Tuesday, May 31, 2016

linger not

“‘He lingered.’ (Genesis 19:16) Do not be a lingering soul.

Would you know what the times demand?—The shaking of nations,—the uprooting of ancient things,—the overturning of kingdoms,—the stir and restlessness of men’s minds—what do they say? They all cry aloud,—Christian! do not linger!

Would you be found ready for Christ at His second appearing,—your loins girded,—your lamp burning. yourself bold, and prepared to meet Him? Then do not linger!

Would you enjoy much sensible comfort in your religion,—feel the witness of the Spirit within you,—know whom you have believed,—and not be a gloomy, complaining, sour, downcast, and melancholy Christian? Then do not linger!

Would you enjoy strong assurance of your own salvation, in the day of sickness, and on the bed of death?—Would you see with the eye of faith heaven opening, and Jesus rising to receive you? Then do not linger!

Would you leave great broad evidences behind you when you are gone?—Would you like us to lay you in the grave with comfortable hope, and talk of your state after death without a doubt? Then do not linger!

Would you be useful to the world in your day and generation?—Would you draw men from sin to Christ, adorn your doctrine, and make your Master’s cause beautiful and attractive in their eyes? Then do not linger!

Would you help your children and relatives towards heaven, and make them say, “We will go with you”?—and not make them infidels and despisers of all religion? Then do not linger!

Would you have a great crown in the day of Christ’s appearing, and not be the least and smallest star in glory, and not find yourself the last and lowest in the kingdom of God? Then do not linger!

Oh, let not one of us linger! Time does not,—death does not,—judgment does not,—the devil does not,—the world does not. Neither let the children of God linger.

~ J.C. Ryle (source)

(HT: Tolle Lege)

I tend to linger over the worldly, skim over the unworldly. How much more comfort, assurance, and usefulness would I gain by changing my modus operandi? If I lingered less over money, politics, social media. More over the Word, prayer, worship.

Much to ponder...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

twenty-three

I can see two pilgrims treating the highway of life together, hand in hand -- heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, mountains to cross, fierce enemies to fight and many dangers to go through. But their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and he bare them and carried them all the days of old."
- Susannah Spurgeon (source)


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As of this coming Sunday, the earth will have orbited the sun 23 times since we said "I Do". It's been a lifetime of long days and short years, seasons of plenty and of want. Our life together is etched upon our hands. When we join them, the olive of his skin stands in sharp contrast to the fairness of mine.

We have seen sleepless nights and better mornings. We have witnessed the miracle of birth and the sorrow of death. We have forgiven, and we have loved.

23 years of doubled joy and halved burdens. 23 years of laughter and tears. 23 years spent weaving a cord of three strands. It has been the hardest and most rewarding work I've ever known.

At the wedding altar, I could not have grasped the full meaning of Susannah Spurgeon's words. 23 years of marriage bring with them a deep understanding - and even deeper appreciation - of them.

If the Lord doesn't grant us another 23 years together - if He doesn't allow us another 23 hours together - I will still praise His Name for the faithfulness with which He has attended us and His goodness in giving us to each other.

Monday, May 23, 2016

leaving the drum line

I was part of the flag corps in high school. Each year we traveled with the band to participate in a large parade. Our band was exceptional, but crowd always came alive when the drum line kicked into high gear. The onlookers didn't understand that the drum line's primary function wasn't to perform flashy solos - which always garnered a great deal of attention and applause - but to keep us in time while we marched.

I have to admit it.  I loved it when the drummers showed off. All these years later, I still remember how much I envied their talent.

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It seems that drum-bangers are everywhere these days. Political, social, theological - there's a drum line for any cause out there. I've been quick to join them, pounding away as loudly as I could. Begging to be heard. Drowning out those around me. Trying to force them to follow my beat.


Lately I've been wondering if my banging has made me deaf to the cries of those around me. I have been content to debate, to look as if I'm concerned rather than to roll up my sleeves and show that I am. I can't give others a hand if I've got mine clinched around drumsticks.

Music is a gift from God. May I start using it to praise Him, rather than contributing to the worldly racket. I'm praying for the Lord's grace to lay my drum sticks down.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning
and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
-Psalm 92-1-4 (ESV)




Thursday, May 19, 2016

truth, laid bare

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It's a terrible thing

to realize you're not who you've always thought you were.

to live under the threat of a flood of tears that will
melt away the mask
and expose you.

to see the spindly cracks in the facade
ready to split wide
and leave you open.

to feel the heat of the impending derision and scorn

and wonder if there is enough grace
   to heal your hurt
   to cover your weaknesses
   to forgive your sins.
~~~~~~~~

Joe Fox asked the question, Do you ever feel you’ve become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora’s box of all the secret, hateful parts – your arrogance, your spite, your condescension – has sprung open? Yes I feel it, down to the depths of my dark heart.

Today the Pharisee in me - the one who grumbles that Jesus "receives sinners" (Luke 15:2) -  has gone quiet. For I can no longer escape the plight of my soul; I am a sinner. Yet, in nothing short of a miracle, Jesus has received me. And he has loved me to the end (John 13:1).

King David wrote, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:6).

And in truth, I cannot.

~~~~~~~~

I cannot
  comprehend the fullness of his forgiveness
  measure the magnitude of his love
  compel myself to pray for faith to accept both;
I am not worthy
But I am his.

And hope springs eternal.

That He should bear with all their countless infirmities from grace to glory,—that He should never be tired of their endless inconsistencies and petty provocations,—that He should go on forgiving and forgetting incessantly, and never be provoked to cast them off and give them up,—all this is marvellous indeed! (source)

Monday, May 16, 2016

rejoicing will come

“Be not cast down in heart to hear that the world barketh at Christ’s strangers, both in Ireland and in this land; they do it because their Lord hath chosen them out of this world.

And this is one of our Lord’s reproaches, to be hated and ill-entreated by men. The silly stranger, in an uncouth country, must put up with a smoky inn and coarse cheer, a hard bed, and a barking, ill-tongued host.

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It is not long to the day, and he will continue his journey upon the morrow, and leave them all. Indeed our fair morning is at hand, the day-star is near the rising, and we are not many miles from home.

What does it matter if we are mistreated in the smoky inns of this miserable life? We are not to stay here, and we will be dearly welcomed by Him to whom we go.

And I hope, when I shall see you clothed in white raiment, washed in the blood of the Lamb, and shall see you even at the elbow of your dearest Lord and Redeemer, and a crown upon your head, and following our Lamb and lovely Lord whithersoever He goeth,—you will think nothing of all these days.

And you shall then rejoice, and no man shall take your joy from you.”
~Samuel Rutherford (source


(HT: Tolle Lege)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

morning commute

Underneath a canopy of steely gray, I leave the safety of home. My heart lingers for a moment, begins to count the moments until my family is reunited here once more.

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The road ahead of me is too familiar. Years of travel have veiled its beauty - the deep greens of the grass, the new herd of ewes, the stately houses that have been standing longer than I have been.

The steady rain nourishes the crops, recently planted. Sprigs of life have escaped the dark soil, drinking deeply. I breathe in rhythm with the windshield wipers.

The aroma of coffee permeates the air. I reach down to feel its warmth against the cool dampness of the morning.

I arrive twelve minutes later. I cannot will myself to quiet the engine. Soon enough I will be lost in a sea of fluorescent lights, constant rings, and unfamiliar voices.

I pause. Strengthened by the soft staccato of raindrops and piano keys, I brace myself for the coming tide.

Monday, May 9, 2016

sticky

It started with the desire to be acknowledged. Swat.

But acknowledgment wasn't enough. I wanted to be right. Swat.

Then I wanted to be acknowledged as being right. Pounce.

Before I knew it, I was tangled up in the stench and mess. The harder I wrestled, the filthier and stickier I got. Meanwhile, the enemy was rolling in laughter just as Brer Fox did.

By God's grace I'm learning that even though the tar baby might often appear friendly and harmless, sometimes the best thing to do is walk away and leave it to melt in the hot summer sun.

No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him...But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness...
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
- 2 Timothy 2:4,16,23 (ESV)

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

from the past


Papa's cool gaze catches my eye. He is thinner than I ever knew him to be. I look at that half smile, the one I saw so often, and tears play at the corners of my eyes. It's been almost three decades since I heard him tell me how much he loved me.

Mema is a beauty with that smart dress and jet black hair. Her eyes are as sparkly as the ornaments on the Christmas tree. She has been gone for 10 years now, but a quilt she stitched still warms me on cool winter nights.

The boy in the striped shirt and the girl in the lace collar are less familiar to me. I recognize them as second cousins I saw infrequently during my childhood.

It is the girl on the end - in a dress I imagine to be an emerald green that would have perfectly matched her eyes - who captures me. Those eyes pierce my heart. She looks unhappy, and my heart aches just a little. Did she dislike having her picture taken even then? What did she ask for that Christmas? What were her hopes and dreams?

If I had seen this picture a few years earlier, I would have asked. As the fifth Mother's Day without her approaches, I find I still pose questions that will never be answered.

I look at this photograph of my mother - and hers - and I'm thankful. Thankful for their influence and their love. Thankful for tears shed and laughter shared. Thankful that they made me a daughter and a granddaughter. Thankful that they taught me how to be a mother.


Monday, May 2, 2016

on the front porch

A news story about cicada bugs, and childhood memories come rushing. They are so strong that I can smell Mema's White Shoulders perfume, feel the crinkle of her favorite housecoat (a robe would have been much too fancy for her). I've long since forgotten the granny square crochet pattern she taught me, but I still remember how accomplished I felt when I completed my first - and only - square. My summer visits with her and Papa meant simple Southern cooking, "coffee-milk", car rides to nowhere, and trips to the Tastee Freez for ice cream sundaes.

My favorite time of day came after dinner was finished and the dishes were washed and put away. Mema and I would walk next door and join Mrs. Ruth on her porch. Most often it was just the three of us, but sometimes another neighbor would saunter over from across the street. The cicada bugs provided the background melody to their voices graveled by years of smoke. Lightning bugs sparkled in the air as I listened to tales carved by decades of friendship, worn smooth by their frequent re-telling. I knew many by heart, but I loved to hear them anyway.

Mema and Mrs. Ruth had worked together, raised children together, and fished together alongside their husbands for longer than I could fathom. They knew each other inside and out. I imagine they had their misunderstandings and hurts, but somehow they always got back together on that porch.
 
(I don't know these ladies, but they would have been at home on Mrs. Ruth's porch)
Sitting beside Mema, our feet pushing the swing back and forth in comfortable rhythm, I was happy to be a part of this grown-up world. There were no theological debates, a few bawdy jokes, and lots of gossip. But those sweet, damp evenings were sacred to me. I learned the value of face-to-face conversation, side-by-side laughter, and deep abiding friendship. Eventually the laughter would quiet and the dark would completely overtake us. As Mema and I walked the well-trod path back home, I was already looking forward to the next evening.

I am the lone survivor of the women who gathered on Mrs. Ruth's porch. Those summer nights, long forgotten by the world, linger in my mind alone. As online interaction consumes personal contact, I wish I could have just a few more hours with those ladies, cackling together as dusk falls to the soft cicada hums.