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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

Black Rook in Rainy Weather

On the stiff twig up there
Hunches a wet black rook
Arranging and rearranging its feathers
in the rain.
I do not expect a miracle
Or an accident

To set the sight on fire
In my eye, nor seek
Any more in the desultory weather
some design,
But let spotted leaves fall as they fall,
Without ceremony, or portent.

Although, I admit, I desire,
Occasionally, some backtalk
From the mute sky, I can't honestly
A certain minor light may still 
Lean incandescent

Out of kitchen table or chair 
As if a celestial burning took
Possession of the most obtuse objects
now and then -
Thus hallowing an interval
Otherwise inconsequent

By bestowing largess, honor,
One might say love.  At any rate,
I now walk
Wary (for it could happen
Even in this dull, ruinous landscape);
Yet politic; ignorant

Of whatever angel may choose to flare
Suddenly at my elbow.  I only know
that a rook
Ordering its black feathers can so shine
As to seize my senses, haul
My eyelids up, and grant

A brief respite from fear
Of total neutrality.  With luck,
Trekking stubborn through this season
Of fatigue, I shall
Patch together a content

Of sorts.  Miracles occur, 
If you dare to call those spasmodic
Tricks of radiance miracles.  The wait's 
begun again,
The long wait for the angel,
For that rare, random descent.

Sylvia Plath

A close friend gifted me this book several years ago; an Advent read.  I'm somewhat unconventional when it comes to typical Christmas practices, and perusing daily devotional books is not a practice I normally engage in.  But I've found this book to be quite different.  Sylvia Plath's poem, an excerpt from the book, is a great example.  If interested, you can find it here.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Growing to Maturity

Paul, to the church in Colosse:

We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me.

Colossians 1:28-29 The Message

Before I started this blog, I knew this would be a key guiding verse for me.  Even from the earliest days after I trusted Christ to be Lord of my life, I longed for maturity… to be trained, guided, taught God's ways.  As the years have clicked along that thirst has not waned.  But what has surprised me is how often the route to growing up is a review of the basics.

I suppose that shouldn't be shocking, because the same holds true in many other arenas of life.  Diet.  Exercise.  Work ethic.  Yes, as we gain ground in our understanding in these areas, we become more "muscular", more knowledgeable, wiser.  But we never forget the basics.

Some of the "basics" that have served me well over the years are making prayer a priority ("pray all the time"), guarding my thought life (Power #1Power #2, Power #3), choosing thankfulnesspracticing holiness (only by God's grace!)… obviously this is not an exhaustive list!  These are disciplines, choices to be made daily.  Every bit of it can only be done by God's grace and with His power.

If you want to get really serious about growing & changing, a must-read is Dallas Willard's book, The Spirit of the Disciplines.  He takes this discussion to a whole new level!

If you could choose five "basics" that help you to become more of who God made you to be, what would those things be?  Are they biblical directives?  Are you practicing them?  What is the benefit of reviewing the basics?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

He Will Shelter You With His Wings

"1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:

He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
and protect you from deadly disease.
He will cover you with his feathers.
He will shelter you with his wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection."
Psalm 91:1-4 New Living Translation

Fanny J. Crosby (1820-1915) was one of Christianity's most prolific song writers (she wrote more than 9,000 songs).  Often when I read Psalm 91 I think of one of the hymns she penned, He Hideth My Soul (below).  (Read about her life: Crosby's life )

"A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A tree always in blossom

1 Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2 But they delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.

3 They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.

4 But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.

5 They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6 For the Lord watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1  New Living Translation

From Me to You

I find myself feeling a little awkward - and like a failure - as I write this post.  You see, when I started this blog I envisioned myself writing at least twice a week.  I would write with themes and depth and breadth; introducing you to great thinkers and writers; and most of all highlighting passages upon passages of Scripture that make my heart burn.

Enter illness.  It robs me of days on end and makes me feel "less than".  Sickness kills creativity.  When it lasts for more than a day I can start to feel panicky about all the jobs I'm not getting done.  And, worst of all, physical illness seeps into my spirit and my psyche.  Often, I fight anger at God and bitterness in the core of my being.

The specific implications of this to the present situation of my writing this blog, are:
     1) I need to cut myself loose from the grand project I started (the theme of my top "Ten Things that say a lot about Who God Is").  As I stated earlier, when I'm fighting illness, creativity hits rock bottom. I would love to pick up this theme again, but now is not the time.  (Obviously, I'm not out of the woods with the physical battle I'm in right now.)
     2) Instead, I hope to at least write short, random posts as different things pop into my head.
     3) Something God has been speaking to me in regard to all this is that this is really His blog, anyway.  It's not mine.  I thought I was entering the writing of this blog with that in the forefront, but affliction has taken "who owns this" to a whole new level.
It occurs to me that since my primary passion is to demonstrate why I love God's word so much, there's no time like the present.  The following words are a few that have given me either guidance or peace lately:

"...don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”  Joshua 1:8-9 The Message

Sometimes, it's not just a verse or two, but an entire book of the Bible, that gives me hope.  The book of Ruth contains a raw, real-life story of a woman (Naomi) who was "dealt a hard blow" from God, and struggled with bitterness.  I love the whole story - and the hope it brings.

And the anger at God?  There's nothing like the Psalms.  One hundred and fifty chapters of people expressing every feeling imaginable - unedited, unfiltered, right to God.  

Finally, this one nailed me this morning:  

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  Philippians 4:6-7 The Message