Friday, August 31, 2007
Oh man, oh man
I am a pathetic coward.
But I am healing, heavy
under the fragrant weight of mercy -
for words spoken, promises broken,
conversations averted, open doors ignored.
Unclean creatures caught tragically
among unclean others
soon, swiftly turn for familiar.
Freedom escapes and vernacular is tangible
what is left needs redemption
can these things be forgiven -
these repeat offenses?
the same voice stuck always
when its throat should sing the eruption
of song on the hazy horizon,
but glory well
eyes set, jaw determined in a steady line
the words need said
to defend, clarify, and define
the glory made flesh
but please don't mind my mind.
Fear crouches dangerous and
clings the edges of Truth,
making fuzzy the path
and curious the question
Oh, but the effort is so great;
the community meets
conversation of confusion
the Holy One is not pleased by
not impressed by feet soft tread
He is glorified
in life, in death,
in good, in evil,
in perfection, in failure
how foolish a coward.
how foolish a coward.
Monday, August 13, 2007
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
Lord, You are.
Lord, I will.
I'll start by loving on Austin. I have been welcomed, loved, and throughly made a part of the community here in Austin. It's kind of a funny town (well, if you are where I come from Austin is more of a metropolis!) - people still act as though there are only 250,000 people when the reality is they've passed 750,000 and are still growing!
In any case, I've quickly grown to love the hot, sticky days, the availability of tacos and empanadas at every hour, and the agreement amongst Austinians to be surprised at nothing. Within two weeks of my arrival I had found a church and attended its membership class, found a place to live, visited a Bible study, enjoyed lunches 'out' courtesy of my co-workers, and attended an Irish play. How wonderful!
Here's an excerpt from my journal on July 16, four days after I'd arrived:
Well, I've arrived, moved in, wandered, explored, got lost, been awkward, found my way... and I'm now sipping White Peony tea by a small bubbling fountain under a white-spotted sky. How have I found myself here? What a bizarre turn of events that landed me so far from anything familiar. Yesterday I was challenged to think about what the ALSOs are in my life (I need/desire Christ and ALSO___). This, sadly, is a reflection of me. I desire with my whole heart to love and serve and bring glory to my Maker ...and I ALSO desire to succeed here...and I ALSO desire a trip to Europe next summer... and I ALSO desire for the students to like me... and I ALSO (insert many more)
Hmm... I struggle with my "alsos," but I understand that Christ suffered for those things - those idols - that continually beg to steal worship that belongs to the Lord! I know that by the power of Christ in me, and nothing else, I can choose to give worship wholly unto the Lord. As I just told a friend - the 'alsos'(or closets) in our lives may not be something we need to ask God to take away, but rather things we need to peel our eyes from and look up to our Savior, the author and perfector of our faith. Yes! This Savior who, for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider CHRIST who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:2-3 paraphrase). These things, these "alsos," attempt to grow us weary and disheartened... but we are blessed to endure! And all the world's "alsos" are a trifle compared to Christ's suffering and the future glory we will see.
I've been reading in Acts (an ongoing affair I only just finished up) and came upon chapter 19. Paul was in Ephesus teaching about the Holy Spirit and blessing the disciples there. His teaching infuriated some, who argued against the Way, but Paul kept right on preaching - TWO years he preached until all in the province of Asia had heard the Word of the Lord (8-10). Can you imagine?
God was healing people and curing diseases through his servant Paul - amazing! The people were amazed too - some Jews went about trying to drive out demons in the name of Jesus. "One day the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?'"(Acts 19:15) The evil spirit jumped out onto them, overpowered them, and sent them running naked and bleeding. The name of the Lord was then greatly feared throughout their land - people came forward and confessed their evil deeds.
"Jesus I know and I know about Paul, but who are you?"
They were right to be afraid - and no more than we should live with holy fear today. I praise God that I know I am His, but I kept hearing that question "...but who are you?" I thought about it when my actions did not reflect a holy fear for my Savior.
I pray that I will not become calloused, but tender towards the Almighty God, who for His glory offered grace to me.
All the alsos will fade like flowers in the dripping, Austin heat, but the breath of the Lord is a strong and mighty wind that evokes holy fear from all of creation.
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
I was driving home tonight after a couple frustrating hours and I realized how easy it is to dwell on the things gone wrong. I realize this is not an epiphany that startles many (I am just slow). But, driving home in my metal box with hands clenched to the shuddering steering wheel, I realized that the immeasurable and unimaginable things God is capable of are exactly not what I could hope.
When we think of "things beyond our imaginations" we think of unprecedented good things, falling from heaven like magnificent Christmas miracles wrapped in the magic of angeldust. Okay, maybe that's what comes to my mind, but I am just adding color and pictures to what (I think) most feel and hope. Far be it from me to attempt to know, explain, or even guess at how the work of blessing comes about in the mind of our Creator...(of course I foolishly continue)... I think I have pushed my assumptions about what the Lord has waiting for me, in hopes of realizing some magical, inexplicable blessings. Though I can't contemplate what God has already said is past our bounds, I can meditate on the words of Scripture to seek wisdom.
In Acts 9, God chose Saul to be His instrument (9:15) to spread the Gospel to the Jews (who he had previously been persecuting) and to the Gentiles. When Ananias, the servant God commanded to meet Saul, questioned the Lord this was His reply, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name" (9:15-16).
And so I think about that. This blessing - far, far, far beyond what Saul could have possibly asked for or imagined. In fact, he did not even know how to imagine something like this, from a God he scarcely understood and from a religion he vehemently opposed. To suggest such a scenario prior to his experience was the very reason he was, "breathing out murderous threats" (Acts 9:1).
I am not a scholar, far from. But, it seems to me very simple - this business of blessing and good things and being a child of God. All good things do come from above, yes (James 1:16-18). But I must understand my own definition of good. I associate certain expectations and assumptions with the words 'good' and 'gift'. Among those associations there is no reference to: shipwreck, starvation, persecution, imprisonment, physical and verbal abuse... the list of trials afflicting God's chosen instrument goes on and on. Paul explained in his letter to the Philippians (4), that he learned the secret to living in any situation: Christ. The Lord told Ananias, "I will show him (Saul) how much he must suffer for my name." And even as Paul's situation looks most dire he is writing the church at Philippi to REJOICE. He is sharing the secret to that joy and contentment: the good and perfect gift of Jesus Christ. The Lord gave His Son to the world - a gift that would be marred with stripes and heavy with the burden of a world's iniquities. This gift is beyond good - and beyond any superlative I could substitute. In the same way that we cannot imagine how the Lord will bless, we cannot begin to understand the goodness of our Savior.
The selfish compromise - the sin of our humanity - has made necessary our understanding of 'gift' to be in light of a greater, future glory (Romans 8:16-25). There is so, so much more here! We, the children of God, are groaning with creation as we await our adoption and the redemption of our bodies. A restless heart, indeed!
And so, I sigh and know that I can be at peace. For the LORD, Maker of heaven and earth, holds me in His palm. Though failure stretches across my past and present like a dreadful scar, the LORD hears my groans and gives blessed hope (Romans 8:24-25). And I will struggle in perseverance as I wait eagerly for what I do not see, toward that which cannot be explained, because I know. I know that my Redeemer lives!
and I am brimming with thankfulness that His plans are exactly not what I can imagine