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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run Like the White Queen

It is so much easier to be a sinner than a saint.
Easier to give in, go along, look to the now.
The world’s goal is easy to see, culture’s race is short to run, while the race set out for us by our Rescuer seems so clouded with uncertainty, so far away from where we are now.
Alice_queen2
Progress in evil was quick and easy…The growth in goodness was so slow, at times so flat, so dull, and like the White Queen one had to run so fast to stay where one was, let alone progress; and there were few men who dared to say they had found God. ~ Elizabeth Goudge
I become so discouraged with my progress. I practice silence for months and find myself just as distracted as in the beginning. I practice gentleness with my children and find myself spewing anger yet again. I practice restraining my tongue with my husband and find myself opening my mouth without even thinking.
Will I ever see fruit come to bear in my life?
Will any of us ever bear the kind of fruit we were created to bear?
Yes. Even when we feel as though we are moving backward, even when we despair of ever getting it right, yes.
How do I know?
God promised.
He promised that He would complete this work begun in us. He promised that He would restore us to the way we were created to be. He promised to remake us into the image of His Son.
We only have to wait and hope.
Hope for what is promised, hope for what will be.
We must discipline ourselves to hope when our lives seem hopeless. We must discipline ourselves to trust that what is promised will be fulfilled. We must discipline ourselves never to despair but to cling to Truth and Love.
Our perfection has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the trustworthiness of the One who loves and is able to keep His promises.
His hands gripping the sides of the stall, he pronounced in words his belief that even for such as he, if he could endure to the end, eventual perfection was not only possible but certain through the grace of God, his conviction that despair was sin. The prayer of words was all he had now. The discipline of words must hold him up until the desert was crossed and the Seraph could sing again. ~ Elizabeth Goudge
Be still and endure. Discipline yourself to hope.
The Seraph will sing again.
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: Alice and the Queen by John Tenniel

Come and See

We all have had, or will have, grief.
grief
Soul-shaking, heart-wrenching, self-shattering grief.
Come and see, we tell Jesus.
Come and see my deepest pain.
pain
Why didn’t You fix this? Why didn’t You stop this before it happened? Why weren’t You here?
Come and see, Mary said after her brother had died.
Come and see where they have laid him.
sorrow
Why didn’t You fix this? Why didn’t You stop this before it happened? Why weren’t You here?
Jesus’ response to Mary is the same response He has to us when we lead Him into our innermost sorrow.
He bursts into tears.
He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. (Isaiah)
suffering
Jesus does not look at us in the middle of our weeping and tell us to cheer up, for He has everything under control.
He does not tell us to get a grip on ourselves and to just trust Him, for heaven’s sake.
There is, rather, the man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief and pain, sharing and bearing it to the point of tears. ~ N. T. Wright
He bursts into tears right along with us, coming into our sorrow and bearing the burden with us.
Come and see, we tell Him.
Come and see where I have suffered my greatest pain.
Come and see, He tells us in reply.
Come and see
Come and see,
and He leads us through our grief into a place of love and peace and resurrection,
a place where He now dwells in the light and glory of a new day.
The new day is dawning; and, though where we live the night can be very dark, and the tears very bitter, there is light and joy waiting not far away. ~ N. T. Wright
Come and see.

 

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.

all photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2019

The Intolerable Longing of Beauty

This surprising, pleasing world is so full of truth, goodness, and beauty.
beauty
Simply to step outside is to be drawn to the idea of a true, good, and beautiful Creator.
Sunlight stirring up the scent of pine trees.
A pang of joy in the sound of brief birdsong.
Creation is a gift, and in pausing to contemplate the gift, we sense the presence of the Giver.
truth
Beauty pulls our hearts straight toward God.
Herein lies a problem.
Beauty stirs up in us a remembrance of how things were, once upon a time.
goodness
A painful contrast to the way things are now.
Beauty awakens a pain in our hearts.
A pain that, often, we do not quite understand.
We do not understand why the sight of beauty produces a tightness in our chest,
a lump in our throat,
a deep desire to turn aside and weep.
longing
We do not understand why the sight of beauty produces a deep discontent with the world all around.
Sometimes this almost unbearable longing causes us to turn away, to shut ourselves off from this feeling we do not quite understand.
Beauty awakened such intolerable longing that people often shut their eyes to it, unaware that the longing was the greatest treasure that they had, their very lifeline, uniting the country of their lost innocence with the heavenly country for which their sails were set. ~ Elizabeth Goudge
This intolerable longing is our tether to what will be again someday. It is what keeps our whole selves aimed toward our telos, our ultimate goal, a vision of heaven and earth made new again.
This longing is what brings us back again and again to this Jesus-path toward restoration and renewal.
intolerable longing
This longing is what keeps our hearts awake to the very presence of the Creator who will once again craft all things into a work of beauty.
Even us.
It will be a lasting beauty, this time, unmarred by the ugly that currently plays a jarring counterpoint all through our world.
longing
Don’t shut your eyes to the beauty of this world.
Be still, rather, with the intolerable longing it awakens in you.
Then pray for the return of the Giver who will make all things new.
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: photographs of light through trees, mountains, and rapids by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019