Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I will remember no more

 Guest blog: Weston Baker

"This is the covenant I will make with them
   after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
   and I will write them on their minds."
Then He adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
   I will remember no more."
(Heb. 10:16-17)

I'm excited about God's promise. I'm renewed in my thinking because I am assured that God really means this promise here: He will forget my sins, He doesn't keep a record of my failures.

That means when I ask for forgiveness for something and it's the 100th time, God says, "What 100 other times? I don't have any record of that, I have no memory of that." And He says "You are forgiven." Meaning it is washed away like it never happened.

That means on that day we go before Him, our life is a highlight reel of every act of kindness, and hospitality. A great list of every generous gift or deed we did for someone else. A list of every courageous thing we did and thought. All the honorable moments, the unselfish sacrifices for others. The times we persevered in faith. All the times we trusted Him. All the times we enjoyed ourselves and had fun. All the good and none of the bad.

Bind love and faithfulness on your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart.

May I forgive others as He forgives me.

And may I be with Him and chat with Him and live with Him who opened the way for newness of life.

Trust as if everything depended on God

Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Asaph, Psalm 73:75

In conclusion, be strong–not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of His boundless strength. Ephesians 6:10

I remember the little Plymouth Brethren Chapel Alan and I were a part of when we first married. It was sort of cheating, an unmerited grace, to be part of a such a fellowship of believers, full of astute noticing from the poet Luci Shaw and the profound depth of Jerry Hawthorne, the Wheaton Greek professor for example.

And there was the breaking of bread service in which we filed into a silent room and took our places on the wooden pews surely intentionally designed for alert discomfort. And before us lay the body broken and the blood spilled for our sake. I seem to remember flickering candles but perhaps that was just the tone.

And we rested in the Spirit, and waited. And voice by voice a theme would emerge, a Scripture read, a hymn lifted up, an admonition offered.

Our God weaves together His creation to wrap around us that we might know Him. Know His heart, His mind, and His strength.

And today He is calling on me to know His strength.

Nothing else.

And echoing Ignatius’ desire to have his desires and goals be His desires and goals, Lewis wrestles with his understanding of prayer with his friend Malcolm: Our struggle is to go on believing that there is a Listener at all. For as the situation grows more and more desperate, the grisly fears intrude. Are we only talking to ourselves in an empty universe? The silence is often so emphatic. And we have prayed so much already.

A good question. The emphatic silence.

And Lewis’ solution to this question is that so often we approach God as a suitor, a man praying on his own behalf. It is no sin to be a suitor. Our Lord descends into the humiliation of being a suitor, of praying on His own behalf in Gethsemane.

But I am not called to be a suitor, I am called friend. I am called to take up my cross and follow Him as a companion who co-labors so united with Him that I share His desires and goals, His foreknowledge.

And thus Mary prayed: I am the LORD’s servant. May it be to me as You have said.

In His strength alone.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ah, you've come over the water. Powerful wet stuff, ain't it?

My God whose ways and thoughts are higher than my ways and thoughts.

What I desire: To live before God with true freedom that enables me to always desire more for His greater glory and then to know and to choose the way that is most useful for my chief end, to bring glory to God and enjoy Him forever.

I have surrendered to Your desires
May this offering go up to the sky
Peace hallelujah, and be multiplied.

The freedom that Ignatius speaks of, and sought after with all heart, soul, and mind, is not found in wealth or health or relationships. Rather it can be found in the most dank (the students’ favorite vocabulary word from Steinbeck) prison, articulated by Paul and his triumphant Rejoice in all things, I say it again rejoice. And in Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago: Do not pursue what is illusory–property and position. Live with strong superiority over life–don’t be afraid of misfortune and do not yearn for happiness; it is after all, the same: the bitter never lasts forever, and the sweet news never fills the cup to overflowing.

I stare this truth in the face.

One thing about writing it all down, this manna for the day, this daily “What is it?” is that I possess documentation of the transitory nature of both happiness and sorrow, the up and down of crashing waves to the murky depths and then being lifted up into the bright sunlight. Yet the ship holds its course. There is an image of this in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as the children head east to Aslan’s land. While Lucy and Edmund quickly found their sailor legs and strode the deck confidently and clambered up the ropes and let the sea wind and sea salt splash in their uplifted faces, Eustace Scrubb (who almost deserved that name) lay in his bunk bed, moaning with sea sickness. Yet ‘twas the same sea.

Ignatius says, God is not interested in being the genie who attends to all my wants, needs and desires as I define them; but God is interested in transforming my desires and goals so they are now what He wants for me, no matter how at odds they may be with my current working set of operating principles for life.

Voskamp asks this question as well, when her seven-year-old son did not lose his hand when it went through a fan blade circulating air for hundreds of sows, while just down the street, the very same afternoon, a thirteen-year-old Mennonite boy dies, crushing his momma’s heart. Where is God’s grace in that situation? In both situations? In all situations?

But what perspective sees good in dead farm boys, good in a little girl crushed under tires of a truck right in front of her mother’s eyes, good in a brother-in-law who buries his first two sons in the space of nineteen months–and all the heinous crimes and all the weeping agony and all the scalding burn of this world?

I feel Him hold me–a flailing child tired in Father’s arms.

And I can hear Him soothe soft, “Are your ways My ways, child? Can you eat my manna, sustain on My mystery? Can you believe that I tenderly, tirelessly work all for the best good of the whole world–because My flame of love for you can never, ever be quenched?

And the little fuzzy clock radio clicked on this morning: No I never walk alone.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

I’m not a beggar you know.

Lord, each day soften the soil of my heart for Your Spirit’s work.

What I desire: The grace I need to discern wisely and choose well those things that will most enable me to grow to my full potential and serve the purposes of God with wisdom and joy.

Everything is permissible for me–but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me–but I will not be mastered by anything. Everything is permissible–but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible–but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23

Conversion is the graced process of personal integration. Integration is when things hold together in wholeness, balance, and order all seamlessly contributing toward the greater purposes of God.

Question: What good gifts and opportunities have I neglected or misused? Why did I do this?
I think I have misused the goodness of people in my life by skimming along the surface, tromping around the edges of relationship out of fear. Fear of being seen for who I am and found lacking. And, well, there is the other side of the coin–judging too quickly and dismissing too quickly the others with whom God has gifted me and those opportunities to delight in the reflection of Him in the hearts, the souls and the minds of His image bearers. And both sides of this counterfeit coin is pride–a fear of vulnerability bound together with a dismissal of the proffered humility of others.

My to do list is a good thing, a tool to give order to a demanding and chaotic world, and yet it too can drive me too quickly along the path, so I do not notice the wee little man up in the sycamore tree or the bleeding woman.

And mixed in with this need for reordering and reintegrating my life, is the brokenness that Chris addressed last night. May I not cling to His good gifts rather than to Him.

Brokenness is to be an ongoing way of living. It is to live in agreement with God about my absolute need for Him in everything.

And Chris passed out another checklist to weigh and prayerfully consider, one that contrasted Proud Spirits and Humble Hearts.
·       And Proud Spirits are both self-conscious and keep people at arm’s length, as well as having a critical, fault-finding spirit that looks at their own lives/faults through a telescope, but at others with a microscope,
·       And Humble Hearts risk getting close to others, willing to take the risk of loving intimately, and are also compassionate and forgiving, always looking for the best in others, for that reflected image.

And somehow this ugly unbrokenness rears its head awkwardly exactly with the wee men and bleeding women by the side of the road. Why do I not pause long enough to affirm their personhood? And while emptying my wallet into the outstretched hand weeping in the gravel last night after the service is one thing, it is not my thing, my issue. Money really has no hold on me, but rather the intimacy of kneeling down in the pebbles and touching that hand and looking into the eyes of the soul and resting in prayer before Abba Father, yes that is my thing, my issue. Certainly it’s not in-my-arms Everette-with-the-heart-of-a-child’s issue; she greeting the man by the side of the road with characteristic tenderness and let him know that he was seen. He was seen, with a capital H, because He is Jesus.

And it is the story that I have told again and again, even just returning from Guatemala, to the brilliant Yale/Harvard entrepreneur for the sake of womankind nursing her child in the seat next to me, of kneeling by El Camino and not only finding image bearers but also my Abba Father, powerful and loving in every situation.


Leaving the safety of my lists and my productivity and my capabilities and kneeling before Him and others. So many missed opportunities by the side of the road. To walk as Jesus walked. To do as Jesus did. To love as Jesus loved. To die as Jesus died.

Christ died not only for Man but for each man. It is for the sake of each human soul. Each is an end.  And prayer may be to bear witness that the course of events is not governed like a state but created like a work of art, in which every being is both an end and a means. The great work of art was made for the sake of all it does and is, down to the curve of every wave and the flight of every insect. C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm

This is the purpose of God, and all else is dust to be swept up and dried weeds to be tossed into the flames.

Prayer: Abba Father, soften the soil of my heart for Your Spirit’s work.  I long for Your conversion, integration, to be held together in balanced wholeness through Your grace.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Watching the baggage of life spin around and around

Rejoice always, I say it again rejoice…in everything, by prayers and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. Philippians 4

Meditate: God, who is the Giver of all good gifts to me and the world…

Ungratefulness– all humanity’s dissatisfaction with the good gifts of God–this is the fall.

What I desire: To live joyfully and faithfully, receiving and using all of God’s good gifts so that I may attain the goal God desires me to reach: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.
Chara. Joy.
A triplet of stars, a constellation in the black. A threefold cord that might hold a life?  One Thousand Gifts, Voskamp

I fretted as I waited for through yet one more delay from American Airlines, standing in front of the frozen luggage carousal in Tucson International Airport. What did it matter? Why did I fret?

Hurry always empties a soul.
For all our frenzied running seemingly toward something, could it be that we are in fact fleeing–desperate to escape pain that pursues?
Whatever the pace, time will keep it and there’s no outrunning it, only speeding it up and pounding the fee harder; the minutes pound faster too. Race for more and you’ll snag on time and leak empty. The longer I keep running, the longer the gash, and I drain, bleed away.
Hurry always empties a soul.
Time. Time to breathe deep and time to see real and time to laugh long, time to give You glory and rest deep and sing joy.
Wherever you are, be all there is only possible in the posture of eucharisteo. I want to slow down and taste life, give thanks, and see God.

And I am back. There and back again. And what did faithful Sam Gamgee learn on his great adventure to the Crack of Doom and back again?

I have left the land of seething volcanoes and fog settled down low and gladiola-scented paths and black beans and fried plantains and papaya juice, back to the land of big skies and empty spaces and the heat trickling down my neck.

And even in the pain, the shredding pain present, the remembered pain past, the pain distant wars and rumors of wars broadcast through the mounted television overhead, and the pain so close standing next to me in the somber-eyes hidden under the NRA cap clamping down thick fuzzy hair, I can receive joy.

When we lay the soil of our hard lives open to the rain of grace and let joy penetrate our cracked and dry places, let joy soak into our broken skin and deep crevices, life grows.
My soul doth magnify the Lord.
God is not in need of magnifying by us so small, but the reverse. It’s our lives that are little and we have falsely inflated self, and in thanks we decrease and the world returns right. I say thanks and I swell with Him, and I swell the world and He sirs me, joy all about.
To name His gifts is to move into His presence and listen to His love unending and know the grace uncontainable.

And there is a reason why just before I bustled off to my gift of Europe, and I had to change all of my internet passwords in one flurried moment because of some new vicious bug created by Russian mafiosos or Chinese technocrats that was out to steal everything of value, I chose variations of a theme: Philippians 4. So that I would meditate and be reminded of Paul’s words, written from a prison cell.

Because really, really, all that I have of value comes from His hand.

Rejoice, I say it again rejoice.