L.

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1. Father, I know that all my life
Is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come
I do not fear to see;
But I ask thee for a present mind
Intent on pleasing Thee.

2. I ask Thee for a thoughtful love,
Through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles,
And to wipe the weeping eyes;
And a heart at leisure from itself,
To soothe and sympathize.

3. I would not have the restless will
That hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do
Or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child,
And guided where I go.

4. Wherever in the world I am,
In whatsoe’er estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts
To keep and cultivate;
And a work of lowly love to do
For the Lord on whom I wait.

5. So I ask Thee for daily strength,
To none that ask denied,
And a mind to blend with outward life
While keeping at thy side;
Content to fill a little space,
If Thou be glorified.

6. And if some things I do not ask
In my cup of blessing be,
I would have my spirit filled the more
With grateful love to Thee,
More careful, not to serve Thee much,
But to please Thee perfectly.

7. There are briers besetting every path
That call for patient care;
There is a cross in every lot,
And an earnest need for prayer;
But a lowly heart that leans on Thee
Is happy anywhere.

8. In a service which thy will appoints
There are no bonds for me;
For my inmost heart is taught the truth
That makes thy children free.
And a life of self-renouncing love
Is a life of liberty.

— Anna Letitia Waring (1850)

 

L.L.
We were children — how could we have known?
I remember the family lunch and dinners,
The origami paper and your gifts.
News over long-distance phone calls.
Your travels and business plans.
Dinner at McDonald’s.
I listened.
I couldn’t relate.
Eavesdropping as the adults spoke.
Complaining of unfairness in the world.
If only we knew what ‘unfair’ meant.
Three years since.
News over Whatsapp.
The prognosis.
Treatment options.
I listened.
I couldn’t relate.
Waves upon waves upon waves.
Have the waves driven you to the Rock of Ages?
They said you’re almost at the shore.
They said the suffering was manageable.
I don’t know what to ask.
I listened.
I’m trying to relate.
We were children, making origami at the dinner table while the adults shaded us from the weight of the world.
Her 95th.
Will we see you…
Or will we walk in a garden, and hear them speak of you?
Will you still speak then?
Know that I’m listening.
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Plan.

Every day, we make plans.
Our plans show the desires of our hearts.
We then go about accomplishing these plans.
ship.jpg He said our fears have value in that they show us where our heart is.
And how much we need to turn over to the LORD.
She said you can’t un-hear what was said.
She meant the good and courageous things that won’t be taken well but which must be said.

But what of things seen which cannot be unseen…
The ones burned onto the film of memory on perpetual replay.

The only salve which I have found to heal is to know that He is the Redeemer.
Nothing is wasted.
Even this.
Even then.
Even that which is to come.

All of it was, is, and will be for your eternal good.
And so, we can rest.
And that, in peace.

 

Burn the Ships. 

i was searching for belonging
but all i found was pain
crashing all around me
the sky painted gray
my broken compass
it only tells me lies
the ship has brought me
so far from Your side
But You draw me in
my heart secure upon Your shoulder
You pull me close
my fear released as i surrender
and now i see that You’re the one for me
my hopeless days are over
this wandering heart now home
flames are growing higher
and I’m letting go

no other can fulfill me
my soul is satisfied
the life i was pursuing is found in Your eyes
i will burn the ships
and tear apart the back up plan
i’ll leave the options
forget them all and lose myself in You
i will lose myself in You
Let Your love capture me
Let Your love conquer all my heart completely
i will lose myself in You
— S.Witt

 

 

Held Captive by Fear

I was recently speaking with a friend who shared about their work with the youths. They had studied Revelation, and then one of the Psalms. I asked about the order, whether it was because Revelation made them fear, hence the comfort of the Psalms. And he answered, “They’re always fearful!” And I asked, “What do they have to fear? School?” We laughed. (I suppose we both remembered the days when school was our biggest fear.)

I thought about our conversation as I drove off, and realized that fear never goes away but only takes on different forms with age. So often, it comes in the form of hopes unfulfilled and goals which seem to be just ever so slightly out of our grasp. The compensatory mechanism we take to counteract fear is ‘control’. Or planning, which, I suppose, is a form of control.

And if I were to look back at the last 10-15 years of my life, the years of scholastic and other life pursuits, there has always been a cloud of fear over all my hopes. Fear from the correctness of my desire, fear of their timing, fear of their accomplishment, that dreadful fear on the day you realize some hopes are not to be fulfilled…

And dear friends, to our greatest dismay, uncertainty is here to stay. There are always crossroads. It does not end after school. But rather, you will be on paths where you have to decide on crossroads one after the other. And sometimes your decisions affect others, too. Those are often the hard ones. (And this, I suppose, was why we had laughed. It was a laugh at the self, a laugh of realization that the world is more troubled than we had imagined in our youth.)

………

My recent devotions have been in the Book of Jeremiah, where warnings of Israel’s coming captivity was given as a result of their sin. The way to peace seems so contrary — they were to go into captivity and live and settle there. And in the time set by the LORD, He would gather and them. Yet in all this, the LORD speaks comfort to them. I came to chapter 29 last night. And of course, there was the familiar verse 11. Yet it was the promise in verse 14 which spoke to me:

“10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”
— Jeremiah 29:10-14

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Notes from Matthew Henry:

This shall be the performance of God’s promise to them (Jer. 29:10): I will perform my good word towards you. Let not the failing of those predictions which are delivered as from God lessen the reputation of those that really are from him. That which is indeed God’s word is a good word, and therefore it will be made good, and not one iota or tittle of it shall fall to the ground. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? This will make their return out of captivity very comfortable, that it will be the performance of God’s good word to them, the product of a gracious promise.
2. This shall be in pursuance of God’s purposes concerning them (Jer. 29:11): I know the thoughts that I think towards you. Known unto God are all his works, for known unto him are all his thoughts (Acts 15:18) and his works agree exactly with his thoughts; he does all according to the counsel of his will. We often do not know our own thoughts, nor know our own mind, but God is never at any uncertainty within himself. We are sometimes ready to fear that God’s designs concerning us are all against us; but he knows the contrary concerning his own people, that they are thoughts of good and not of evil; even that which seems evil is designed for good. His thoughts are all working towards the expected end, which he will give in due time. The end they expect will come, though perhaps not when they expect it. Let them have patience till the fruit is ripe, and then they shall have it. He will give them an end, and expectation, so it is in the original.

(1.) He will give them to see the end (the comfortable termination) of their trouble; though it last long, it shall not last always. The time to favour Zion, yea, the set time, will come. When things are at the worst they will begin to mend; and he will give them to see the glorious perfection of their deliverance; for, as for God, his work is perfect. He that in the beginning finished the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of both, will finish all the blessings of both to his people. When he begins in ways of mercy he will make an end. God does nothing by halves.

(2.) He will give them to see the expectation, that endwhich they desire and hope for, and have been long waiting for. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, nor the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith, the end which he has promised and which will turn for the best to them.

3. This shall be in answer to their prayers and supplications to God, Jer. 29:12-15.
(1.) God will stir them up to pray: Then shall you call upon me, and you shall go, and pray unto me. Note, When God is about to give his people the expected good he pours out a spirit of prayer, and it is a good sign that he is coming towards them in mercy. Then, when you see the expected end approachingthen you shall call upon me. Note, Promises are given, not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer: and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it. When Daniel understood that the 70 years were near expiring, then he set his face with more fervency than ever to seek the Lord, Dan. 9:23.

(2.) He will then stir up himself to come and save them (Ps. 80:2): I will hearken unto you, and I will be found of you. God has said it, and we may depend upon it, Seek and you shall find. We have a general rule laid down (Jer. 29:13): You shall find me when you shall search for me with all your heart. In seeking God we must search for him, accomplish a diligent search, search for directions in seeking him and encouragements to our faith and hope. We must continue seeking, and take pains in seeking, as those that search; and this we must do with our heart (that is, in sincerity and uprightness), and with our whole heart (that is, with vigour and fervency, putting forth all that is within us in prayer), and those who thus seek God shall find him, and shall find him their bountiful rewarder, Heb. 11:6. He never said to such, Seek you me in vain.

I’ve been learning that the more I learn, the less I know, and the more uncertain things seem to be. There are many answers, most of them unsatisfying. I had asked a friend why that was. We were studying 1 Corinthians 3, and with v. 18, he tried to explain: There are mysteries that we may not know because it is not revealed to us. Our increase in knowledge should also reveal the infinite wisdom of God and the limitation of our own wisdom.
I understood that to mean that, in the search for human answers for the things of God, we recognize our own insufficiency in understanding and admit to God how little we know and how small our knowledge is, and to seek Him again for wisdom.
And for the first time in a long time, I felt that the unknown was not accompanied by fear. But rather, fear was slowly being replaced by a calm trust, that God would be God, and because I am His, all is well.

The Years of Separation

Reflecting on a lifetime with You //
On aging and its accompanying fears.
On seeing You as You truly are.
On that unquenchable hope You gave…
That hope which can never die// But rather
Lives and sees its accomplishment just beyond this veil.

“But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
16 I will go in the strength of the Lord God;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.
17 O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.
19 Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high,
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?
20 You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
— Psalm 71:14-20
As it was in the beginning, it will be in the end//
The friendship in the Garden will come again.
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On the journey to the Cross, Your heartbreak was poured over//
As the days of separation took its toll…
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It’s what You made me for — it’s always been a love-story //
From the Garden to the Cross. To the end, Your heart is always for me.

9:37 p.m.

house

“You could see the smoke from a mile away
And trouble always draws a crowd
They wanna tell me that it’ll be okay
But that’s not what I need right now
Not while my house is burning down
I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now
Not right now
Tell me if the hope that you know is true
Ever feels like a lie even from a friend
When their words are salt in an open wound
And they just can’t seem to understand
That you haven’t even stopped the bleeding yet…
Don’t tell me when I’m grieving
That this happened for a reason
Maybe one day we’ll talk about the dreams that had to die
For new ones to come alive
But not right now
While I wait for the smoke to clear
You don’t even have to speak
Just sit with me in the ashes here
And together we can pray for peace
To the one acquainted with our grief
I know someday
I know somehow
I’ll be okay
But not right now…
— Not Right Now, J.J. Gray

 

(For the houses we had to leave.)

And Comes The Morning.

Be willing to be a beginner every single morning” – M.E.

What do you see? The smoke, the flames, the fire, the burning, the rage, the destruction, the rain, the flame, the smoke, the dying, the death… Where are you in that?

fire

But child, look deeper. Look for what is unseen… (Sometimes I find my best lessons in nature. Thinking of pyrophytic plants)

And in the world of art, the refining by fire for a purer metal. Look to what is yet unseen. 

There was the fire, the burning, the rage, the damage, the dying and deaths…

But then, there is the morning. And there will be that morning when you realize, it is well. And you wonder when that started… was it yesterday? Or the day before?

And you realize it’s been so long since you’ve noticed the smell of smoke from that fire, the burning, the damage, the deaths…

And you look down, and at your feet are buds — while you walked through the miles of damage in the fading smoke, some things were fighting to grow, and in His care — they grew and are growing.

And you realize you’re no longer in the smoke, the fire, the rage, the damage, the deaths…

No… You are now walking on the grounds of a new beginning.

This one goes out to you
If you gave all you had and it wasn’t enough
It goes out to you
If you’re afraid you’ve failed everybody you’ve loved
It goes out to you
If the ties that bind are coming undone
And you’re so tired that you wanna give up
There’s never been a night so long…
There’s never been a life too far gone
When you come to the end, you can begin again
This one goes out to you
When you got the call and it wasn’t good news
It goes out to you
When there’s nothing more that you can do
It goes out to you
When everything sad isn’t coming untrue
And every dream you chased got away from you
Arise, my love, the winter’s past, the spring has come!
He makes all things beautiful in time
After the fire, what remains is the love that will not change
And makes all things beautiful in time
It’s never too late for a new start
If you give God the pieces of your broken heart
When you come to the end, you can begin again
Oh, when you come to the end, you can begin again
– J.G.