Wholly Purified

Who can know the motivations and secret desires of another soul?
Who can know the motivations and secret desires of your own soul?
Pure Water
We often speak about motivations being more important than actions, that the right action done for the wrong reason is still wrong.  Yet who can have pure motives…ever?
Never Pure
Even when my motive for doing something is right, it is not pure.  There is always something else, some bit of pride or dash of selfishness, mixed in along with the right.
Take this dream of mine to write, to be published.  I want to give people hope, to help people know this God of ours who is always good and who always loves.  And it would be amazing to get to tell people that I am published, that I have a book written, a book that actual people actually paid to read!  And that second part is straight out of my own desire to be known and loved by others above God.  How in the world, how in this earthly world, can I ever get it right if much of the time I don’t even fully know my own motives, much less be able to control them?
It would be enough to sink us into despair, this inability even to know our own sin, this inability to know and purify the deep places of ourselves.
King David speaks in Psalm 139 of God being the God of the heavens as well as of Sheol, the God of the heights of the morning as well as of the depths of the sea.  David says that our own innermost being is made up of parts that are even further away than those…and yet God knows them most intimately.  He pleads with God to search him and know him.  To know those parts of himself that even David cannot see, and to purify him.
David trusts fully in God’s Spirit.  He trusts that God is able to purify us not only on the levels of which we are conscious, but on our deepest levels of which we are not even aware as well.
In I Thessalonians, Paul proclaims the ability of God to sanctify us completely, to keep our whole spirit, soul, and body blameless.  Jude praises God for being able to keep us from stumbling, for being able to present us blameless in His presence.
If this only means that we will be presented blameless for the sin we are aware of, we are to be most pitied.  Praise God that He is able to purify us from the depths to the heights of our whole selves!
The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirit.  It is only when we are protected by God with the miraculous sacredness of the Holy Spirit that our spirit, soul, and body can be preserved in pure uprightness until the coming of Jesus – no longer condemned in God’s sight.  ~ Oswald Chambers
Praise be to God for His mercy and grace.  Thanks be to Him for not only rescuing us but for molding us into the shape of His Son as well.

Keep Fighting

To live life well is hard.
It is difficult to live deliberately, to continue to work for the good of yourself and those you love.  It is easier to coast, to react, to let things slide.
Messy Table
Messy Sink
For myself, it is easier to let the clutter pile up than to keep our house feeling like a home.  It is easier to read mind-candy sorts of novels than to ponder the nature of our God and this universe.  It is easier to let my children learn on their own or through their schools, to allow my girls get away with small acts of unkindness and to be passive in the way they discover God than to fight for their hearts and their minds.  It is easier to let my relationship with my husband drift, to sit in our separate corners in the evenings than to work to know him and enjoy him.
Often I do not want to fight.  I do not want to fight for what is good.  I do not want to fight for what is God-honoring and God-pleasing.
Yet I fight anyway.  I fight because I love and, in this world anyway, loving requires you to fight.
Loving Well
I don’t fight perfectly, though.  I fight in fear of the needs that others have.  I fight in fear of my own inability to give anything good.  I fight in fear of doing the wrong thing and causing irreparable harm.
But still I fight, imperfect as it may be.  I fight in obedience to One who fought for me.
Christ Fought Well
Just like you.  You go and you fight. You go to the bedside of the sick or even the dying and you fight.  You go to the home of someone who is lonely and you fight.  You go to a meeting of a church group in need of volunteers and you fight.  You go to the food pantry, the orphanage, the shelter, and you fight.  You go to funeral, the party, the study, and you fight.
We go because it is where His way leads us; and again and again we are blessed by our going in ways we can never anticipate, and our going becomes a blessing to the ones we go to because when we follow His way, we never go entirely along, and it is always something more than just ourselves and our own emptiness that we bring.  ~ Frederick Buechner
So keep going.  Keep fighting.  And be blessed because when you go and when you fight, you are never fighting alone.

Art credit: photo of Christ carrying the cross by Asta Rastauskiene


Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness; He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  ~ I Timothy 3.16
In a world of science and proofs and self-evident truths, we serve a God of mystery.
We claim to know God, to understand His character, but the truth is that our God is unknowable.  Even as we speak what we know to be true about God, we do not understand how those truths work, how they relate to God, how they fit together.
There are words in the Bible, stories and descriptions about God that make me uncomfortable.  Verses and paragraphs I would rather push aside or gloss over because I do not know how to explain them.
Our churches train us to prove, to argue, to set forth evidence for God.  They train us to thoroughly explain His character, to make rational aspects of His works.
Yet our churches are trained by our culture.  Our culture that says that knowledge is power.  It says that what is worth anything is knowable, what is valued is quantifiable.
…the important truths, that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and that knowledge is happiness.  ~ Thomas Jefferson
As children, we understood that there was mystery in our world and it stirred and excited something deep within us.  As adults, we become knowers, seeking to understand all things.
Childhood is motivated by wonder, and the task of adulthood is not to eliminate wonder but to expand it.  ~ Ken Myers
Colors in a leaf
Scenic view
Some find the idea of mystery frightening, wanting to know and to understand.  Don’t we know God as revealed in His Word and in Christ?
Our attempt to speak confidently of God in the face of modern skepticism, a skepticism we suspect also grips our lives as Christians, betrays a certainty inappropriate for a people who worship a crucified God.  ~ Stanley Hauerwas
Yes, we know God and we know things about God.  Knowing, however, means more than just intellect.  It is much deeper than that.  The full revelation of God does not make us want to list the things we know, to produce a dissertation full of facts about God.
Rather, the full revelation of God makes us want to bow in worship of the One who is mystery.
Art credits: photographs of space from NASA; DNA strand by Tomislav Alajbeg


Imagine that you are out taking a walk in your neighborhood and you stroll down a street that is a little unfamiliar.  The road is lined with sidewalks and trees, the houses are evenly spaced with a bit of yard for each.  The houses are nothing fancy, just small, American Dream with a white picket fence sorts of houses.  As you stroll along, just as the shadows begin to lengthen and the creeping dusk begins to carry with it the scent of a coming rain, one lighted window catches your eye.  You pause and find yourself caught by an image.  Young adults, seated around a table with a card game on it, joined by an older couple.  Children playing together on the floor.  A gray-haired elderly man walks in using a cane.  You are not sure why the scene has so captivated you, you really must be getting home before the rain begins to fall, but something about the sight of extended family enjoying each other’s company keeps you rooted for longer than you should have stayed.
What are your thoughts as you stand there, feeling chilled by the damp in the air yet unwilling to walk away just yet?  Are you filled with a longing you can’t quite explain?  Does it remind you of your own family and the time you had with them just the other week?  Do you wonder what bitter fights and disappointments lurk in a room more removed from the street views?
What is it about a family?
New Family
We all want one.  Even those who say they don’t need anyone around would, I dare say, wish deep inside for a perfect family to love them.
Even the word itself brings a picture of love and peace, acceptance and light.  The idea of multiple generations caring for one another is enough to set our hearts yearning for an ideal.
Four Generations
Does family really matter?  In this world that would tell us that career is more important than children, that independence is better than living intertwined, is family truly that important?
Yes.  Emphatically yes.
Families were designed to bring us back to God.  There is much about the workings of a family that draws us in, that points our hearts toward God.
The miracle of the birth of a baby, for instance, turns your mind toward thoughts of God, especially God as Father.  When you hold your own baby for the first time, your heart is drawn to mystery, drawn to contemplate the miracle of creation.  I just read this in WORLD magazine:
The baby daughter of writer Whittaker Chambers helped to move him from Communism to Christ. Chambers wrote inWitness (1952), “My eye came to rest on the delicate convolutions of her ear—those intricate, perfect ears. The thought passed through my mind: ‘No, those ears were not created by any chance coming together of atoms in nature (the Communist view). They could have been created only by immense design.’”
These children are gifts from God sent to turn us back to Him.
Other purposes of family?  Those who have been raised in godly families are more able to see the goodness of submitting to God’s authority because they have seen how good life is when we submit to the authority of our parents.  Birth and death connect us to God far beyond most other events in our lives, and we can truly experience this connection best if we are surrounded not by institution alone but by those who know and love us best.
Family after a birth
Our families are shrinking in size.  We think nothing of moving far away from our parents and grandparents.  We fill our lives with so many activities that we lose sight of the hearts of those who are most precious to us.
Sometimes these things are unavoidable.  Yet if we do not at least deliberate and ponder this mystery of what was intended by the One who created the very idea of family, I fear that we will lose something sacred, some thing that keeps us close to the heart of God.
And anything that keeps us close to the heart of God is too rare and precious to be tossed away careless.

Joy Wrapped with Sorrow

My littlest turned one this week.
She is a New Year’s baby, the first of the year in our county.  In my own opinion, it would be difficult to find a better way to bring joy and hope to a new year than with a perfect baby.
She passed her Papa on her way to us.
My dear friend, Martha Cook, said it well:  And so your Papa stood at Heaven’s Gate.  He saw as she passed by.  He blew a kiss.  “Samantha,” he said, “God is sending you to the best of families.”  Then he turned and entered into the arms of the God he served.  Well done.  Well done.
It is a truth of this world that joy is wrapped up with sorrow.  You cannot have one without the other.
It is the way of this world and it is the way of our God.  He loves us, knowing that the joy of His love will be enveloped in sorrow.  He loves us while He bears our grief and our sorrow.
Weeping in Gethsemane
If God Himself bears both joy and sorrow, how can we expect anything different?
Yet we do.  We expect joy without sorrow, love without grief.  When the grief and sorrow come, we shake our fists at this God and ask why?
And we should ask why, but a why of a different kind.  Why, God?  Why would You choose to love us when we continually turn our faces from You?  Why would You choose to take our grief and sorrow upon Yourself?  Why did You come to our rescue instead of leaving us to the fate we brought on ourselves?
On the Cross
We will not, in this life, have joy without sorrow.  We can either try to live this life with God or without Him.  With Him, the joys are brighter and the sorrows are lighter.
Walking with Christ
So breathe in and breathe out.
We receive what You give; We give thanks for what You give.
Our Living Water
Above all, we give thanks for You.

Art credits: Gethsemane by Carl Bloch; Three Crosses by Rembrandt; Going to Emmaus by Robert Zund; Christ and Samaritan Woman by Henryk Siemiradzki