sunday mornings, but throughout the week. Friends that visited me over the radio. Friends that I sang next to my dear Nana in the choir loft, where she taught me to sing harmony. So many friends that I haven't seen in far too long. They've been replaced in church services by the new songs on the block.

I miss them. And when I get to sing them again, it's too sweet to bear, especially when we slow down and sing them at a pace that lets me savor the words.

Sometimes the tears come because of old associations. Faces of those long gone, who once stood beside me and sang those sacred words with me. That's true of all the old familiar hymns, because I sang them all with my loved ones so many times. But there's one hymn in particular that slays me because of a very strong tie to particular people. I had never even heard "Be Thou My Vision" until my uncle and aunt chose that as their "life song." They had lived far from the Lord for decades, but had repented and turned to Him, and then felt called to the mission field in Ireland. "Be Thou My Vision" was sung at their dedication service, and in my heart it is forever linked with them.

My uncle was killed in a motorcycle accident several years ago. I can't help but weep when I sing that song now. Or rather, when I mouth it. I can't actually sing it around the lump in my throat.

Partly hymns make me weep because of the deep meaning of their words. Modern songs sometimes can match their earlier counterparts for depth and richness. "In Christ Alone" is an exceptional example of a song almost too good to be new. I'm thankful for those types of songs, and glad that we sing them in our church. Some of them bring tears, too.

But there's a slightly different taste to the tears that come from the old hymns, and I've recently realized what it is.

It's fulfillment.

Think of a movie that has made you weep because of its happy ending. Think how the fulfillment of the promise of joy at the end felt so moving, especially contrasted with whatever hardships had to be overcome to get there.

That's what I feel from the old hymns. When I sang them as a child, they were unproven theories. Untested promises. Unfelt praise to an as-yet unknown God. I enjoyed them then, but they were only implanted seeds. I could not yet taste the fruit of promises kept.

Now I taste it.

Oh, the hardships I've known on my way here! The grief, the heartache, the overwhelmedness... and all of that only makes today's joys sweeter. Jesus is becoming "all the world to me." I've spent time "In the Garden," and I know there really is delight in His presence there. I've truly come to cherish "The Old Rugged Cross." Jesus is becoming my vision. "Trust and Obey" is starting to take root and blossom.

And all of the old associations become more precious. It's not just that I used to sing that song with Nana. It's that Nana now enjoys, with unveiled face, the God about whom we sang. And call me corny, but I feel a growing kinship with people I've never met, people perhaps in long prairie skirts and bonnets, singing the same words a hundred years ago. I feel as if my voice joins in a chorus that stretches back through time, all affirming the eternal goodness of our mighty God.

And when you boil it all down to its main point, it's really Him. The greatest sweetness of all is not just that promises were fulfilled, but that He fulfilled them. I feel no kinship with anyone who sings hymns only out of religious duty. I sing in chorus with those who love Him, who cherish Him, who praise Him, many of whom now see Him face-to-face. He is the promise of the hymns, and the fulfillment of them. He is their melody, and their harmony. He is their heartbeat.

Why do the old hymns bring tears? Because they touch me with the music of the One I love.


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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Conviction Gets Personal


Yesterday I promised to tell you about the day that changed everything. If you haven't read yesterday's entry, "Convicting of Judgment," please do that first, and then come back here.

I'd been a "Christian" for decades. I may have looked fairly good if people didn't look too closely, and I could truly say I wasn't guilty of any of the big outward sins (you know, I didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't cheat on my husband, that sort of thing). Yet I had no real victory over the sins that I did indulge in, no love for God Himself, no joy or peace in tribulation, no signs of the Holy Spirit at work in my life.

In fact, I pretty much loved me, myself, and I, and any sin that served me. My sins may have not been on the "Comfortable 21st Century American Christians' Big Bad No-No List," but they reeked in God's nostrils.

Well, I guess I can't say that there were no signs of the Holy Spirit at work. As I've said before, the Spirit was working on me. But the best way I can think to describe it is that He was working on me from the outside, not yet from the inside. And any time that I had the good sense to wonder if I really was saved, I would pray with an unspoken attitude that said, "I hope God will be reasonable, do right by me, and make sure I'm really going to Heaven." My head-knowledge would have known better than to say something like that, but my heart lived there.

That changed one night.

I lay in bed feeling the Spirit's conviction about my love for my sin. He seemed to be peeling off layers of denial and opening my eyes to the depth of my depravity. After a while my soul sank down with the knowledge...no, the certainty that God would be absolutely within His rights to condemn me eternally. He would be just if He did so. I truly deserved no better.

I didn't just think this in my head. I felt it in my heart.

How do I know it was the Spirit, and not just a self-generated guilt trip? Well, in addition to all of the previously discussed differences between conviction and guilt trips, there was also this:

For the first time, true faith dawned.

You see, when the Spirit showed me my own hopeless depravity, He also showed me Christ's mercy as my one and only hope. That was one of the most wonderful gifts the Spirit has ever given me. I felt, for the first time, the preciousness of God's grace and mercy. Whereas before I had intellectually assented to some facts about Christ, on this blessed night I threw my helpless soul completely onto His mercy, knowing that if He didn't catch me, I would fall into the inferno.

That leap in my heart was saving faith.

He caught me, and nothing has ever been the same.

I can't tell you how long ago that was, because I seem to have lost all ability to judge the passage of time. But it couldn't have been more than a few years ago.

And what about now?

I still have weaknesses for sins. Satan still has the ability to pull the wool over my eyes. And I know that I have a long, long way to grow. BUT...

My insides feel different. My priorities are changing. Old bitternesses are healing. Loyalty to God is growing. I feel a newly-budding desire to love others. Sin's grip on my affections is loosening.

God is at work. And when He decides to do something, He does it. Who is going to stop Him? So while I have a long way to go, and I know I won't "arrive" while I'm on this earth, I feel ever-increasing confidence in what He (not I) will do.

Not everyone will have the same salvation experience. If we did, then each of us should have had a blinding light strike us, like what happened to Paul (Acts 9:3). Of course that's not the case. But there are certain things that will be a part of every true Christian's life. And among those will be the Spirit's work of conviction about sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

Christians, let's never shy away from speaking the truth in love, even unpopular truths about such things as sin or judgment. Remember God's warning to Ezekiel (Eze. 3:18-21). You might even want to memorize it. The Holy Spirit is the one who applies such truths to people's hearts, and He may even do it as a result of something you've shared. You will not lose your reward.

To those of you who may not be believers, my prayer is that God will grant you the precious gifts we've been discussing in this series, and will bring you to the point of receiving the very greatest that He has to offer...the gift of Himself.



(Photo from Stock.xchng by Scyza)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Convicting of Judgment

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this interrupted series based on John 16:8, we've talked about recognizing Gavel2Image via Wikipedia the true ministry of the Holy Spirit versus counterfeits. We've talked about how He convicts the world of sin and of righteousness.

Today we continue this series with the fact that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment.

I guess that means He wouldn't be welcome in most places, including in many churches.

That may also mean that this blog will be unwelcome on some computer screens, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Why? Read what God said to the prophet Ezekiel in Eze. 3:18-21.

When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.

There are warnings to be given, and there are severe consequences for those who refuse to give out that warning when they should. But there can also be joy in this message, and it's infinitely precious.

The fact is, before we can appreciate the good news, we've got to come face-to-face with the bad news. (More on that subject here.) So here's some of the stuff that's hard to read, coming from the mouth of none other than our Lord Jesus.

"Whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:22)

"Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matt. 7:19)

"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." (Matt. 12:36)

"The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 13:41-42)

To keep this entry from getting too long, I'll stop there. But if you want to read more, just hover your mouse over these verse addresses: Matt. 5:28-30, Matt. 7:21-23, Matt. 18:23-35. They're not a complete list, but they give the idea.

When Jesus spoke those words, crowds of people stood around and listened. And since those words were written down, countless millions have read them.

For some people, these words have led to disdain for Christianity. They have rejected it as harsh and unloving.

For some it has led to rejecting certain portions of Scripture, while continuing to accept the parts they like. (And they fail to realize that the parts they like become grossly distorted without their missing counterparts.)

For some it has led to fearful legalism, the desire to protect themselves from God's judgment by jumping through religious hoops of some kind.

For some it has led to a healthy fear of the Lord, repentance, forgiveness, faith, and love.

What makes the difference?

It's the Holy Spirit. He convicts the world of judgment. And the key word there is "convicts." It's a heart-work, not the mere delivery of a message. The heart change required to respond properly to God is a precious gift, to be received with thanksgiving.

I speak from very personal experience. I grew up in the Word, enjoyed memorizing it from an early age, and often shared my Biblical insights with others. Yet I had the uncomfortable awareness, down in dark corners of my heart, that no supernatural transformation had ever taken place in me. Sometimes, when I would be expounding truth to others, my heart would tug at me. That hasn't been your experience.

When I read Biblical warnings of judgment, I usually reacted in a purely academic fashion. Nothing emotional. After all, I "believed," so none of that applied to me. If I did respond emotionally, it would either be with avoidance, resentment of this 'judgmental God," or the uneasy feeling that I needed to do better so I could feel reassured.

Then, finally, came the day that everything changed. I'll tell you about that next time.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts, or what is your story? Please leave a comment by clicking on the underlined "comments" link below.

(By the way, it has come to my attention that some people were unable to post comments earlier in the week. I had recently made a change in how Blogger handled comments, and evidently it wasn't working. I have changed back to a different setting now, and hopefully that has fixed the problem. If you tried to leave any comments and weren't able to do so, please feel free to try again.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fiction: Erasmus and the Ant

Friday Fiction

I originally wrote this fun little piece for the FaithWriters Weekly Challenge, under the topic, "Bridge."


Erasmus and the Ant


When Erasmus Lee Gold
Became eighty years old
He did the day up with rare style.
He got into a plane
With no fear in his brain
And waved his goodbyes with a smile.


Candle birthday cakes.Image via Wikipedia

"I told them I'd do it!
I could! I just knew it!
But no one ever believed me.
They said, 'Pops, you're unsound,
Now stay put on the ground!'
But the thought of quitting grieved me."

Through the glass he could see
Oh, so melancholy
His children and all of his grands.
Daughter Sue wiped her tears
Oh, that gal's silly fears!
And the rest stood wringing their hands.

Wilmot FlyoverImage via Wikipedia


Soon he zoomed way up high
In the clear, azure sky
With the chute fixed tight to his frame.
His palms felt all sweaty
Like first kissing Betty.
"Next to that leap, this one is tame!"

Now, unseen way below
Crawled a red ant named Joe
An ant of the leaf-cutting kind.
Bit off more than could chew
What on earth should he do?
He was in a horrible bind.

Leaf-cutter ants can take over when predator p...Image via Wikipedia

See, he'd made a fool's bet
And would soon be in debt
If he couldn't haul this load back.
Many leaves of huge size
In his jaws like a vise
Nearly gave him a heart attack!

"That dip once seemed so small,
Before I had to haul
This load that has left me so tired.
Now I can't get across,
And my wager's a loss.
If late, I may even get fired!"

"Oh dear Lord," he prayed, "first,"
I am dying of thirst
And second, it's six forty-eight.
If I'm tardy, my boss
Will get terribly cross
And seven-oh-one is too late!"

Just then, high in the air,
Without even a care,
Erasmus jumped from his safe perch,
So enthralled with the view
That he shouted, "WHOO-HOOO!"
As his parachute caught with a lurch.














Now, aerodynamics,
And fluid mechanics
Did just what they naturally do,
So his false teeth came loose
Thanks to wind and "spit juice"
And flew from his mouth in mid "HOOO."

Once affixed to a crown,
Six teeth now spiraled down
As if they'd never been anchored.
They touched down with a "thud"
Right near Joe, in the mud...
The answer for which he'd hankered!

"Hallelujah" he cried
When the blessing he spied
At just five minutes to seven.
An arch stood, nice and neat,
'Cross the dip near his feet...
A bridge that fell down from Heaven!

Same RPD, different view.Image via Wikipedia






This week's Friday Fiction is being hosted by Patty Wysong and Patterings. Be sure to drop by there for links to more great entries.

(The skydiver photo is from Stock.xchng by janky)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spurgeon on Psalm 119:3

Spurgeon near the end of his life.Image via WikipediaSpurgeon on Psalm 119:3
(From his commentary, "The Treasury of David")

"The holy life is a walk, a steady progress, a quiet advance, a lasting continuance. Enoch walked with God. Good men always long to be better, and hence they go forward. Good men are never idle, and hence they do not lie down or loiter, but they are still walking onward to their desired end. They are not hurried, and worried, and flurried, and so they keep the even tenor of their way, walking steadily towards heaven; and they are not in perplexity as to how to conduct themselves, for they have a perfect rule, which they are happy to walk by. The law of the Lord is not irksome to them; its commandments are not grievous, and its restrictions are not slavish in their esteem. It does not appear to them to be an impossible law, theoretically admirable but practically absurd, but they walk by it and in it. They do not consult it now and then as a sort of rectifier of their wanderings, but they use it as a chart for their daily sailing, a map of the road for their life-journey. Nor do they ever regret that they have entered upon the path of obedience, else they would leave it, and that without difficulty, for a thousand temptations offer them opportunity to return; their continued walk in the law of the Lord is their best testimony to the blessedness of such a condition of life. "

This world could use some more Spurgeons, couldn't it?

Doesn't this description of the Christian life make your heart yearn? Re-read it. Savor each thought. Isn't this kind of life better than one of worldly riches and ease?

May the Lord grant each of us steady progress on this journey.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Praising with the Emptiness


In an earlier post I promised to share how God moved me to deal with a problem...the problem of feeling empty in the middle of a worship service.

This past Sunday I was settling into my usual way of handling such things; just going through the motions, and not admitting to myself that anything was wrong. But then I felt an unexpected nudge from the Spirit. It wasn't the emotional boost I might have hoped for. In fact, it was something better.

Can you worship Me with the fact that it's all empty without Me?

What? I felt a bit of delight creeping into my soul as the idea sank in. Even perhaps a touch of relief.

Yes, Lord. I certainly can.

So while my mouth sang words that my heart didn't feel, I offered this praise to my Father.

See, Lord? It's all empty without You. When I can't feel You, I can't be satisfied. That's because You're what I really want. You're what I really need.

Yes, Lord, what wonderful praise!

I won't insult You by trying to create my own emotions like any non-believer can do at a rock concert. I want Your joy, not man-made feelings! And if Your joy is lacking in my heart today, I will do You the honor of missing it!

I will do You the honor of missing You.

Yes, Lord! You can't be replaced by hype! You're too wonderful to be traded in for any substitute! I would rather hunger and thirst while waiting for you, than fill up on my own artificially-sweetened snacks.

This is a whole new kind of praise for me, and I like it. I like it because:
  • It's real
  • It's God-centered
  • It's not demanding what I want to get out of a praise service, but rather praising Him as He deserves, to the best of my ability at that time
  • It stands to receive all of the blessings He has promised to those who wait for Him.
Can I extend this principle to other areas of my life?

One of the things I absolutely despise about housework is the emptiness of it. It lacks so much that my heart craves.

Can I offer that emptiness to God? Can I refuse to fill my soul with substitutes? Can I actively cultivate a hunger and thirst for my Creator?

If I can do that, then the emptiness itself can become a blessing. What if I wait for His blessing instead of manufacturing my own, believing that His will be infinitely better?

It is impossible to cultivate hunger while constantly munching. So tomorrow, when housework threatens me with its seemingly life-sapping demands, and the computer beckons with all of its delights, can I willingly shoulder the drudgery and offer it to God as praise?

Lord, I know that You have given rich meaning to housework, but I can't feel it. Never have been able to. I've always resented it, always hated it. But now I want to lift this emptiness to You. I admit that it seems lifeless to me because I can't feel You in it. I confess that there must be sin in me that's blocking our fellowship. In the past I have always "dealt" with this by avoiding the work, or doing it grudgingly, or at best doing it in the power of my flesh for as long as I could stand to (which was never very long). I always thought I hungered for more computer time, more writing time, more amusement time, more ANYTHING time. That's where I have had it all wrong.

What I really hunger for is You.

This emptiness is really praise, because I refuse to fill it with idols. I praise You by believing that this soul-void really CANNOT be filled with anything but You. If You tarry, I will wait patiently while continuing to obey. I will do this because I believe that You only feed hungry hearts. I want to stop glutting on the world's Twinkies so I can be hungry enough to feed on You.

When sin (laziness, wrong priorities) beckons, please God help me to remember You in Your ways, and to rejoice in doing righteousness (Isa. 64:5). And then feed me. Oh Father, please feed me!

But until You do, give me the courage, the hope, and the faith to wait on You, as Your Word so clearly tells me to do.

I write this with some fear. Hunger hurts, and I've never been able to avoid spiritual junk food for very long. In fact, as I was writing that prayer, I realized that it bore a pretty strong resemblance to something I wrote back in August. God's been trying to get this through my head for a while, and I haven't come very far with it.

But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Even hungering.

Yes, Lord, by Your grace, even hungering.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. (Lam. 3:25)
Blessed are those who hunger.... (Matt. 5:6)


(Photo from Stock.xchng by scol22)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RefTagger

This is a departure from my usual kind of posting, but I wanted to let you know about a new addition to the blog which can help all readers, and may also come in handy for those of you who have your own blogs. It's called RefTagger.

RefTagger recognizes Biblical references ("verse addresses") in the text of the blog, and makes them into links without any effort on the blogger's part. It provides a pop-up window with the text of the verse whenever the mouse is hovered over the reference. Test it out by hovering your mouse over this reference: Is. 46:9-10.

So, for those of you who are readers, the verses will be handy whenever you want to see them.

For those of you who are bloggers, it's a simple matter of going to the RefTagger site, choosing the options you want, and copying some HTML code into your template. It will automatically make links of every reference in the blog, past entries included. And it's free! I anticipate that this will save a great deal of copying and pasting of texts into my entries, and I wanted to share that benefit with you!

Thanks to the "Thoughts on the Way" blog for introducing me to this great feature.

Do I Really? - "In Other Words" Tuesday

"In Other Words" Tuesday


I wrote this poem a while back, and in my heart I can imagine it becoming a song. It's about being honest with ourselves before God.


Do I Really?


I sing of bowing down, and I call Him my King,
I pray to the Lord, “Thy Kingdom come,”
But do I really hear the humble words that I sing?
Or has my heart grown distant and numb?

Do I really yearn to see His Will being done
On Earth as it is in His Heaven?
To take His yoke, to bear my cross, to die like the Son
To search out and purge sinful leaven?

Before His just commands do my knees truly bend?
Do I mold my will to match His word?
For Jesus will I leave my treasures, family, and friends
Stake all on the promises I’ve heard?

How can I pretend to want His kingdom to reign
If I won’t let Him rule within me?
Can I refuse His righteous call, His lordship disdain
Then say that I want Him to win me?

I sing of bowing down, and I call Him my King,
I pray to the Lord, “Thy Kingdom come,”
But do I really hear the humble words that I sing?
Or has my heart grown distant and numb?


We can't know our own hearts, according to Jer. 17:9. And Ps. 36:2 tells us, "For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin" (NIV). And yet we are commanded to examine ourselves (2 Co. 13:5), and King David sets an example by asking God to examine him and point out where he needs to repent (Ps. 139:23-24).

What if we don't like what we see?

The humble heart will repent and seek a closer walk with God. But the proud heart will make excuses for itself and will put on an act for others. Sadly, when it does so, it pushes God even further away.

For God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

The key to humbly loving others, instead of using them to stroke our own egos, is to altogether abandon the search for self-esteem, and to focus on growing our God-esteem.

Unless, of course, we really believe that true joy, happiness, and life are to be found in ourselves more than in God...

May God keep us from believing such lies, and help us find our lives in Him!

----------------------------

Today's "In Other Words" Tuesday is being hosted by Lynette Kraft. Be sure to drop by her blog for links to more insights based on today's quote.

Monday, October 20, 2008

To Know Him - Monday Manna

Monday Manna




There's a hidden place in my soul.
I barely know it's there, but I defend it fiercely anyway.
Its walls stand firm and imposing, like Jericho of old.
They've grown thicker with every assault.
Attacks only serve to make this fortress stronger.
No enemy can ever breach its defenses.

Its surface is emblazoned with the graffiti of years.
Words in lead paint.
Poisonous.
"Toughen up!"
"Life's rough! Get over it!"
"Suffer in silence!"
"Faker! Phony!"
Dagger-words spoken in response to
my childhood tears.

Love had to be tough
To prepare me for a cruel world
A sink-or-swim world
Where no one, no one
Will ever really be there for you.

Most don't love.
But those who do
Are too overwhelmed with their own pain
To help you bear the weight of yours.
No one wants to hear your problems, anyway.

Alone.

Solitary.

Bereft.

Always.

So there was a little girl.
A little blonde girl.
A little blonde girl who cried.

I locked her away.
She had no right to cry.
If she insisted on doing so
she certainly had no right to be heard.

Life is tough.
Get over it.

She still lives in the fortress, where even I barely ever hear her.

For years the graffiti on her walls has gotten thicker.

The one with the spray can is me, showing her "tough love."
I have to thicken her walls, because if anyone sees her, they might hurt her.

She already hurts too much.



But someone knows her.




He has met with her sometimes.
Always by surprise.

He does not knock holes in her walls
or dig tunnels underneath
or use high explosives.

She's prepared for all of that.

He uses
the gentlest of touches
the kindest of looks
the softest of voices...
sometimes just in her heart
sometimes through His other children.

Walls melt.

She stands, exposed
but somehow not afraid.
Not of Him.

She weeps, always, when He finds her.
But her tears are sweet
because of the tenderness of
The One
who wipes them away
and perhaps most of all
because what she wants more than anything
is love.

She cannot bear to be exposed for long
so He hides Himself
for gentleness' sake
until she's ready to see Him again.

She wants...

no...


I...
I want...
to know Him.

His resurrection
is life
from this tomb

The fellowship of His sufferings...

sufferings which do not make Him belittle my lesser pains
but rather transforms them...

the fellowship of His sufferings
erases the word "Alone."

His death
is so much more beautiful
than the living death my soul has known.
I want to trade my death
for His
because His is full
of eternal life
and love.

I want to know Him
because
God help me!
I have heard my own voice
crushing my children's souls.
I've have seen my own hands
with bricks
and mortar
and lead paint
giving them the same
"tough love"
that smothered my soul
in airless darkness.

Dear God,
I want to know You
not just in my head
but in the deepest parts of me
the parts that need to feel
Your love, and
Your gentleness
and then pass them along to others
whose souls ache and languish
like mine.

Please
God.

Amen.


------------------------------------

Monday Manna is being hosted this week by Joanne over at An Open Book. Be sure to drop by for more food from Heaven, and remember to leave comments if an entry touched your heart.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Emptiness on Sunday Morning

I had an "empty" time this morning.

It was Sunday morning, and I stood in church with everyone else. We all sang, and I liked the songs well enough.

But I felt nothing.

Don't you just hate that?

I wish I could say that that was the first time I'd ever felt nothing during a worship service. But of course it wasn't. And when that sort of thing happens, I'm left with some choices.

  • I can face the deadness, refuse to participate, and decide there's nothing to Christianity, OR
  • I can face the deadness and put on a good front for the other churchgoers, OR
  • I can refuse to face the deadness and ignore the fact that I'm merely going through the motions, OR
  • I can feel panicked about the deadness and reach deep into my flesh for the feelings I want to achieve, trying to pump up emotions from the rhythm of the music, or from some other human-powered thing, just like any non-believer can do at a rock concert, OR
  • I can pray for God to give me the emotional experience I crave, OR...
Or what? Is there another option?

What do you do under such circumstances? I'd love to read your comments.

Monday's entry will be taken up by "Monday Manna," and Tuesday's entry by "In Other Words," but on Wednesday I'll share what the Lord encouraged me to do with my emptiness this morning. Perhaps it might bless someone as it blessed me.

In the meantime, please share your thoughts

(Photo from Stock.xchng by Zoostory)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Fiction: Making Concentrate

Friday Fiction

Making Concentrate


"Father, what are you doing?" Asher’s curiosity wouldn’t let him stay quiet any longer.

Father looked at him with one of his unfathomable smiles. "I'm making concentrate."

Asher's eyes widened. He was a newcomer here, and there was much he didn't understand. But he enjoyed the wonder and awe that surrounded everything Father did.

After a while he spoke up again. “Who’s that?”

"Her name is Elizabeth." Father's voice grew a little quieter. "It means, 'Consecrated to God.'”

"Concentrated to God?" Asher asked.

Father laughed, clearly delighted. "That's not what I said, but I love it. It's really the same thing, after all."

Asher nodded, though he didn’t understand.

The most wonderful thing about living in Father's house was how perfect everything was, even the unknown. Curiosity wafted over Asher like the mouth-watering aromas of Thanksgiving mornings, filling him with anticipation. Yet the anticipation itself fed his soul, so that the hunger didn’t hurt. Desire felt as delightful as fulfillment, and fulfillment never disappointed.

“I love Elizabeth,” Father said softly.

"But you're making her cry."

"Yes, Asher. I know all of her tears. I’m keeping them safe with me."

What does he do with them? Asher looked back down into the world where he once lived. "She's through crying already."

Father chuckled. "It seems like 'already' to you, but you're outside of time now. Ten years just passed for her. She doesn't even remember what she was crying about before. But I remember perfectly...both the trial and my beautiful purpose for it." He put his hands on Asher's shoulders and looked into his eyes. “I've kept that safe for her, too."

Asher smiled.

Father gave Elizabeth many things, and then after a while he took something away from her.

"She cried a little, but not as much," Asher noted.

"She trusts me more now, because she knows me better. Every time I’ve taken something from her, I’ve offered her more of myself in exchange."

"Cool!" Asher exclaimed.

Father's eyes took on a faraway expression. "It’s glorious seeing them learn to love, and trust, and delight in me. When your mother took dangerous things away from you, you would get upset. People often don't understand why I take things from them, especially when I take away good things, in order to replace them with what’s best."

"That's you!" Asher jumped up and down, delighted with his understanding. "You're what’s best for them!"

Father smiled. "Of course."

They looked at Elizabeth again.

"She’s already old!" Asher stared, astonished.

"Yes, it's almost time for her to join us." Father beamed. "I can't wait to give her the joy of fully knowing me!”

"What did you say you were making?"

"It was concentrate. You remember concentrate."

"Yeah. Mom made orange juice out of it."

"That's right. I made 'concentrate' with Elizabeth by taking away unnecessary things that weighed her down. Now she's highly concentrated. Very little left to take away." He took Asher's hand. "Come on."

"Where?"

"We're going to greet Elizabeth. She's about to arrive."

"But there's one thing I don't understand."

"What?"

"We always add water to concentrate."

Father smiled like Christmas, like gifts about to be given.

"True. I am the Living Water, remember? But I like to add other water, too. Water which isn’t perfected yet. I will perfect it when I perfect her."

"What other water?"

Father smiled his Christmas smile again. "Go and get it for me." He pointed at a vessel that Asher hadn't noticed before.

Asher ran and fetched it, savoring delicious curiosity.

Father carried the vase until they arrived at the great gates.

"There she is!" Asher clapped and pointed.

“Welcome, my beloved!” Father wrapped Elizabeth's withered body in his embrace, pouring life-giving love into her dehydrated soul. Then he added the water from the vase, and as it touched the Living Water, it became just as sparkly and lively.

"See, I make everything new," he said, setting the vase down and gazing on his glorious bride.

"But what’s that other water that you perfected?"

Father smiled wider. "Think about it while I show Elizabeth around."

A wonderful idea began to grow in Asher’s heart. Could it be? He rolled the vase over until he found the inscription.

"YES!" Heaven echoed with his joy.

Father turned and smiled like the sun, only brighter and more beautiful.

Asher couldn't restrain himself. He danced in circles around the empty jar which once held Elizabeth's tears.

--------------------------------

Today's Friday Fiction is being hosted by Dee over at My Heart's Dee-light. Be sure to drop by for more great fiction.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Convicting of Righteousness

(This is the third in the series which began with, "How Does The Holy Spirit Really Help Us?"
The Ganges in VaranasiImage via Wikipedia

And when He [the Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of...righteousness...
(John 16:8)

The kingdom of God is...righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom 14:17)

How many times does the Bible talk about righteousness? Just a quick check with my electronic Bible's search function pulls up 565 verses.

In how many passages does God's Word talk about people speaking in tongues? I may have missed a few, but I was only able to find seven such passages.

Which do you suppose is more important to God?

Would He rather see a dozen righteous people who do not speak in tongues, or a dozen people who speak in tongues but are not righteous?

It's not my intention to address the topic of tongues, or any of the other showy, popular (and often counterfeited) works of the Spirit. What I really want to do is plead for priorities that match our Lord's.

How badly do we want the miraculous work of the Spirit that's called "righteousness?" How often do we pray for it, yearn for it, study it, apply ourselves to it? Or do we consider the flashier gifts more important?

"But wait," you may protest. "We are made righteous in Christ. It's a done deal, so I don't have to worry about it any more."

Well... yes... and no.

It is true that we are given Christ's righteousness when (and if) we are truly saved. It's a process called, "Imputation," and it means we're given credit for the perfect righteousness that we won't actually experience until Heaven. God lives in the eternal "Now," so He doesn't lie when he declares us righteous. He simply takes the reality of eternity and credits it to our present time.

We do this sort of thing ourselves. For example, when someone is diagnosed with incurable, terminal cancer, we might say of that person, "He's a dead man." He's still alive, but his fate is sealed, and there's nothing that's going to change it.

In the same way, when and if we are truly saved, God declares us righteous. Though we still have sin in us, righteousness is our sealed fate (2 Co. 1:21-22), and nothing will change it. Praise God!

But how do we know if this genuine work of the Spirit has happened in us? We look at ourselves, and we see that sin is still present within us. How can we know if Christ's righteousness has truly been imputed to us?

After all, anyone can claim to have achieved a right standing with God. Millions have claimed it on the basis of having washed their bodies in the Ganges river. Other millions have done so on the basis of the recitation of certain prayers, or floating candles on paper boats, or any of countless other rituals.

God's word tells us that there will even be many "Christians" who believe themselves righteous, but who will be in for a horrible shock on Judgment Day.

"Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Jesus, in Matt 7:22-23).

How can we know?

Praise God, He does not force us to wallow in doubt. When there has been a genuine work of the Spirit (which includes imputation of righteousness), there will be undeniable, impossible-to-counterfeit evidence. And two of those evidences are:

1. Growth in righteousness

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. (1Pe 2:24)

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:13-14)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17)

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Tim. 2:22)

that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)


2. A love of righteousness (Why? Because the Spirit makes us more like Christ, who loves righteousness! Ps. 11:7)

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than your companions. (Heb. 1:9)

For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Gal 5:5)

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. (Matt. 5:6)

You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness (Isa. 64:5)


This love of righteousness will be a humble love, not a prideful one (Luke 18:9-14).

If the Lord is working in your heart to create growth in godly righteousness, and a humble love of righteousness, you can be sure that this is the result of the Holy Spirit in you. Even though you won't be perfect in this life, you can reassure your heart when you see His Spirit changing who you are and making you more like Christ.

If this kind of growth, and this love, are absent in you, I can only beg of you along with the apostle Paul,

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (2Co 13:5)


Please add to the richness of this post by commenting below!





The previous (second) post in this series was: "A Genuine Work of the Spirit?"


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Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Fiction: Spiritual Autism

Friday Fiction

I wrote this back in 2006. It has often struck me how "autistic" we must seem to God when we tune Him out and focus only on ourselves.







Spiritual Autism


A mother's view:


He lives in a universe apart, almost another dimension. We stand side-by-side, but his gaze passes right over the world that I see.

I take care of all his details. I bathe him while he ignores me, coax him into clothes to protect his nonexistent modesty, hide medicine in chocolate milk. I put away sharp objects, lock doors, provide food that his too-skinny body needs yet disdains. I hold his hand to keep him out of dangers that he neither notices nor understands.
He doesn't realize that I do these things for him.

The firefighter smiles at the children, catches their eyes, engages them. He talks of pumper trucks and hoses, of sirens and water tanks. He displays his fire-resistant clothes and sharp-pointed axe. His words evoke images of danger and heroism, of lives risked and lives saved.
Phillip cannot be persuaded to stay. He must go to the station's utility closet and stare at the vacuum cleaner. He studies it with the intensity of a guru in meditation, and touches it with something close to reverence.
The vacuum sits immobile, undeserving of the awe it has inspired.

The children skip along on the sidewalk, excited to enjoy a walk with their family. Little fingers point at birds above and sun-dried earthworms below. Cars whiz by, prompting yet another parental lecture on road safety. Questions pepper the air as young minds eagerly soak up knowledge.
Phillip sees none of it, hears none of it. He stands a little ways off, communing with a fire hydrant like a medium consorting with the nether world. The ears which ignored his family's words now press close to hear whatever the hydrant has to say.
The hunk of metal stands in silence, at least as far as I can tell.

The teacher places another flannel-backed figure onto the board. She speaks of miracles, of courage, of fear and hope. Her questions cause hands to shoot up and waggle in the air, accompanied by the universal "ooh, ooh" cry of children who have answers.
Phillip pays no attention. He paces back and forth behind all of the other students, absorbed in his own thoughts. His eyes periodically grow wide with excitement and he jumps up and down, hands flapping, neck muscles standing out in sharp relief, emitting strained, throaty sounds.
He is his whole world.

I long to reach him. I love him so much!


The Father's View:

She lives in a universe apart, almost another dimension. I am everywhere, but her gaze passes right over the world that I want her to see.

I take care of all her details. I offer cleansing while she ignores me, try to coax her into spiritual armor, provide Myself as a balm for her soul. I restrain her mortal enemy, guide her through the right doors, provide spiritual food that her starving soul needs yet disdains. I hold her hand to keep her out of dangers that she neither notices nor understands.
She doesn't realize that I do these things for her.

The Bible rests on my children's laps, catches their eyes, engages them. It talks of living springs and water gushing out of rocks, of last trumpets and spiritual baptisms. It warns of eternal fires, and cuts like a two-edged sword. Its words evoke images of danger and heroism, of lives consecrated and souls needing to be saved.
One daughter of mine cannot be persuaded to stay. She must close its pages and stare at the television. She studies it with the intensity of a guru in meditation, and sacrifices time on its altar.
The TV sits immobile, undeserving of the devotion it has inspired.

My children walk in my outdoors, excited to enjoy their fellowship. They marvel at my birds above and my earthworms below. Worldly temptations call to them, prompting yet another discussion on how to resist. Questions pepper the air as their minds eagerly soak up wisdom.
This daughter of mine sees none of it, hears none of it. She stands a little ways off, communing with a storefront window like a medium consorting with the nether world. The ears which ignored her family's words now press close to hear the siren-song of materialism.
The pile of brick and mortar stands in silence, but only I seem to realize that it has nothing to say.

The pastor reads more verses off of the big monitor screen. He speaks of miracles, of courage, of fear and hope. His questions cause heads to nod, accompanied by an occasional spoken "Amen."
This daughter pays no attention. She sits with all of my other children, but she is absorbed in her own thoughts. Her eyes periodically fill with tears and she shifts around in her seat, neck muscles aching with tension, emitting self-absorbed sighs.
She is her whole world.

I long to reach her. I love her so much!


(Photo from Stock.xchng by boyonabike)

Other entries in "Self-focus."
Other entries in "Friday Fiction"

This week's Friday Fiction is being hosted at Back Door. Drop by for more great fiction!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

God-Seasoned Tears


Thank You, Lord, that my tears taste different now.

They used to taste of

bitter despairacid rage
bloodied pride
choking hopelessness
acrid loneliness
fevered hatred
sulfurous distrust
cruel accusation
bilious self-pity.


You could have chosen just to numb the pain
But any old drug can do that.

You're no drug.


You could have kept pain away
Like a doting father who would spoil me until I got mushy and rank like an overripe peach.

You are a much better parent than that.


I could not have loved You the way I do now, if you had done either of those things. How would You have been better than what Earth can offer?

But You...

Only You could do this.

You taught me that tears can taste like

fountains of hope
oceans of mercy
wellsprings of love
streams of refreshment
brooks of camaraderie
rivers of trust
seas of acceptance
tidal waves of thanksgiving
floods of praise.

And they taste like...

Salt.

You have told us that we are the salt of the earth.

Perhaps we can only be salt
if our hearts have learned to shed
God-seasoned tears.

Betsy Markman



(Photo from Stock.xchng by Fishmonk)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mirror People - IOW Tuesday

In Other Words



We love to look at the things we love. For many of us, that means we go through life with a mirror strapped in front of our faces, focusing on ourselves as if we were the source of our own lives, the fount of our own happiness. We are born loving ourselves, absolutely devoted to pleasing ourselves, committed to serving ourselves, and determined to make others serve us as much as possible (or else get out of our way!)


{{en}}: A mirror, reflecting a vase.Image via Wikipedia
















There we are, little clay pots, admiring ourselves as if we had created ourselves. And all the while we wonder why we feel so empty.

We try to fill that emptiness with other people's admiration, doing our best to make our own little lights shine in a way that will bedazzle them. Some fail miserably at that. Others succeed miserably. Either way, we find no joy there.

A few years ago I wrote a poem about how we can use our mirrors in a way that brings true joy to ourselves and others, and most importantly, brings glory to God. It's called:



Mirror People


I was born with a looking-glass
Set right in front of my face
No matter where I turn my head
It always stays right in place.

I know my world from what I see
There in my own reflection
Consulting my own image for
Life's meaning and direction.

Whatever works to make me smile
Will suit me quite precisely
And anyone who puts me first
Will serve me very nicely.

There's not much room to look at you
Around my precious mirror
But that's okay, I do not wish
To see you any clearer.

Unless you can somehow improve
My image, re-create it
If you can help me like myself
I'd sure appreciate it.

My world feels very small and close
My face no longer thrills me
I want to feed my self-esteem
Before starvation kills me.

But now a bold intruder comes
He really aggravates me
He wants all my attention, and
Sometimes I think He hates me.

He messes with my looking-glass
But won't make me look better
He says I ought to worship Him
Like I'm some kind of debtor.

He shows me all my flaws, and yet
He says that there's good in store
The problem is, I'm not allowed
To dwell on "me" anymore.

I let Him push my mirror down
No more than an inch or two
And when I take my eyes off me
I'm amazed by something new.

Such wideness and such majesty!
My overwhelmed senses reel
Such joy, such awe, such love are more
Than I thought I'd ever feel.

My hands fall to my sides and let
My mirror fall and shatter
I barely notice that it's gone
It doesn't seem to matter.

He smiles, and in His eyes I see
The source of all this glory
Now praise seems only natural
And not obligatory.

He gives me a new looking-glass
And instinctively I know
Which way I want to turn it and
Whose face I want it to show.

I never want to look away
This beauty feeds my spirit
I shout the news to everyone
And pray that some will hear it.

There, standing out among the throngs
I see some shining Others
Their mirrors turned toward The Light
My sisters and my brothers.

Our little glasses cannot hope
His glory all to capture
But each one can reflect some more
And blaze with holy rapture.

I fear this is too good to last
And then I hear Him praying
I scarcely can believe the words
The Son of God is saying.

"I pray that they will be with Me
In Heaven, where forever
My splendor they will always see
And from Me none can sever."

How can I thank or praise enough
For such a wondrous present?
The finest riches Heaven owns
Lavished on me, a peasant!

Friends, if you see me sorrowing,
My mirror turned to face me
Please help me point it back to God
And let His joy embrace me.

And if you're sad, I'll give to you
The best I could ever give
I'll help you turn your eyes to God
To look to Him so you'll live.


(Click here to find all posts related to the subject of God-Centeredness.)

Today's "In Other Words" is being hosted by Bonnie at her "Ink It" Blog. Be sure to drop by and read her entry, then scroll down to find links to all of the other participating blogs.


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