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My first year of teaching high school, I was faced with the question of why we read and teach the books we teach. What makes them worth reading?

Well, they’re classics, right? They’ve been around for a long time, lots of people have read them, so they must be worth reading, right?

But that can easily become a circle to get stuck in, can’t it? We read these classics because everybody always has. And they read them because everybody always has.

So. I began making a list of the qualities that give these books staying power.

Don’t worry. I won’t treat you to the whole list, but if you think of the movies that your family watches every year at Christmas time, you will most likely be able to figure out some of the qualities I discovered.

Unique characters–what is it about George Bailey that keeps us watching his wonderful life again and again, even though we could quote all his lines for him? Though no one will ever be able to breathe the life into those lines like Jimmy Stewart did. _It’s A Wonderful Life_ gives us two characters for the price of one!

Engaging characters–Elf, the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Grinch and Cindy Loo Who, Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, Tim Allen’s Santa Claus, Clarence Cloudbottom: they touch our hearts and lives because they are like us or like someone we know . . . or even wish we knew. Somewhere along the storyline, we find a person that we can connect to through our own lives and experiences. And as we grow and our life experiences broaden, we experience these stories in a new way.

Universal themes–How in the world did _The Sound of Music_ become a Christmas classic? There’s nothing remotely Christmas-y about it! But it’s been shown on tv at Christmas ever since I can remember . . . and I can remember watching it from a rather young age! Perhaps it’s because at Christmas time, families want to come together to watch something good and something filled with hope and joy and love and something worth believing in. And the story of the Von Trap family–both the true story and the Rodgers-and-Hammerstein version we all know so well [I’ll bet you’ve sung along with it at some point or another yourself!]–their story is full of those things. Something worth believing in so much that it’s worth risking one’s life and livelihood for. Hope and love: “A dream that will need all the love you can give/ Every day of your life for as long as you live.” And, of course, joy.

Timelessness–some stories can only be enjoyed once or twice through before they are put on the shelf and never really thought of again. Some are good again if you are experiencing them with someone to whom the story is new. But some. Those classic some. They are good again and again. There are new things to notice, new connections to make each time we experience them. They grow with us. We connect with the story and characters in different ways as our experiences follow the path of time that we all take. Scrooge today is a rounder character to me than he was when I was a middle-schooler reading _A Christmas Carol_ on my own for the first time. And though in the past I have been more touched by his own personal redemption story, my attention was caught this year (as Dickens would have had it, I’m sure) by the poor and the needy and by the way that Ebenezer did what he could to remedy the deficits. Timely story indeed.

Unique characters. Engaging characters. Universal themes. Timelessness.

Do these apply to THE Christmas story? The one that started it all?

You know what my answer should be, of course. The “Sunday School answer” that I should give as a good Christian.

But I hate giving answers just because they’re the expected answers. Not even the First Christmas story should be locked into a cycle of meaninglessness: “we read it every year because everyone reads it every year because it’s the classic Christmas story.”

Is it worth reading every year? Should not the Author of the Universe do work excellent enough to withstand scrutiny? Is the First Christmas story timeless enough to be heard again and again each year with ears both familiar and new at the same time?

This will, of course, depend on the other three qualities we have just mentioned. In this post I will leave you to ponder its universal themes while I take the briefest of looks at the characters.

We don’t know a lot about them. Some of the principal players are known only by their occupations and titles. And even those around whom the story swirls are sketched with minimalist lines. Yet it’s an old actor’s adage that character is action. And from the actions that make up the plot of the story we can derive the characters. What kind of a person kills all the babies in a town to try to get at the one he fears may one day grow to take a throne he will, by then, be too old to hold? What kind of men rush from fields to search a sleeping town for a little baby? And what kind of person sends his only son into a hostile world?

The story of the First Christmas is a story of many different reactions to the same gift. Were we in their shoes, what response would have been ours? In whose company would you find yourself?

Steven Curtis Chapman was exploring that question himself one Christmas, using those thoughts to write his song “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us).” And on this Christmas Day, I leave you with that question: where are you in the Classic Christmas story this year?

Steven Curtis Chapman “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us)”

Steven Curtis Chapman “I Am Joseph (God Is With Us)” lyrics

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This last portion of the poem deals with the one word that seems to be impossible–hope. Because that is the message of the Resurrection. Hope. Hope for new life that springs from the inside and changes us for eternity. Hope because the One who knew no sin became sin for us so that WE MAY BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM. That’s hope. And not the wishful-thinking kind. It’s the hang-your-hat-on kind. The lay-your-every-waking-moment-on-the-line kind of hope. Expectation.

I’m standing at the tomb
His tomb
My tomb
Your tomb
Dare I hope to see an angel
Announcing over empty grave-clothes
The Impossible has happened?
Where does my heart,
My death-wounded heart go
to find Your Resurrection?
Like Martha, I believe
You are Who You Are—
God, the Son of God,
The Resurrection and the Life.
Can this belief become
the spice I bring to mourn the dead?
Here is where we dwell:
We dwell with Death—
death of loved-ones, hopes, and dreams
Should I really be
Surprised that You should die?
It’s not ok
But I’m used
To it, to death
There’s always one more tomb.

But Yours is empty
Empty, hollow, vacant—
Incomprehensibly absent
Is the corpse I came to find.
“Because I live, ye shall live also”
Was Your promise,
A promise just as impossible,
Just as improbable—
Teach me to believe!
For now, just help me trust
In You, the One I’ve come to know.
I know You’ll read my message
When I send to You saying,
“Lord, the one You love is sick, is dead.”
You’ll come, e’en though he’s dead,
Because You love him, too.
I’m waiting for the glory of God
Promised by You,
Incomprehensibly impossible.
Hoping, waiting, believing
That You defeated Death.

Life, like the Sea,
Is fickle, unpredictable.
Some things, like tides and waves,
Can be anticipated; myriads
Of factors influence the rest.
Total preparation is impossible.

I stand on trial again . . .
Faced with my Accuser . . .
And I know myself to be
All that I am accused of, and worse,
As though he holds a mirror
To my face and I see myself
Again just as I am:
Ugly, dirty, scarred;
Clothed in rags and torn;
Foolish, weak, and useless;
Careworn.
What does it matter that
The price is paid already?
I stand ashamed to know
So much was paid for
Something–someone–so
Very worthless.

I stand on trial again . . .
O Advocate! What have I to say?
I hear my accusations and
I think, I feel, I know them
To be possible. But are they true?
Is it Your robes of righteousness
Or my own rags of shame I wear?
And what do the garments matter
Anyway, if all is true as my Accuser says?

O Advocate, my dear Lord Jesus Christ!
You know this hurt more deeply
Than I know my share–
You wore my rags, becoming
What I feel myself to be:
Sin-stained, guilt-laden,
Shamed and bearing shame.
All that I was before Your advent
(springing up Your very life within my soul)
You became for me.
It is still true, though I can’t feel it so,
That You have made me into
What You Are?
Which clothes are mine in truth:
The righteous gown I wear–cloth
Of Your joy and glory–or
The rags I see upon my form
In the Adversary’s mirror?

3-3-2010

originally published 12 May, 2010 at 23:20 (for those who read it back then *smile*)

“My dear Jesus, my Savior, is so deeply written in my heart, that I feel
confident, that if my heart were to be cut open and chopped to pieces,
the name of Jesus would be found written on every piece.” – St. Ignatius
of Antioch

qtd in NBBC Alumni update 10-22-2007

For this to be true in any heart requires a rewrite of our spiritual DNA! But that’s the beauty of the promise in Jeremiah 31 and in Hebrews 8–God promises to write His law into our very hearts. That’s the promise I love best in Scripture!!!

Oh, every year hath its winter,
And every year hath its rain—
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

When new leaves swell in the forest,
And grass springs green on the plain,
And alders’ veins turn crimson—
And the birds go north again.

Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
And every heart hath its pain—
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

‘Tis the sweetest thing to remember,
If courage be on the wane,
When the cold, dark days are over—
Why, the birds go north again.

~ taken from Streams in the Desert (copyright 1925) October 9

Another September 11 has come and gone. As I wrote the date yesterday, it suddenly hit me what day it was–and what the significance was! September 11 was the day that terrorist attacks became more than just international news; they became part of the American experience.

The thing about terrorist attacks is that they are unreachable and indefatigable. Difficult to pin down, they exhaust you and make you start to wonder if there are other ways to obtain peace. Because that’s what you want–you didn’t want to pick the fight with them; they lashed out at you while you were busy living and letting them live. And as you start wracking your brain for other alternatives, as you try to make sense out of what happened, you start to see their point of view a little more, start to grasp their motives a little better. And then it’s easy for things to become more and more twisted from the effort of trying to make sense out of it all. And then you begin to accept the blame little by little for what happened, hoping that if you come half-way, if you accept your part of the blame, they will admit their part and meet you in the middle. After all, isn’t that how peace comes in normal relationships?

But terrorism is not a normal relationship. And the terrorists are not interested in making peace. They are not going to admit they were wrong. They are not the ones that want peace–you are.

Somewhere along the line we have to realize what forgiving others really means. Forgiveness stems from a recognition of the wrong that has been done to us, not from rationalizing the behavior. Forgiveness has to be firmly grounded in truth. Sometimes the truth may include the fact that the person who wronged us did so unintentionally, but it cannot ignore the wrong! Nor can it ignore the fact that there is a price to be paid for what was done to us. Instinctively we know that the price must be paid, and that’s how we get things twisted–when the other person refuses to acknowledge his wrong, we begin to wonder if perhaps we deserved it all along and then start to think that we are simply paying for our wrongs ourselves. That mindset bears only a small resemblance to the truth and it stops us from truly forgiving and moving on. Instead it makes us a slave to the one that has hurt us and now holds power over us.

It works that way with bullies on playgrounds. Why would it be any different between nations and people groups?

. . . could you just pray for . . . .

My list keeps growing.

That’s a good thing, of course, because it’s one of the ways that as members of the body of Christ we can be a part of what God is doing in each others’ lives. We are told in James 5:16 “Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” And although the Greek word for “faults” is usually used in Scripture to mean ways in which we deviate from truth and righteousness, its fuller Greek meaning is “to fall beside or near something”–to fall short, to not quite be what we need to be, I suppose. In my experience, while we usually share our requests of the first kind with people that we have grown to trust on a deep level, we share our requests of falling short (financially, physically, sometimes relationally, and many more areas besides) with many others that we hope will be most likely to pray!

Prayer is a mystery in so many ways [how we little people can sway the hand of the omniscient Almighty by our little near-sighted requests is a question that probably will never be answered till we see our Savior face-to-face!], but the Bible presents it simply–it says PRAY. Pray knowing that God hears you. Pray realizing that you are still very human (Elijah was very human, and look how God answered him!). Pray believing that God wants to answer you and is indeed answering you. Pray understanding that God does bigger things than we grasp and that the requests we are bringing to Him might require Him to move mountains. Pray like a desperate beggar asks for food. Pray like a trusting little child tells his parents what he wants or needs. Most of all, pray with the certainty that God is better than any other person that there is–He is fully and completely GOOD. He is LOVE. And if our parents give good things to us, won’t He? And if our friends help us out when we are lacking, won’t He?

Yet I am still surprised at the way that the requests have been multiplying on my prayer list lately. The past weeks have become a time of quieting down from the busy state of activity this summer and remembering Who God is and who I am in Him. And they have–without my realizing it–become a time of praying. And of asking others to pray for me and for my requests. And today, as another request came to me, it felt like the Body of Christ was saying “Since you’re praying, could you add this request to your list?” I say it felt like the Body was saying it because no one person who has been handing me requests lately could know that this has become for me a time of praying. But there the request was! Sorta funny! And I am starting to grow curious to see what God is going to do–how He will answer and meet these needs! He already has more than answered our prayers for the safe delivery of my friend’s 8-week-premature baby boy. Maybe when He says “availeth much” He means it!

Funny how God brings things together from different sources! Last week, His topic seemed to be “ministry.” Here are two quotations that He used to get me thinking, two quotations from different sources.

>“The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
~Frederick Buechner (qtd by Richard M. Webster in “Study to Enrich Inquirers and Candidates” Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) From Sunday School class (a study on our calling to ministry as Christians)

God is always working where the world’s deep hungers are located. Sometimes they’re buried very deeply, but He knows just how deeply they’re buried. I want to be where He is, doing what He created me to love doing.

> “Ministry is only an outward manifestation of our relationship to God.  Without the relationship, ministry is just dust.  With it, ministry is gold.”
~
from an e-mail to me by a friend and former teacher, Jody Wong

I love this quotation the most. Sometimes when ministries change, we start to feel that perhaps we have made God unhappy with us or feel as though our closeness to Him is dependent upon what we are doing for Him. Over this past year, He has been showing me that my relationship to Him is the thing that will always go deeper than any ministry.

Last night was a night that–although not bad, not tragic, not melodramtic even–left me thirsty. I wasn’t even sure what I was thirsty for at first. Milk didn’t do the trick. Airborne (the hotcider version yuk!) definitely didn’t. When I found myself disappointed that I had recently finished a childhood favorite book and started reaching for another, I realized what I was thirsty for.

O God, thou [art] my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; ~ Psalm 63:1

“God, I need to be near You tonight. I need You to be near me. I guess basically I just need a hug from You.” And that’s about as far as I got with my nightly Bible reading before I fell asleep in my chair. Waking up about an hour later, I stumbled up to bed. Guess He knew I needed sleep, too. =)

When people talk about hearing God’s voice, it seems as though it’s going to be something either audible or mysterious or both. And I admit that sometimes I have wished He would just thunder out of heaven His instructions for me or that He would have a bush burst into flames in my pathway (without setting fire to anything else and without consuming the bush–especially if it’s pretty) and speak to me out of it. But He doesn’t speak that way, and (much to my relief) when He does speak it isn’t mysterious at all, either. It just IS.

Sometimes when He speaks it’s like having a friend or family member that’s humming a tune which gets stuck in my head. Like this morning: when I woke up I had the song “Peace Be Still” by Ron Hamilton going through my head–Peace be still,/ Peace be still./ Hear His words come softly/ Through the storm/ Through the night/ Bringing perfect rest./ When the thunder crashes loudest/ And the waves grow wild and high,/ Jesus hears my cry,/ And He whispers “Peace be still.” [from memory, so I apologize for any errors!]

Sometimes when He speaks it’s like getting a letter or e-mail from a friend that has just exactly the right words in it for the moment I am in–a friend who knows how I think and how to explain things so I understand them. Like a few days ago as I was reading through several Psalms and kept noticing things that had to do with satisfaction. I had asked Him a few days before if it were really truly possible to be filled up rather than empty inside (there are just some days when one feels completely empty! and it seems at those times that one has never really been full, ever). And there were the verses . . . and I understood them and was satisfied.

I don’t know why I am surprised. And in a way I’m not. It’s more that I’m at home in them and amazed that I’m so welcome.  Psalm 32:7 says to God “Thou [art] my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.” [I love the word “Selah.” It means “stop and think about it.” And it makes me laugh with delight to think that poets in Israel used to put it in just like that.] And He HAS been doing just that. I’ve been tired and discouraged, and somehow there’s a song in my mind that reminds me of how much He loves me. I won’t have any clue where it came from (not the radio, not another person); it’s just there! And it will answer perfectly the issue I’m facing. Oh, it won’t tell me the magic combination that will make all troubles vanish: it just reminds me that He is my deliverer after all.

<>Like today. My boss is under a lot of pressure. Totally understandable. But she got mad at me–really mad for . . . I’m still not totally sure if it was me or just a combination of things. I tried to apologize for the confusion I had caused her unintentionally, but she was not ready to hear anything I said. And I was persona non grata for the rest of the time I was at work. I remembered a verse my pastor had shared last night (I don’t even remember why he shared it, but I remember thinking “oh, yeah! that verse! I remember that one!”):Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.  I Peter 3:9

But I saw no way to do it, not if any words I said would be brushed away like so many snowflakes. I prayed that I would be able to speak words before I left that would bless her. And then I remembered the verse about praying for those who despitefully use you. So I thought, “I can at least pray a blessing on her.” And I started to do that. [Please don’t take this as me being “holy and always kind” and all of that rot! I was shaking on the inside and a little ready to run and a little angry myself because I was only trying to help! And I felt like hiding in a corner and didn’t even know how to look her in the face anymore–ok, there’s the melodrama in my nature coming out =P] And before I left, she was ready to talk. She was able to tell me how she needs me to communicate with her and why she was so frustrated. I don’t know if she heard my explanation, but it doesn’t really matter. What is really cool is that I had the chance to bless her, to tell her that even if she decides this job is not for her, I’m glad I have gotten to work with her. And I think she heard that. Maybe. But I got my chance.

He’s doing it. He really is. Compassing me about like He said He would.

I’m a little flabbergasted.

*flabbergasted vs. awestruck: flabbergasted is what happens after the awe has struck =)

“You need to blog again,” they said. I guess it’s about time.
But literally, this post is about time. As the saying goes, “time is money.” And it literally is . . . that is, unless you’re salaried =) When you’re not salaried, you think twice about taking time off of work. An hour off of work is an hour of lost revenue for you.
And how valuable is my time anyway? Setting prices for my tutoring services is always difficult for me–I don’t really have much of a head for money.
So, God has been teaching me these last couple years that He can provide for me monetarily. There have been (and still will be, I’m sure) some more than close calls and some worries and even some tears. But I can look into my heart and see that the seed of faith has at least sprouted there when it comes to money.
Now I just need some more time. There’s really never enough.
And I wonder: if time and money are really so closely related, could God provide time as He provides money? Of course He could! He’s God. But would He?
I’m still asking Him this one. Don’t know the answer yet. Maybe I’ll keep you posted on it . . .
 . . . if I have the time.
=)

When I was a kid, rosettes were my favorite cookie to make. Mom made them especially at Christmastime. It’s been more years than I can count since I made them, but I can still recall the fascination they always held for me. Mom heated oil in a frying pan and mixed up the thin, sweet batter; then she dipped the rosette mold (a flower-shaped piece of iron on a long handle) into the batter to coat its lower half and quickly inserted the mold–batter and all–into the oil. The hot oil immediately fried the batter in the shape of the mold, allowing Mom to lift the mold entirely out of the flower-shaped cookie and leave it to cook, floating in the hot oil until it was a beautiful golden-brown. We would lift the cookies out onto a stack of paper towels in order to remove the ecxess grease before dusting them with powdered sugar. They were the prettiest and most delicate cookies I had ever seen. I loved them!

Like rosettes, peace seems brittle. Sweet, beautiful, fascinating, but delicate. Breathe on it and it is gone like the miniature snowflake on your sleeve. Try to preserve it and it becomes rancid like old french fries (or old resettes, for that matter). So God’s gift that Christmas night of peace on earth seems not only rather unrealistic, but also a bit impractical. Yet it is definitely not a white-elephant gift. Everyone wants it.

One of the most famous Christmas songs of all time is the most peaceful: “Silent Night” by Joseph Mohr, given its perfect musical setting by Franz Gruber. The song’s story goes that it was composed and performed upon the grand occasion of the church’s organ being out of commission. Now, anyone familiar with Christmas programs and Christmas services knows how stressful losing the church’s main instrument can be–how stressful any glitch can be! Yet from that rather inconvenient situation has come a song capturing the peace of Christmas like no other song does. Listen:

Silent night! holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and mild–
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav’nly hosts sing aleluia–
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night! holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace–
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

The songs is so gentle, lulling us to restful contemplation. But as I ponder that first Christmas, as I ponder the Christmas story, I see that not everything was still, not everything was hushed. The city being so crowded, how could it be still and at peace? Tensions must have been higher than normal. How could Joseph’s mind not have been churning with the problem of where in the world they would live until the census was over? Childbirth being so full of anguish and pain, how could Mary have been silent? A sky full of angels, how could it have been peaceful? How could one’s heart not have beat wildly after being surprised in such a manner as the shepherds were? Silent night? Did I miss what Mohr and Gruber saw?

“All is calm, all is bright/ Round yon virgin mother and Child.” I remember walking into my mother’s hospital room shortly after my sister was born. I had skipped school and spent all morning in the waiting room of the hospital until finally Dad came to get me: my sister had been born. There was a stillness, a wonder to that hospital room when I entered it (almost on tiptoe). The pain was over, Mom was exhausted but happy. And she moved gently as she let me see my sister for the first time and then allowed me to hold her. In fact, each time I visited them in the hospital a peacefulness pervaded the room, a peacefulness because all was well . . . and because the baby might be sleeping. All was calm and bright. How could it have been otherwise for that tiny baby and his exhausted mother that night? As the new mother showed her newborn infant to his wondering father and later to the curious shepherds, it could not have been other than peaceful–the peace of happy and successful exhaustion, the peace of proud mother-hood, the peace of infancy.

“Shepherds quake at the sight;/ Glories stream from heaven afar,/ Heav’nly hosts sing aleluia.” What a concert that must have been! I’ve been to good concerts, and I have also been on various stages myself a time or two. While applause is nice to receive, a good performer soon learns to crave silence from his audience, and not just any silence. An attentive silence is so concentrated that a performer can feel the audience frozen in time and place, lost in the story he is weaving. I have heard that silence from audiences, and I have felt that expectant stillness myself. I, too, have had my times of sitting silent after the house lights come back on, awed and overwhelmed by the power of the performance I have just seen or heard, pondering the thoughts it has placed in my grasp. Picture the hillside after the heavenly curtain has fallen again and the aerial show is over: wouldn’t you have sat in silence, not wanting to break the wonderful stillness of the moment?

But those moments seem so fragile. The stillness must be broken eventually: the shepherds have to speak, have to move, have to go check out this amazing news the angels gave them; the baby Jesus, like other babies the world over, will cry for the various reasons babies cry. The peace can’t last. Was God’s gift of peace to the world as insubstantial as the rosettes we used to make at Christmas time–beautiful to look at but certainly not known for longevity?

“Love’s pure light/ Radiant beams from Thy holy face/ With the dawn of redeeming grace.” Perhaps beyond the ordinary stillnesses, a different kind of peace was embedded in that night, a peace more beautiful, more realistic, more substantial, more satisfying than those natural yet fragile ones described in the first two stanzas; a peace I have glimpsed like a hummingbird out my window; a peace I have tasted but not grasped; a peace I want more of. It’s the peace that comes from God Himself, from seeing His face and knowing that everything is as it should be between us.

God’s Word, in Philippians 4:7, aptly dubs it the peace “which passeth all understanding.” I heard it described at a New Year service in which people were given the opportunity to give testimonies of how God had helped them through the year. One couple spoke of living life after a devastating house fire. The wife spoke of the first night after the fire and of the peace inside which, in the face of loss and devastation, whispered to her, “Let’s see what God is going to do with this.” And I recognized something about this incomprehensible peace, something I have been learning but having trouble putting into words: this peace comes with a built-in sense of adventure! Somehow it can look trouble in the face and see it as a ride at an amusement park. This peace is not a fragile flower; it’s tough as rope. It makes absolutely no sense at all as it grins in the face of adversity. No, it’s not a bitter grimace nor a starry-eyed smile. It’s a grin, an infectious grin that’s like a rainbow through the tears. And it enables the possessor to rest–to “sleep in heavenly peace,” something that seems impossible at first.

So, how does one get it? And how does one keep it? Well, to answer the second question, we don’t keep it–it keeps us. Philippians 4:7 goes on to promise that it will “keep [or guard] our hearts and minds.” It’s an active, strong peace, stronger than we are. How do we get it? That one is just as easy and yet infinitely more difficult to answer. We get it from God. We get it, Philippians tells us, by pouring out our hearts to Him, letting Him have all the things that we are worried over or concerned by or angry about or longing for. John 13-15 says that as we do this we must allow Christ’s words to become part of us, expecting that He will answer those longings. That part isn’t so easy. In fact, it seems almost an impossibility that we will ever have enough of His words within us to purchase His gift of peace. Bother! So much for that thought, nice though it was.

That’s the difficulty: peace involves trust. And trust comes from love. I have been re-reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. And the marvel to me is that my favorite chapter, the chapter that moves me most, is the one about her time in a German extermination camp. As she and her sister lived through those days of hell on earth, their confidence in the love of God shines, beams out in defiance of all horror, radiates in the face of evil itself. There’s a peace on those pages that I want in my life. A beautiful, yet unbreakable peace.

It comes from knowing God, from knowing His love. Not from loving Him–oh, no! How many people have we loved and yet feared that our love was unrequited? How many times have our hearts been broken by insensitivity, ingratitude, betrayal? No, loving God cannot bring us peace. Only being loved by Him can. Just as we rest and relax the best in the places we feel safe, just as we feel safe in the presence of those who love us, we will only have heavenly peace when we know the love of Christ, a love “which passeth knowledge.”

How can we know something that’s too big to fit into our minds? Can a child fully understand his father’s love? Can he completely grasp the arms that encircle him? Does he really care that the arms are bigger than he is? Of course not! That’s what makes him feel so safe. We never outgrow that need for love. God’s love is the only love that will always satisfy that child we carry within us forever. That’s why He calls us His children.

Hungry for some peace? It starts here: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

“Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.”

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see That without dust the rainbow would not be. ~ Langston Hughes

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