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

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

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

Hunger

I hunger for You
Hunger
Hunger
or, perhaps,
I want to hunger for You.
If only I could catch a glimpse.
Hunger
Hunger
I don’t ask for much.
I don’t place myself at the level of Moses,
do not request the sight of Your back.
Only a glimpse of Your heel,
the hem of Your robe,
perhaps.
Would that stir my heart toward hunger?
Would a glimpse whet my appetite for You?
Only for a shining moment, I fear.
Hunger
I know myself, know how quick I am to distraction.
I often catch a glimpse of Your glory.
Morning light catching dew.
Pudgy hands serving a sibling.
Symphony chorus sounding in the twilight.
I often catch a glimpse, yet
I am quick to dismiss the glimpse for the fully seen.
Hunger
Only You can make me hunger.
Only You can create new longing.
Only You can bring my desire to match my need.
Make me hunger for You
Hunger
Hunger
so that I am awake to each glimpse
and drawn to hunger yet more.

 

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 copyright Made Sacred 2019

Follow Me

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Follow Me.
Follow Me
This is His call to us.
Follow Me.
Just as He called to His disciples, without explanation, as they rose from their boats and reached for His hand.
Follow Me.
Follow Me
He calls and we either spend the rest of our lives following or we spend the rest of our lives fleeing that call.
Follow Me.
We do not truly know at first Who we are following;
we do not truly know at first to what He is calling us.
Follow Me
Yet as we obey, He reveals Himself in the work, in the doubts, in the sufferings we all pass through in His company.
No one can explain to us exactly who He is,
no one can detail out the depths of His character,
yet as we follow, we learn in our own experience who He is.
We catch a glimpse of this Son of Man who changed the course of our world in the moment of His birth,
and in that glimpse He begins to change us.
Follow Me.
Follow Me
And as we follow, through all of the work, the doubts, the sufferings, we begin to look like Him.
Follow Me.
As we follow and gaze deeply at His face, we begin to see it for what it is just possible that it might become:
the face of Jesus as our face.

Art credits: Jesus Calls Fishermen etching by Jan Luyken; Jesus Calls the Fishermen woodcut; Jesus and His Disciples on the Sea of Galilee; Jesus Calls James and John woodcut

For the Ugly Days

There are some days when it is easy to love.
Loving each other
Happy Baby
I am able to surrender to the Spirit which causes peace to fill me up and overflow into the hearts of my daughters, my husband. I have the supernatural strength to stay calm in the midst of tantrums, kind in the midst of misunderstandings, and joyful in the midst of hurt.
Then there are days like today.
Yelled at by Mommy
Days when something ugly wells up inside of me. Days when I want to be mean. Days when I feel resentful towards those I love best.
I hate these days.
What is this darkness, this nastiness that overwhelms me and threatens to spill out into the hearts of those I love?
Sadness
Tantrums
Anger
Defiance
My daughters cry to be held, fuss about wearing clothes, throw tantrums because school is hard, and my desire is not to comfort them but to scream like a crazed woman with fire in my eyes.
My husband makes an innocent comment and my desire is not to hear his loving intentions but to deliberately misunderstand and hiss a disparaging remark.
I intentionally fight against the changing of my mood. I want to savor, to wallow in my blackness.
I hate these days.
I get so tired of fighting this battle within me. I get so weary of fighting my very self. I long for the day when I finally look like Jesus, when my desire is to love rather than hate, when my heart is all light with no shadow at all.
As ugly as my heart can be, I am grateful that God refuses to give up on me. I am thankful that He does not save me and then leave me as I am. I am astounded that He is filling me up with Himself, crowding out the ugliness until there is nothing left but Beauty.
I try not to feel impatient.
Yet I know. I know. I know that I belong to Jesus. He gave Himself for me and therefore sin has lost its hold on me. I can hold on to that knowing even when I cannot feel it. Little by little, sin’s grasp is slipping away because Love has taken hold and nothing dark can hold on in the light of this fiercest Love.
As the recent hymn says, “No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand; ‘till He returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”
No scheme of man. Not even my own schemes. Nothing can separate me from Love Himself.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Amen.

all photographs copyright Made Sacred

edited from the archives

The Line Between Us and Them

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Them.
You know, the ones who are not us.
The ones who stand against everything that is important.
The ones who stand for everything that is wrong with our world.
The ones whose sole aim is to bring down our way of life.
It is our job, no, our duty, to bring them down first, before all that we love is destroyed.
We must watch out for them.
They are everywhere.
They are in our schools, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods,
in our hospitals.
I met one of them.
I met one of them in a hospital waiting room, waiting for his young daughter to come out of surgery.
He was one of them, no doubt about it.
My defenses went up and I prepared to go on the attack.
He was one of them.
And he was hurting.
Just like us.
He was grieving.
Just like us.
He was worried about one he loved.
Just like us.
I heard a whisper saying, He, too, is My beloved.
Rembrandt_The_Three_Crosses_1653
And suddenly the line between us and them seemed just a bit blurry.

Art credit: The Three Crosses by Rembrandt

Regaining Joy and Wonder

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.

 

This world is full of wonder.
joy
wonder
We are surrounded by truth, goodness, beauty.
truth
goodness
beauty
Yet rather than pausing to drink it all in, rather than marveling at it all, I find myself slogging through each day with my head down and my heart full of drudgery.
Worse, I am discovering that this blindness is contagious. Rather than inviting my children to stop and gaze at the wonder all around, I am teaching them to plod through their days of math and grammar with nary a glance toward the splendor without or within themselves.
joy
wonder
joy
I am teaching them that learning is only toil rather than a work that satisfies our longing for truth, goodness, and beauty.
It is an easy thing to do three weeks before the end of school.
I must repent.
I must repent of my lack of joy and wonder. Joy in this creation and wonder in the learning of this creation.
wonder
joy
wonder
Even in these last days of school, I must pull my head up and take time to pause and gaze.
I must invite my children to pause and gaze.
The final goal of learning is, after all, to become a better human, to become the person God created us to be.
I cannot only tell my girls about truth, goodness, and beauty.
I must show them.
beauty
truth
goodness
And before I can show them, I must regularly repent of losing my own joy and wonder.
Beautiful Creator of all, forgive me for my lack of joy. Teach my heart never to lose awe and wonder at all that is around and within me.
joy
wonder
God
Let me never cease to gaze at truth, goodness, and beauty
And in that gazing may I catch a glimpse of You.

Art credits: All photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2019

To Confess I Cannot

We are on spring break this week, so I am posting a Lenten essay from the archives. May it bless you this week.
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.

 

I really hate admitting that I cannot do something.  I have experienced quite a few tragedies that occurred because I was unable to swallow that thing inside of me that rises up and prevents me from asking for help.
I cannot
The one notable exception is raising children.  I am all about seeking out advice when it comes to my children (which is its own problem because too much advice leads to indecision which invariably leads to paralysis).  This is not by any particular virtue of my own, rather it is because I am completely terrified of irreversibly messing up another human being.
Messing up my own life, however, is fine, because whatever the thing is, I can do it.
Even if I cannot.
This causes a definite problem, however, when it comes to my faith.  I want to be able to be good enough, to make myself righteous enough, to climb up the ladder and reach God all on my own.
Tower of Babel
I would have done well in Babel.
I want to do it myself so that I can then take credit.  I want to be proud of my own accomplishments.  I want, in short, to seek and worship myself.
Worshiping Self
God, however, is quite clear.  We can never rise up to Him, so He, in His infinite mercy, came down to us.  
Lent
This is folly and this is scandal.  It cannot be understood by our own reason and intelligence.  This is offensive.  It offends our pride to know that there is nothing for us to do.
God is too high and holy and our sin is too deep and depraved for us to be able to reach God.
Our souls become crippled and cramped by trying to rise to the highest height.  The end is despair, or a self-righteousness that leaves room neither for love of God nor for love of others. ~ Emil Brunner
It hurts as a crucifixion always does, but I must crucify myself and admit that I cannot reach God.  I cannot be good enough and I cannot make myself righteous.
So God descends to us at Christmas and finishes His descent on Good Friday.  What is His goal and where does He end His descent?  He ends where we belong.  In Hell.  Our rightful place is separation from God, which is hell, and God descends down to hell.
Fire
Jesus experiences our separation from God and despairs of loneliness from God so that we can be free of it.  He descends all the way down so that He can lift us out and reconcile us to God.  It is the only way.
Lent
If the only way to receive God’s Spirit and nevermore to be separate from Him is to admit that I cannot do it, I will crucify my pride every single day and bow my head to the ground in worship and thanksgiving.
I will confess: I cannot.

Art Credits: Construction of the Tower of Babel painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger; The Three Crosses by Rembrandt; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019