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for Miffy ūüôā
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Mark 11:23-25 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

9-1-2012

“You don’t have to climb the whole mountain at once.” His voice beside her made her jump. She’d been so intent on the mountain, she hadn’t heard His approach.

“Huh?” she said a little stupidly.

He replied with an amiable chuckle. “You’ve been staring at the mountainside above us for at least half an hour, trying to find the way¬†up¬†it or¬†over¬†it or¬†through it or¬†around¬†it. Just like you have¬†every single time we’ve paused to rest or camp. All I said was that you don’t have to climb the mountain all at once.”

She stared at Him, trying to find her way through the new idea He’d presented her with. “But I can’t live my life freely unless the unforgiveness no longer looms in my way. I mean, until I can successfully surmount this obstacle, I can’t properly love the people You’ve put in my life to love.”

She stared back at the mountain, and He let her puzzle over it a bit more on her own.

“Are you saying that total and complete forgiveness is too big a project to complete all at once? That somehow . . . ” she trailed off but looked at Him hopefully (hoping He’d caught enough of this question she didn’t quite have words for).

“When you have to tackle the peak, you’ll be able to. But you’re not there yet,” He threw an arm around her shoulders and they stood together looking up at the peaks ahead and above them.

I’m just so tired of its shadow being everpresent and not knowing what to do to surmount it,” she said softly. “I’ve done all I know to do, and the bulk of it is still there.”

He squeezed her shoulders. “Just do what you know to do,” He said. “You’ll stand on your high places one of these days.”

“Scout’s honor?” she asked teasingly.

He shook his head in mock solemnity. “Guide’s¬† honor,” He said.

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*Mountain Guides: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_guide
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Note: this sketch is one that came to mind a few years ago when wrestling with some of the feelings and questions that come with forgiveness. In talking through the topic of forgiveness in Bible study today, this sketch came to mind as we were discussing the way forgiveness is not only a choice but also a process.

Love (III)
by George Herbert


Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.

 

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?

 

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat.

poem is in the public domain
text taken from poets.org (http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/love-iii)
and (http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poem/173632)

 

and Ralph Vaughn-Williams set it to music! a bit operatic, but if you like Vaughn-Williams . . .

 

Jesus, I need
Your arms and blessing
Enfolding and securing me
So I can remember
What it is
To be a little child

God reminded me of a piece by Elisabeth Elliot in The Music of His Promises and it was what I needed to remember in my busy day . . .

God can make room for it all–
Responsibilities, concerns, tasks–
I had forgotten to ask.

I was pondering these verses at the end of February when life’s activities suddenly blossomed. Take the “how” as a how-to question, not the “how can you ask this of me” kind of question.

“Isaiah 30:15-16”

How can I keep from running
When activity bombards my day,
When adrenaline rises to meet each need
And sleep wanders far, far away?
How can I keep from running
When there’s suddenly so much to do?
Is there something I’ve missed?
Or some new key to this
Task of finding my rest in You?

(found in one of my journals as I was browsing today)
Monday, February 9, 2004

A beggar at the gate, I come
knocking, waiting, head slumped
On breast, worn out yet work never done.

But yesterday I was maiden fair,
damsel, waiting, eyes searching
For a champion, someone to take my cares.

Now, today, I am a serf,
menial, waiting, knowing
My desserts are found on meaner tables.

So, why do I even bother knocking?

Why are beggars beggars? A lack, a need, even at times, a want. Beggared by circumstance–a wound, a disease, a fire that takes livelihood and all–or beggared by self–inability to keep ourselves afloat, we let go of the dignity of self-reliance and we ask, then we beg.
What do beggars beg for? A crust, a crumb, a bone. Anything to keep themselves alive. Dare they ask for more? A seat at the table? a full plate? Dare I ask–tonight–for sustenance and MORE? I have nothing to pay for it. Idiot that I am, I spent my last doit on other things–some worthless, I suspect. But my meagre salary could never hope to buy a prince’s place at the king’s table. What am I thinking?

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*)

In the bitter waves of woe
Beaten and tossed about
By the sullen winds that blow
From the desolate shores of doubt,
Where the anchors that faith has cast
Are dragging in the gale,
I am quietly holding fast
To the things that cannot fail.

And fierce though the fiends may fight,
And long though the angels hide,
I know that truth and right
Have the universe on their side;
And that somewhere beyond the stars
Is a love that is better than fate.
When the night unlocks her bars
I shall see Him–and I will wait.

~Washington Gladden

My Grandma (the one I live with) has a wonderful theory about cinnamon: she heard somewhere that it is very beneficial to our health, so she tries to find things that contain cinnamon to eat or drink or else she adds a little extra cinnamon to thing that already have cinnamon in them. It’s a joke at our house that we can eat sweet things (such as pie or cookies or candy) because they have cinnamon in them and cinnamon is good for us.

One of the things that cinnamon is supposed to do for us it to stop the sniffles. My first reaction to this news was one of slight disbelief; but if Grandma’s theory is correct, I have the “cure for the common sniffles”: snickerdoodles, lots and lots of snickerdoodles! Snickerdoodles are such fun cookies! Even the name sounds fun. And making them is fun: take small balls of dough (containing cinnamon, of course), roll them around in a cinnamon and sugar mixture to coat them really well, and then put them in the oven to bake. When they come out and are done to perfection, these cookies are a little crunchy on the outside and a little soft on the inside. So good! They REALLY keep me coming back for more. And if Grandma’s theory is correct, they will keep away the sniffles, too. Grandma has tried taking extra cinnamon when she has the sniffles, and she has found that it works. Why not give cinnamon cookies a try when the common cold comes your way? (I know, the sugar content would probably conflict with the medicinal properties of the cinnamon, but still . . . )

There are few things more annoying that getting the sniffles: being in the middle of something and suddenly needing to dive for the box of tissues does not help productivity very much. Looking at life, it seems that sniffles plague us more than just in the cold season. O. Henry, the famous short-story writer, made this comment about life in his story “The Gift of the Magi” when his female character collapses into tears over something: “Which [action] instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.” I agree that life seems to bring sniffles up an awful lot; sometimes even when we are laughing, we are hiding a sniffle or two. Not that we spend our lives blubbering about the hard lot we have been given; no, we try to face things as bravely as we can, knowing that life is not fair and that we should not expect it to be. Still, we can’t really help the sniffles.

But what is there for solving the sniffles of everyday life? If–as O. Henry suggests–sniffles lead the statistics of our lives, eating cinnamon cookies for such a frequent amount of sniffles will add weight problems to the woes of the heart. Is there a balm for them?

There is. It’s an unlikely one–as unlikely as eating cinnamon for common sniffles. But it gives promise of truly working.

A King.

Now THAT sounds preposterous. Any American can tell you that a king is not necessary for a nation to work properly. And gone are the days of Britain’s autocratic kings. Who needs a king? Not us. We don’t need a dictator to run our lives, and we don’t need a figurehead to take all the credit. So the words of this Christmas carol have a hard time making sense to us.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders of His love.

~Isaac Watts

Isaac Watts is not describing a weak figurehead king here. His king has power–power to bring about changes. Look at the things He can do: send His blessings on everyone, reverse the effects of the curse, rule the entire world (notice there’s no mention of bureaucracy here–He is the One ruling, not His government), and prove His love to the world through the way He treats the nations. That’s power! And, to be honest, sometimes we long for that power to be seen in our lives. Having the curse reversed would be wonderful; and if blessings are being served out, pass me a generous helping! Also, I agree that it would be nice for the world to be full of love rather than hatred. Maybe I do need a king. I certainly wish for someone sometimes who will step in and make the decisions that seem impossible for me to make, someone who will pull out the necessary resources when mine are running dry, someone who has influence over others when I am getting a raw deal or do not know how to communicate with them. Yes, a king would be nice. A king looking out for my interests would definitely cure the sniffles.

But does it have to be a king? Giving someone else the reins of power is more than a little disconcerting! Put this thought in everyday shoes: we want advice from people, but we hate it when they step in to try to run our lives–we want to make the ultimate decisions (esp. since we are responsible to live with those decisions once they’re made); we want others to listen to our troubles, but we are terrified of what they might do about those problems–we want their help and we don’t want their intereference all at the same time. We have a relative amount of control over our own lives; we know what we are thinking before we do it; we know how we hope that things turn out. We don’t know these things about others. We have no control over them, well, very little. We may do our best to manipulate others or dominate them in order to get what we think we want, but those who refuse to be dominated or manipulated scare us. In our experience, a loss of personal control can lead to MORE sniffling rather than less. Is it worth giving up control just to have what a king can do for us? ummmm . . . pass the Kleenex, please!

But the price is joy.

And we don’t really have much of it. We find our hearts getting hardened and numb, and we walk through life in a half-fog, just trying to survive. We are more than fully aware of the curse, seeing its blight on our lives everywhere we look, especially when we look inside. It’s scary to realize the evil we are capable of and overwhelming to see the wounds we suffer from. And the worst part is knowing that really there’s little we can do about the problems within us anymore than we can control the circumstances around us. Our small measure of control is just that: small. Maybe we do need a king after all. We don’t want one, but we need one. We need one badly.

And to have Him, we are going to have to trust Him. Even though we don’t know what He’s going to do, even though we can’t control Him, we are going to have to open our hearts to allow Him to come in. As Watts wrote, we must “prepare Him room” in our hearts. We can’t keep Him relegated to the stable of our hearts, we have to allow Him to have the throne if He is going to do us the good we so long for Him to do. Watts was writing this song not about the first coming of Jesus–when He came as a baby to be born obscurely, live humbly, and die sacrificially–but about the second coming when He will come to rule the world and to make all things right. The Bible contains many prophesies of what He will do when He rules. All wonderful, all badly longed for, all in the future. But His rule in our hearts does not have to wait that long: it can begin now. And what He wil do for the world someday He promises to do within our hearts today: weed out the thorns and weeds of sin, heal the wounds, make us new. We find it easier to trust someone when we know towards what goal he is heading; has the King not showed us enough of His goal to inspire our trust?

Interesting thing about snickerdoodles: they get hard after a while. As they sit in the cookie jar, the moisture leaves them and they lose their softness. They’re still tasty, but not quite as addicting. Unless they’re dunked in milk. Dipped and held there until the milk has soaked into them through and through. Then they’re delicious. A joyful taste if ever there was one. Preparing our hard hearts for receiving the King is as simple as milk and cookies: it involves soaking in Him, bringing our hearts to His moisture and soaking in it until our hearts are saturated with it. Just soaking.

Happy soaking this holiday season!

From Max Lucado’s book Traveling Light (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001):

“Do you feel a need for affirmation? Does your self-esteem need attention? You don’t need to drop names or show off. You need only pause at the base of the cross and be reminded of this: The maker of the stars would rather die for you than live without you. And that is a fact. So if you need to brag, brag about that.”

Lucado echoes the apostle Paul in Galatians 6:14 where he says “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

To be honest, such boasting is totally and completely unthinkable! How dare I boast that the God who made the stars should love me so very much? That’s akin to saying that Bill Gates is my best friend or that the king of Spain chats with me online every day. Yes, the Bible makes it very very clear that God’s love really is that big, but it’s really not something I can believe easily, especially since human love can’t and won’t and doesn’t fill every need.

It seems audacious to boast of God loving me so much He didn’t want to live without me. So much He would give up His very life for me. It really seems much more humble to boast about my own petty accomplishments. Deep in my heart, I realize they’re petty. In fact, that’s part of why we boast, isn’t it: to raise ourselves off of the dirt floor where the superiority of others has cast us? And so we boast, feeling that others view us as inferior, trying to give ourselves an “ego boost” (sounds like an add-in at a smoothie shop: “I’ll take an immunity boost, an energy boost, and an ego boost in mine, please.”).

Reading Lucado’s words, I realize that I’ve never really understood Paul’s ability to boast in the cross before. What kind of boasting is that? Doesn’t it sound a bit heartless to the rest of the world to tell about something that they don’t have and might never be able to obtain–a love like that? And if they could obtain it, wouldn’t it make my possession of such love less significant? I’ve wondered about how in the world the apostle John could have the presumption to call himself “the disciple Jesus loved”–didn’t that cheapen the relationship the others had with Jesus? Wasn’t that a slap in the face to them and their relationships with Him? And if I were to boast in such love, I would be sure to find out very quickly that someone else has more of His love to boast about.

And so I boast about everything else but the one true possession I have that gives value to my little life, the thing that God has reiterated over and over that no one will ever be able to take from me, the thing that He has promised is mine forever, the one thing that He has given me permission to boast about. Why don’t I boast about it?

I have to believe it first.

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

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