Time to Look Honestly

“The grinding power of the plain words of the Gospel story is like the power of millstones; and those who can read them simply enough will feel as if rocks had been rolled upon them” -G.K. Chesterton

Cheery thought to start Thursday.

The reading I am following for Lent with She Reads Truth comes from Isaiah. The words today made me think of Chesterton’s words.

The Lord of Hosts removing any security from the people of Judah. Ouch. God allowing them to fall to what they truly were in that moment…they had rejected God and were living for themselves. God was going to allow them to follow that through. The result, according to the word of God through Isaiah, was going to be devastating.

People oppressing one another, desperate for a leader. There would be no stability, no security. Fear…that underlies the verses.


Until God says that there will be a day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.  There will be a refuge and a shelter
.

The people could not see what they had become. They were fooling themselves, and as long as God allowed them to prosper in that state, they would remain ignorant and rebellious. When they saw the fulfillment of their reality, they would see the deep need for God’s redemption.

When we see ourselves honestly through Lent, we realize the deep need for Jesus.

This morning as I sit, I reached for tea instead of coffee. Something different, something to awaken my senses this morning as I just felt numb to the taste of coffee. And I love coffee. It had become bland to me though…and so I reached for something different. And I drank it from a tea cup my grandmother used with a sugar spoon my  great grandmother used.

 

I read and looked around at my life, which is very good, and realized that it is easy to be complacent in honestly looking at myself. It is easy to doze in the sunlight even when there is so much turmoil all around.

 

I know there is so much to pray for and about all around us. There are so many dealing with enormous challenges. Sometimes, though, we need the season to look inward. It’s not healthy to naval gaze without end…but sometimes we need the season to quiet down and look honestly at ourselves.

 

There is something about tangibly changing things. Lent provides the opportunity to change things, tangibly. And sometimes just a simple change…like giving up being judgemental, even for one of the 40 days, helps us think differently. Helps us look differently at ourselves and at our God.
Give up something, something noticeable. 40 Days of changing the routine.

 

Before God has to remove the security to get our attention. Sometimes God getting our attention is uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels like millstones rolling upon us. Because, the point is…we are fallen and marked by sin. We are in desperate need of salvation.
Sometimes that is not so easy see. Sometimes, though, we see true evil around us and are reminded there is a deeper reality. Ann Voskamp talked about that today:

And if I’m only dust — just my love alone in the world will not be enough.


If love is all we need in this world — I’ve got a problem.


Because, honest? Our love isn’t enough to absorb the evil that decapitates men’s heads, evil that rapes little girls, evil that steals and sells children as sex slaves.


There’s real active evil that’s not simply people acting — there’s real evil that’s more than a social construct, that’s more than someone’s bad choices, that’s not from any heart in this world, that’s not from any place in this world, that’s not from any mind in this world — there’s a supernatural evil that slithers into the corners of this world and pythons around hearts and minds until it strangles out the light and we scream against the dark.


At some point — in a broken world, your Love runs out, and You need a Love larger than your own to Love Larger than evil.

 

Looking honestly. Honestly like this takes some time to sink in. Some time to settle in our brains and then make its way to our hearts. That is one of the blessings of Lent…it takes its time. Time to understand the reality of sin, and of evil and of a love that is able to turn that all upside down.

 
A God who comes not overwhelming and not conquering, but instead comes unexpectedly and then dies unexpectedly. A God willing to suffer. A God willing to be in the desert and know what it is to be tempted and to suffer.

 
The reality of the Cross, the honesty of our need for that reality, Lent provides us the time and the space to remember.

 
Every. Year.

 
Lent is not just about giving up chocolate or FaceBook.

 
Lent is about changing our focus and about discipline, discipline in our thoughts.

 

Discipline in our spirits. We’ve just begun…find a book that helps you focus and helps you look honestly at the world and at yourself, and ultimately draws you back to Scripture to look honestly at the God who changes everything.

Advertisements

Joy! Flashmobs! The Light has Come!

One of my favorite things this time of year is scrolling through YouTube and watching FlashMobs. The one above, in Seoul, I love because of the language barrier. The songs are still familiar, however the language difference allows me to hear afresh. I love the expressions of the people.

This next one, in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, just amazes me. The singer is so talented, along with the musicians, but the words. Oh my soul.

O holy night!
The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angel voices
Oh night divine
Oh night when Christ was born
Oh night divine
Oh night divine

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the wise men from Orient land
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

 

This season, the Word of God, the announcement of God with us…it is sung out in the most unlikely places.

This one, in German, stretches my language again while still the music is familiar. Again, Hallelujah’s ring. Again the announcement that Christ has come.

This Advent business is not simply anticipation for us. We know the end of the story. We know He comes, and we know He changes everything. We know that He brings healing, brings hope, brings wonder. This Advent business is about joy alongside the anticipation. We still need to learn the art and discipline of waiting through this season…of quieting our hearts and being aware of our need.

But…sometimes the joy just has to come out. Because this is good news.

 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”” Luke 2:8-15

 

 

 

Never let anyone shrink your Advent down to only lighting candles — instead of you breaking into flame, because our God is holy fire and His people ignite light that breaks into a wildfire of change that breaks the captives free.  – Ann Voskamp 

 

This great mystery of the Incarnation. We need the days of Advent to allow the space and time for this truth to soak us again. The reality of God with Us. Emmanuel. In the midst of dark days, in the midst of loneliness…God has come. Rejoice! Find that balance this season of quiet anticipation and joyful exuberance.

The following poem, from Malcolm Guite’s Advent series last year helps me. I keep thinking on the line “O quickened little wick so tightly curled, Be folded with us into time and place, Unfold for us the mystery of grace.”

 

(You may click on the title to hear Malcolm read the poem, and I highly encourage you do so.)

O Emmanuel

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

In the darkness….rely on God.

Facebook greeted me this morning. I usually take a few minutes and speedily scan updates as I sip my coffee. I rejoiced at birthdays and people getting over colds. Liked pictures of friend’s kids doing, well, kid things.

Then I read this on Ann Voskamp’s page:

Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.

Isaiah 50:10

And I paused. I thought of one very dear to me who is now walking through the darkness of divorce. Suddenly. Starting all over. Packing things up and moving.

I thought of another who has struggled to find work and deals with burdens that are nearly overwhelming.

I thought of another who is in the midst of a confusing and heartbreaking situation, where there are glimpses of hope and yet much darkness.

I thought of many who walk in darkness…not evil, not lives encompassed in sin…but darkness that hides the light of hope and of direction. They are faithful to keep walking, to keep pressing in and squinting and looking for that glimmer of light.

This verse struck me…that in those moments, when we are stumbling and cannot find the light, that is when we most need to trust. We simply have no other choice. As Ann says on her Facebook page, we want clarity, but God wants us to press in more closely to him in those moments.

Don’t look for another light…wait. Trust that he is going to guide you through.

Trust, and rely on God.

Great thoughts. Yes.

Sip of coffee.

Next status.

Friends, who we have cheered our sons together as they played hockey. Friends who we know the sound of their voices and the way their eyes look when they laugh, and how the boy’s shoulders shrug when they laugh…those friends…their son was diagnosed with leukemia. Last night.

Let the one who walks in the dark,
    who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on their God.

Isaiah 50:10

Still?

Yes. Still.  Trust in the name of the Lord and rely on God.

This is the messiness of our broken lives. The heartbreakingly real reality.

I will tell the boys during our morning devotionals. That moment when we go around the room and ask what we are going to focus on this week for prayer. Each boy picks a person they want to be focused on during that week. The choice will be simple today. This will be the closest they have come to cancer…these friends are sports friends. They are close enough that the boys will feel the punch in the gut.

We do not turn away in these moments, though. We listen. We pay attention. We reach out and we offer any help we can…and we pray.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” – Buechner

We realize that life is so much deeper and wider, and more fragile, than we think. We realize in these moments that there is holiness in our midst, and we realize our deep, deep need in our brokenness. We are awakened from our laziness of being entertained by the world to realize how fragile and broken, and yet amazing and wonder-filled this world is.

These moments stop us. For this family everything has changed.

The darkness is thick at times. In those moments, short or long as they may be…trust in the name of the Lord and rely on him.

“In honesty you have to admit to a wise man that prayer is not for the wise, not for the prudent, not for the sophisticated. Instead it is for those who recognize that in face of their deepest needs, all their wisdom is quite helpless. It is for those who are willing to persist in doing something that is both childish and crucial.”  – Buechner

We pray. We trust in the name of the Lord and rely on him.