Face the Waiting

We are all waiting.
waiting
For a job.
For a child.
For a result.
For a friend.
We spend, it seems, much of our lives waiting.
waiting
When we are waiting, how do we behave?
We fidget, we fuss, we find a distraction.
Very rarely do we stop and embrace the waiting. Very rarely do we still ourselves and contemplate the waiting.
We often avoid leaning in to the waiting because the moment we stare into the face of our unfulfilled waiting, we are overcome with a strange longing.
For what, we are not sure, but there comes to us a lump in our throat, a tightness in our chest, a blinking away of tears.
And so we turn away. We turn to the diversion rather than to the waiting and believe ourselves to be satisfied.
Until we catch another glimpse of the waiting and discover ourselves to be empty.
Advent is a time for us to practice wrapping ourselves in the unfulfilled waiting.
unfulfilled waiting
It is a time for us to practice waiting well.
What does waiting well look like?
It means an active waiting, one that works toward what we are waiting for, just as a gardener waits for his crop of lettuce.
It means a patient waiting, a waiting that trusts in the sure coming of what we are waiting for, just as an astronomer waits for his star to rise.
Returning to our gardener friend who is waiting for his lettuce, it is a waiting that is peaceful, trusting that the waiting is purposeful, that the end depends upon the means.
This is Advent.
waiting well
It is a time for us to still ourselves and gaze straight into our waiting, knowing that even as He came once before, so will He come once again. Knowing that even as He will come again someday, so also does He come to us right now, in little ways, all throughout this in-between time.
In Advent we choose to practice the discipline of bidding welcome to our unfulfilled waiting,
knowing that in the proper time,
our waiting will be fulfilled.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019

 

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Three Thanksgiving Meditations

thanksgiving
A writer friend invited several of us to team up with her and create something new. She challenged us to try a new form of prose or poetry to meditate on what it means to give thanks, thanksgiving as a form of worship, and how to give thanks in a time of suffering.
I am so pleased with how it all turned out and would like to invite you to come and read each writer as they give thanks in a new way.
Click here to read more.
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The Image of God Made Flesh

The image of God.
image of God
Placed in this world, to show this world who their ruler is, who God is.
On the sixth day, on a Friday, in the image of God, He created them.
And after that, He rested. Pleased with the completion of His work.
Yet the image abandoned their role, turned their backs on the Original of their imagery, rebelled against their King, causing all of creation to break in rebellion.
rebel image
The image of God.
image of God
Placed anew in this world, the Word became flesh, to live among us and show this world who their ruler is, who God is.
On another Friday, another sixth day, the perfect image is shown to the people and proclaimed to be The Man.
perfect image
The image of the King is placed in the world to show the world their true ruler, and all his rebellious subjects can do is cry out for His death.
All of creation, from the accusations of the leaders to the sharp bits of thorn drawing blood, is in rebellion against Him.
And what does the image of God do, when placed in the world to dwell among the rebels?
Not come sweeping in like a general, blazing a path through the rebel leaders in a swath of well-deserved destruction.
The image of God, instead, gives Himself up completely to His rebel creation out of obedience to God the Father.
Behold the man.
Behold the man
This is the true image of our God, the “living, loving, bruised, and bleeding God.”
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

The idea for this post, and the quote at the end, came from N. T. Wright’s study of John.

Art credits: Adam and Eve in the Earthly Paradise by Johann Wenzel Peter; Adam and Eve Expelled from the Garden from The Story of the Bible; The Adoration of the Shepherds by Charles Le Brun; Behold the Man by Heinrich Hofmann; The Three Crosses by Rembrandt

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Why I Offer My Heart

We are all walking wounded.

wounded

 

wounded

 

We have all been hurt. We have all been rejected. We have all offered our hearts only to have them thrust back into our faces.
Why in the world, why in this crazy, angry world would we continue to offer what no one seems to want? Why would we Jesus-followers want to keep risking our hearts when we seem to receive so much hurt in return?

offer

 

Why would we, as a regular part of our God-life, continue to make ourselves vulnerable, holding out our hearts in cupped hands, when so often the result is more bruising, more cuts, more places that will not heal?
Why?
Because this is what God did.
This is why.
God continually offers Himself to us, regardless of what we will do with Him. He offers us His heart.

heart

 

heart

 

God continues to offer what we don’t seem to want. He risks Himself and often receives hurt from us in return. He continues to make Himself vulnerable, holding out His heart to us and all the while we simply thrust it back into His face.
While we were still sinners. While we were God’s enemies.

God's heart

 

That was when He offered up His heart on a cross.
And that is why we continue to offer our own hearts, why I continue to offer my heart to you in this space, to make ourselves vulnerable so that we can form the sort of community, the sort of Church that demonstrates to the piece of world around us the immense and vulnerable way in which God loves.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

art credit: painting of Christ Crucified by Velazquez, all other photographs copyright Made Sacred

edited from the archives

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Deep Love in the Darkness

Deep love.
deep love
Deep love turning scumbag into son, derelict into daughter.
Deep love transforming stone into flesh, filth into snow.
It is beyond my comprehension, this love, a love that covers a thousand sins and yet refuses to leave me sinful.
It is a promise of restoration, this love, a hope of lasting joy, a covenant of the very Presence Himself.
deep love in the dark
What of the times I am fumbling through the dark? The times the pain engulfs my heart, the sorrow blinds my soul, the ugliness of this world threatens to destroy all that I hold dear?
What of the times when I, seemingly alone, cannot catch even the faintest whiff of Him?
It has happened before and it will happen again that I feel deserted.
Alone.
Forsaken.
My God, my God!
It brings to mind another cry. Another forsaking. Another time of searing loss as the Father turns His face away.
Yet this time it was not only a feeling but a truth. A forsaking for a time in order for me, for you, for us to never be truly forsaken.
deep love proven
Deep love that took Him to the cross.
Deep love that took my filth upon Himself, that felt the greatest of all absences so that the Father would never turn away from me.
Those times when I am fallen in the dark?
Deep love is still surrounding me, still transforming me, still giving me Himself.
I can trust in His deep love.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art Credits: When the King Came by George Hodges; photograph of wooden statue by Asta Kr

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For Which Freedom Are You Fighting?

Freedom is tremendously important to us Americans.
Freedom for Americans
We live for freedom, fight for freedom, die for freedom.
We want the freedom to do what we want, be what we want, have what we want.
Freedom is tremendously important to us Christians as well.
Freedom for Christians
Yet…is this the same sort of freedom? Is the freedom lauded by our culture the same freedom valued by our Christ?
We often seem to tangle them all up together, believing that in fighting for freedom for Americans (or, in our more altruistic moments, for people in other cultures as well) we are also fighting for the kind of freedom we are gifted in Christ.
This is a dangerous entanglement to make. The two are not at all the same, and in the erroneous belief that we are fighting for something valued by God we often do more harm than good.
The freedom that we Americans value is the freedom to choose. More than that, freedom is the expansion of choice.
The freedom granted to us by God, however, is the freedom to choose the good. It is the freedom to flourish as humans, to become the sort of creature we were created to be by a wise, loving, and good Creator.
Freedom is the ability to choose to love God – free from love of the created thing, from being enslaved to the material, from fear of losing. ~ Thomas Merton
The freedom of our culture is the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want, regardless of the consequences.
Freedom to become a wreck
It is like a train weary of running along the tracks, longing to be free to speed through open fields of wildflowers. The moment that train leaves its tracks, it is, I suppose, free – free to be a complete wreck.
The freedom of Christ is the freedom to choose discipline and self-control, the ability to be changed by the work of the Spirit in cooperation with our own choices into the image of Jesus.
Take music as an example.
Freedom to become a musician
The world’s freedom tells me that I can be a pianist any time I like. I have the freedom to sit down at a piano, to be free of any kind of training or practice, and press the keys in whatever way I desire. The world would tell me that I am making beautiful music.
True Freedom
Yet no one would sit and listen to my concert for long.
The freedom that God offers, however, gives me the freedom to choose training and discipline, hours and months and years of practice, following the rules of music theory as I learn to play in the way the Master desires. This is the music that brings people to their feet in wild applause.
The truth shall set you free is not the kind of freedom that is valued by our culture. Truth has a way of narrowing, not expanding our choices.
You are certainly free to choose which version of freedom you fight for: the American version that offers ever-increasing choices until we are left with nothing by which to delineate among our options, or the version offered by Christianity that illuminates the path leading to human flourishing and perfection.
Just do not confuse the one with the other.
It could lead to some truly frightful music.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Credit: storybook page taken from the children’s book Tootle

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Is There an Objective Good?

Does objective good exist?
objective good
Is there anything that is good in itself, good because of some inherent value rather than for some practical value, or is this only a chimera we pursue in vain?
inherent value
If what is good becomes only what is practical or what pleases me, then freedom becomes only a matter of doing whatever I want. Perhaps with a qualification of “as long as it does not hurt others” tacked on to the end. Freedom becomes a chasing after my own desires.
C. S. Lewis warns against a culture deciding that there is no objective good, that there is no definition of the good that exists outside of ourselves. He writes in Abolition of Man that “when all that says ‘it is good’ has been debunked, what says ‘I want’ remains.
Madeleine L’Engle writes in A Circle of Quiet that “Our country in general assumes that ‘the pursuit of happiness’ really means ‘the pursuit of pleasure’ and that therefore pleasure is the greatest good.Here, however, is the lie: We believe that if we decide objective good to be a myth, we are then free to choose. We are free to pursue our own desires.”
The truth, however, is that rather than being free to do what we want, we instead become enslaved to our own passions and desires. If there is no standard of goodness toward which we should aim, we only become bundles of desires, chasing after the next craving with no strength to resist and rest.
If, however, there is a good that is inherent in the fabric of reality, then freedom is the freedom to choose that good. Freedom is the ability to control our passions and desires by aiming them toward what is good.
freedom to choose good
Freedom is the cellist who has the skill and strength to weave her music into the whole, creating a beautiful song with the other instruments around her, pursuing a something that all would agree is intrinsically good.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art Credits: Fairy Tales by Jessie Willcox Smith; The Pieta by Michelangelo; Woman at a Table Near a Cello by Carl Holsøe

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We Are Witnesses

We are witnesses.
Witnesses
Jesus declared it, and so it must be.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
Not I would like for you to be my witnesses or even I command you to be my witnesses but you will be my witnesses.
We who claim to be Christ-followers, we who carry the very name of Christ, we are His witnesses.
Whether we like or not.
We might be good witnesses.
We might be bad witnesses.
But make no mistake, we are witnesses.
Do you see that verb?
To be
Not you will witness but you will be my witness.
Witnesses
It is a state of being. A way of life. A walking along the Way that communicates the Truth about Life.
You do, of course, have to have witnessed something in order to be a witness.
It is not enough only to have heard about God, we must have experienced Him in order to be a good witness.
‘It is one thing,’ said Henry Suso, ‘to hear for oneself a sweet lute, sweetly played, and quite another thing merely to hear about it.’ And it is one thing, we may add, to hear truth inwardly for one’s very self, and quite another thing merely to hear about it…One word from the lips of the man who has actually heard the lute play will have more effect than a score of sermons by the man who has only heard that it was played. ~ A. W. Tozer
Experience is always better than secondhand.
Witnesses
And what if you have never truly witnessed God, never experienced His Holy Spirit? Or what if it has simply been a very long time?
Go away. Find time, make time to get by yourself. Sit before Him in silence. Wait. Do this over and over, refusing to let go until He lets Himself be known.
It does not have to come in any dramatic way. It mostly, in fact, does not. He was not, after all, in the great wind or the earthquake or the fire.
Most often He comes in the stillness, in the quiet. He comes in the little, in the overlooked. He comes in the still, small voice.
Which is why we must be silent and alone regularly in order to experience Him.
Once you do, however, He will, slow and small change by slow and small change, transform you into the witness He wants you to be.
Whether you even realize it or not.

 

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: The Road to Emmaus by Claes Corneliszoon Moeyaert; Jesus and the Disciples on the Road to Emmaus by Pieter Bruegel the Elder; The Road to Emmaus by Robert Zund

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Glory

Glory

Glory

A glimpse of You which 
Must be veiled lest
We fall blinded on the road.

 

The light which shone
On Moses’ face was
Caught from being with You.

 

You say be still, yet
It often feels as
Though the darkness remains.

 

What is the secret of
Beholding You, of 
Letting You blaze through me?

 

Time, time, and more,
Forty years if even
A day spent with You.

 

All of my time is
Worth giving away for just
A brief moment in fire and cloud.

 

I long for a touch of
Even Your hem, to
Soak and steep in Your

 

Glory.

 

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credit: photo from NASA

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The Way Home to the Father

We are told to follow Jesus, to imitate Him as we live out our God-life here on earth.
We know this, and yet we find it all too easy to skim over the harder parts of His story.
washing feet
Some of the hardest parts to follow, at least for me, are the foot washing and the crucifixion. Yet these are two of the pieces that most embody Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Jesus spent much of His ministry telling the people around Him that His time had not yet come. Now it is the time of Passover and Jesus knew that His time had come. His time had come to leave this world and go to the Father.
What does He do first, now that His time has come? He washes the disciples feet. All of them. Even Judas.
serving
The Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Word who laid aside His glory in order to become a man now lays aside His clothes of fabric in order to wash feet.
He does not wash our feet despite the fact that He is God, but because He is God. This is how He shows us the Father.
This footwashing points us toward the cross, toward the moment when Jesus reveals the depths of the Father’s heart for us. This is who God is: the One who lays down His very life, first in service and then in giving it up completely through death, for His beloved creation.
These events, the footwashing and the crucifixion, are the events that lead Jesus to His time of going to the Father.
They are the events which form the ladder from this world to the Father’s world. They are the acted words the eternal Word must speak. They are the way home that the Son of God must take. ~ N. T. Wright
Why do we think that we can find a different way home to the Father?
deny self
Jesus says, after He has finished washing the feet of the disciples, that He has laid out a pattern for them to follow.
This is so hard. We are so proud and selfish. We proclaim Jesus as Lord and really mean that we have taken up His mantle of lordship within our little piece of the world. We want to rule and to push the serving bit off to the side.
This, however, is not following the pattern Jesus set for us. This is not imitating Him.
Instead, we, too, must lay aside our clothes, our clothes of pride and selfishness, and wash the feet of those given into our care, as the disciples were given into the care of Jesus.
We, too, must lay aside our lives, picking up our cross and dying to ourselves, for those the Father loves.
dying to ourselves
This is our way home to the Father.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: The Washing of the Feet by James Tissot; Jesus Washing the Feet of Peter by Sudharkarbira; Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Francesco Vanni; Jesus Washing the Feet of His Disciples by Albert Edelfelt

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