Tuesday, April 15, 2014

deep waters

Another gem from Lilias Trotter:

"'I am come into deep waters' took on a new meaning this morning. It started with perplexing matters concerning the future. Then it dawned that shallow waters were a place where you can neither sink nor swim, but in deep waters it is one or the other: 'waters to swim in'—not to float in. Swimming is the intense, most strenuous form of motion—all of you is involved in it—and every inch of you is in abandonment of rest upon the water that bears you up." (A Blossom in the Desert, 57)

Painting by Lilias Trotter, A Blossom in the Desert, page 37.
For all my dear readers who are in deep waters, listen to this assurance from the One who rescues you:
"But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, 'Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior." Isaiah 43:1–3a

Sunday, April 13, 2014

on the lighter side

Eliana (standing by my dresser, holding a bottle quizzically): What is this, Mom? Some sort of hairspray?
Me: No, it's wrinkle cream.
Eliana (a bit startled): Wrinkle cream?! But it's too late!

So true. :) May I age with grace ...

"You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth."
Ecclesiastes 11:9
"Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come."
Psalm 71:18 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

seeing both sides of holiness

Thanks to the recommendation of a dear friend, I've been reading A Blossom in the Desert: Reflections of Faith in the Art and Writings of Lilias Trotter. Lilias was a British missionary in the late 1800's in Algeria, North Africa, and the founder of what eventually became part of Arab World Ministries. Her explorations of faith amidst suffering are profound. I'll share a few vignettes in days to come. Today, in light of my most recent post on Christian maturity, I thought I'd share a snippet of what she says about sanctification. It's much more than the absence of sin ...

"Holiness, not safety, is the end of our calling. Separation from all known sin is the starting-point for sanctification, not the goal: it is only the negative side of holiness; it is only reaching the place where God can develop His ideal in us unhindered. It is when the death of winter has done its work that the sun can draw out in each plant its own individuality, and make its existence full and fragrant. Holiness means something more than the sweeping away of the old leaves of sin: it means the life of Jesus developed in us." (125, emphasis mine)
Watercolor by Lilias Trotter from A Blossom in the Desert, page 219.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

how to grow in Christian maturity

Over at the Wheaton blog I've just published a review of Gordon T. Smith's Called to Be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity. It's a book to be savored and re-read. I'm grateful to be able to add it to my personal library.

Smith explores the essence of being a Christian (union with Christ) and how to grow in Christian maturity. He highlights four areas in particular—wisdom, work, love, and joy—that are transformed by our participation with Christ. My favorite chapters were the one on work, where he describes how to discern your vocation, and the one on joy, where he makes the radical claim that joy is the "emotional center" of mature Christians. Two appendices explore the implications of his vision of Christian maturity for churches and Christian colleges.

This would be a great book to read as a small group, a church staff, or in a discipleship relationship. It is well-written, wise, and insightful. I found it personally helpful in discerning our next steps as a family. I highly recommend it! You can order it here from Amazon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

straining for Spring

The snow that fell overnight is disappearing quickly in the spring sunshine. Great icy gray and black mounds, leftovers from the past umpteen storms, gradually vanish, leaving messy debris in their place. We’re emerging from the coldest winter in Chicago history (i.e., the most days with sub-zero temperatures on record), as well as the 2nd or 3rd greatest snowfall on record for this area. Like the climate, the spiritual and emotional toll of this past year has broken personal records. I feel like a bear emerging from her den after a long winter, groggy and blinking back the brightness. I long to re-engage “life as normal” but my brain is still in slow motion. A chill still hangs in the air, and I don’t quite dare believe that this endless winter is over.

Spring does not come by straining, and joy is not restored by trying harder. Nothing I do can guarantee that this was the last snow of the season or that the bulbs hidden underground will bloom again. I must simply wait and receive what is given. The Lord of the Seasons promises spring will come eventually. For now, more tiny snowflakes drift earthward, and I wait. Even here—in this prolonged winter—he is with me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

when words flee

Here I sit, on the other side of a Great Disappointment. It knocked the wind out of me. For weeks I have been trying to find words, but they have evaded me.

As a verbal processor, I think best out loud, or at least on page. The act of writing liberates captive thoughts, gives them shape, gives me wings. I write to survive. But in this new valley I lack the courage to speak, and therefore to think. I walk alone with Jesus in the mind-numbing stillness of loss. I wake to it, sorry that night has ended. I fall asleep to it, wishing it were not so. I wonder -- what now? -- not sure I dare to hope.

And I wait.

And I listen.

In my wordless waiting, others speak. I have not met them, but their songs fill my languid hours with prayers, articulating what I cannot.

I am trying to understand 
how to walk this weary land. 
Make straight the paths that crooked lie 
O Lord, before these feet of mine. 
When my world is shaking, 
heaven stands. 
When my heart is breaking, 
I never leave your hands.*

I'm not who I was when I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise you're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to you
Then I will go through fire if you want me to**

I still believe in your faithfulness ...
Even when I don't see, I still believe ...
In brokenness I can see that this was your will for me***

You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust.****

In their voices I hear traces of suffering, and I realize that I am not alone. God will redeem this loss. Brokenness deepens rather than disqualifies us, especially when we share our journey with others. The refreshing honesty of these songs and many others calls to me.

And so I write.

* JJ Heller
**Ginny Owens
***Jeremy Camp
****Michael and Lisa Gungor

Thursday, February 20, 2014

wondering about camels?

Domesticated Camels on the Black Obelisk of
Shalmaneser III, British Museum
Photo Credit: TM Kennedy
The buzz these days on the internet (so I'm told) is that recent archaeological discoveries regarding domesticated camels cast doubt on the biblical narratives, particularly Genesis. Like most media releases relating to the reliability of the Bible, this one has been blown way out of proportion. Before you chuck your Bibles in the trash, I commend this blog post by Biola professor, Dr. Kenneth Way. And, as my mentor's mentor Alan Millard would insist, this goes to show the "accidental" nature of archaeology. In layman's terms, just because something hasn't been dug up yet, don't conclude that it never will.

You can't believe everything you hear.