The Pursuit Of

“…Teach me that if I do not live a life that satisfies Thee,
I shall not live a life that will satisfy myself.

Help me to desire the spirit and temper of angels
who willingly come down to this lower world to perform Thy will,
though their desires are heavenly,
and not set in the least upon earthy things;
then I shall be of that temper I ought to have.

Help me not to think of living to Thee in my own strength,
But always to look to and rely on Thee for assistance.

Teach me that there is no greater truth than this,
that I can do nothing of myself.


How precious is time, and how painful to see it fly
with little done to good purpose!

I need Thy help:
O may my soul sensibly depend upon Thee for all sanctification,
and every accomplishment of Thy purposes for me,
for the world,
for Thy kingdom.”

— Happiness, The Valley of Vision

 

 

 

 

Pink and blue buttons.
Red and green bubbles.
The blue checkmark and the unnerving silence.
(A hundred questions unanswered.
A thousand questions unasked.)
Numbers and stats.
Statuses
Photos.
Picture frames.
Albums.
Cars and vans.
To do it well. And right.
And even so, presented to the Master Architect,
Mine were all soap bubbles and sandcastles.
Repeated lessons from the One who loves,
Until the sour grapes become the forgotten memories of a restful, weaned child.
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After.

“For my beloved I will not fear; Love knows to do For him, for her, from year to year, As hitherto. Whom my heart cherishes are dear To Thy heart too.”

— Amy Carmichael

Isobel, on the platform of Dread Disease:

The future of my loved ones, after I leave them? The Lord who has been so kind to me will not be less so to them.

 

Dross

“I hope He shall lose nothing of you in the furnace, but dross.”
— Letters of Samuel Rutherford

“The LORD will preserve everything else for us.” — Isobel Kuhn

For the past six to nine months, it seems a lot of dross has been picked up, such that it is hard to walk, hard to know which way, what direction. The fear is that I cannot discern between permissible and desired. Was it not best but permitted? Will it become an idol that must also be broken down?
There is an empty echo when the words we speak in public are not backed by a richer walk with God in private. And my words ring out that empty echo on prayer, on service, on devotion, on daily living… I hear and feel it — I don’t know if anyone else does, too.

What is the root cause, and what is the remedy?
The adults may give books and reading…
I think the children and the aged may tell me this: Tell God.

“There but for the grace of God, go I.”

Lost, but for the Good Shepherd, Who seeks and finds. And none can pluck us out from His hand.
If reading, will You pray?
And may the next letter be of answered prayers.

Amen.

The Doors.

O LORD,

Thou knowest my great unfitness for service,
my present deadness,
my inability to do anything for thy glory,
my distressing coldness of heart.

Help my soul to breathe after holiness,
  after a constant devotedness to thee,
  after growth in grace more abundantly every day.

O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of this blessedness,
And am ready to sink because I fall short
of my desire;

Help me to hold out a little longer,
until the happy hour of deliverance comes,
for I cannot lift my soul to thee
  if thou of thy goodness bring me not nigh.

Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender,
lest I offend my blessed Friend
in thought and behaviour;

I confide in thee and lean upon thee,
and need thee at all times to assist and lead me.

O that all my distresses and apprehensions
  might prove but Christ’s school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility.

— Need of Grace, Valley of Vision

For Your mercy in keeping some doors shut, not relenting no matter how hard I tried to pry them open.
(Even now.)
May I live to see Your wisdom.
And until then, to rejoice in Your ways.

And to rest in faith and hope and love, as a child.
Yours.

Space

The pause between words.
The distance between two people.
That moment before you make a choice.

So many times, I wish I had filled it with grace.
I wish I had stepped closer and said farewell with a little more grace.

I wish I had turned to overcome fear and asked those questions that get at the heart.

I wish I had smiled.
And said that I do see.

Space.
My gallery of unwanted pieces.
My apologies for the times I’ve unwittingly gifted these pieces.
I’ve often wished to take them back.
But who knows. Maybe we’re all masters of the same craft.

But now, enough navel-gazing and onto something more important:

There is this other space, this hole, this gap we feel.  We do feel it, all of us. We may have partially filled it with the pursuit of things, of milestones, of life achievements, with the general ‘busy’… We may numb it with music, with crowds, with ideas, and other things that help us forget.
But it is there.
If you’re honest with yourself, no matter how much you have and how much you’ve done, you can’t fill it. And you wonder if that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Pascal described in Pensées once:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

Friend. You see, we were made to feel that gap, so that we might seek to fill it. But long story short, it is a fool’s errand if we try it our way.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

  We were made to find the answer, and there is only One:

“Just as a square peg cannot fill a round hole, neither can the “God-shaped hole” inside each of us be filled by anyone or anything other than God. Only through a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ can the “God-shaped hole” be filled and the desire for eternity fulfilled.” [1]

So that, friend, is the answer to the great emptiness we feel.

(But for that space which I gave you when I should have given grace… May He give more grace — grace to forgive and courage to care)
I’ve been strong
And I’ve been broken within a moment
I’ve been faithful
And I’ve been reckless at every bend
I’ve held everything together
And watched it shatter
I’ve stood tall and I have crumbled
In the same breath
I have wrestled
And I have trembled toward surrender
Chased my heart adrift
And drifted home again
Plundered blessing
Till I’ve been desperate to find redemption
And every time I turn around
Lord You’re still there
Who am I
To think Your glory needs my praises
But if this borrowed breath is Yours Lord
Take it all
You are faithful and You are gracious
And I’m just grateful
To think You don’t need a single thing
And still You want my heart
I was found
Before I was lost
I was Yours
Before I was not
You wear the scars
For all my mistakes
And I know I don’t deserve this kind of love
Somehow this kind of love is who You are
It’s a grace I could never add up
To be somebody You still want
But somehow
You love me as You find me

 

[1] https://www.gotquestions.org/God-shaped-hole.html

Broken.

As I continue to read Isobel Kuhn’s, In the Arena , I was also reminded of the life of Samson. A person can be so gifted, so strong, so powerful…
But so long as our will seeks to serve ourselves, we are not really walking in obedience, not really serving Him in the way which He intends, even if it was in the guise of ‘doing something’ for the LORD.

 

How much refining, how much chiseling – how much breaking – a life requires before it can be fit for the master’s use! When will we let go of the feeling of humiliation to recognize and accept our need for humility? When will we stop crying over the breaking to see that there is something more beautiful being revealed?

 

I think of Jacob, of Joseph, of Moses, of Peter, of Paul…
Of Amy Carmichael, of Elizabeth Elliot, of Isobel Kuhn…

 

So much breaking and tearing apart. But here is the beauty of all of this — we may be broken, but we are not destroyed. Whether He chooses to use outward circumstances to change us, or sometimes, inner turmoil, so long as we belong to Him, all of these things work for our good (Romans 8:28).

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh…
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 
2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18

 

What is all this brokenness for?
Our heavenly Father is making us more like His Son.
For the LORD, being God, possessing all the power and all access to that power, made Himself of no reputation… humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross (See Philippians 2:5-11).

 

Sometimes we want to do so much, to go here and there and accomplish such and such. (And remember, child. Never mistaken movement for progress.)
But the beauty of this is, even as we work for Him, He is working in us to change us to be like Jesus. That others may see Him in us.

And perhaps here is where I shall find the most important thing I can do and the most meaningful way to live: To live before Him in love and obedience.

 

Broken and Beautiful.

 

So, friend: Will you let go of the mourning, the doubt, the fear, and see with that eternal perspective…
He is working.
And He is making something beautiful.

Drawn, not Driven.

… Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus
makes other interests a shadow and a dream.

Keep us from intermittent attention
to eternal things;
Save us from the delusion of those
who fail to go far in religion,
who are concerned but not converted,
who have another heart but not a new one,
  who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ.

Let us judge our Christianity,
not only by our dependence upon Jesus,
but by our love to him,
our conformity to him,
our knowledge of him.

Give us a religion that is both real
    and progressive,
that holds on its way and grows stronger,
that lives and works in the Spirit,
that profits by every correction,
and is injured by no carnal indulgence.

True Christianity, Valley of Vision

To trust Him before I can understand.
To believe without asking for sight.
To know that the Book gives one consistent message of His holy love towards us — where justice and mercy meet.
And to know, though questions linger, that all of this – life, death, and everything in-between – isn’t about me.
To joyfully seek and find Him.
To be firmly rooted as a branch in the vine.
To be fully satisfied, and to bear fruit.

And there shall we meet.

We thought You’d come

Today You told me about a teapot of lard.
Of two families whose fathers were taken into labor camps for the sake of preaching Your word, and food was rationed, to be purchased only by food vouchers.
Of one mother who showed true friendship to her sister in the Lord, that she saved and the fat from the meat she cooked to her friend and her friend’s children, that they can better flavour their food, while she and her children continued with the rations given.

And this story was told by the son of the mother who received the gift.

My takeaways:
1. The embarrassment that my first reaction to ‘lard’ was of disgust until I heard the full story. The embarrassment that in the excessively abundant world I live in, nutrition is king, and I did not consider the difficulty of their times. Food is so abundant here, we do not know the blessings of what it means to eat and to be full.

2. That the spiritual well-being of our children must be valued more than the physical. Parents want children to do well in life, which is good. We want our children to be healthy, and this is good and necessary. But to have their lives rooted in the Lord, to value this first, beyond academic education. To see their spiritual health as necessary as their physical health, to care as urgently for both. A parent’s greatest worry is for how their children will be cared for if anything should happen to them… But in recent weeks, hearing of sacrifice of godly parents in faith-restricted countries continue to serve, knowing the danger it is to themselves, knowing the risk to their families (and of course, it would have been safer to be quiet, to hide their faith)… They still continued. And families were separated. And the children suffered alongside their parents. And sometimes, without their parents.

And yet. And yet I see how these children grew strong in faith in the Lord. In seeing how real their parents’ faith was, how they lived it out, how they gave God their all and lived by obedience to His Word… The children followed.

Oh, and is that not the best thing we can give our children?
We can give them a good education.
And we make sure they are in the best health.
But what of eternity?

Do we believe and live out the reality of eternity before the children?

An old couple told me the biggest deterrent to the faith of children is hypocrisy from their parents.
Children have the clearest minds.
They sense falsehood better than lie detectors.
They watch and they know.

How can we live consistently before the Lord and before the children?
To walk our talk daily?

For me, it begins with a change in my values.
To value a child’s spiritual well-being first.
Knowing that health and education are essential, and these we will care for.
But to pray first that they may know the Lord, and follow Him in true, faithful and joyful obedience — this would be my first prayer for a child.

The lesson was on Jonathan’s friendship with David.
That love and loyalty was on mutual faith on God; they both saw that God was stronger than their circumstance.
That God’s promise would stand and have victory.
The children’s faith was greater than the parents’ sight and logic.
And God showed victory by their faith.

 

 

No less faithful

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O how high would I climb mountains
If the mountains were where You hide
O how far I’d scale the valleys
If You graced the other side

O how long have I chased rivers
From lowly seas to where they rise
Against the rush of grace descending
From the source of its supply

In the highlands and the heartache
You’re neither more or less inclined
I would search and stop at nothing
You’re just not that hard to find

So I will praise You on the mountain
And I will praise You when the mountain’s in my way
You’re the summit where my feet are
So I will praise You in the valleys all the same
No less God within the shadows
No less faithful when the night leads me astray
You’re the heaven where my heart is
In the highlands and the heartache all the same

O how far beneath Your glory
Does Your kindness extend the path
From where Your feet rest on the sunrise
To where You sweep the sinner’s past

O how fast would You come running
If just to shadow me through the night
Trace my steps through all my failure
And walk me out the other side

For who could dare ascend that mountain
That valley’ed hill called Calvary
But for the One I call Good Shepherd
Who like a lamb was slain for me

Whatever I walk through
Wherever I am
Your Name can move mountains
Wherever I stand

And if ever I walk through
The valley of death
I’ll sing through the shadows
My song of ascent…

From the gravest of all valleys
Come the pastures we call grace
A mighty river flowing upwards
From a deep but empty grave

 

 

It’s often at the ascent, during the steep climb fueled by the hope of what may await at the top…
That I find I have let go of Your hand.
And it is at the peak…
Then the inevitable descent, and on the plateau, that I remember You.
You were walking with me the whole time, and I did not know it.
I am asked to look back now.
This moment seems like an ascent.
To what, Lord?
Where to?
Only You know.
But teach me to look to You, even during this ascent.
And at the peak, to thank You for the lesson and the perspective it brought.
That perhaps, a little more then, I may see as You see.
And at the descent…
Or the duller plateau…
To remember the lessons during the ascent.
And the view at the peak.
And should I meet others who climb up, to cheer them for what there is to see.
To cherish those whom You’ve sent during the plateau.
To enjoy their company but not deter each other beyond that.
To part in peace…
And if You send that climber, walking at the same pace, to the same place, for the same purpose.
Lord, do let me know then.

Closing Thoughts.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”  John 14:2 

apartment chairs clean contemporary
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A long, wooden table.
That was the only thing on the list.
But sometimes, even that has to go back on the wishlist.

‘Not the first two,’ was the answer.
But the answer over all of this was, “You have a home more beautiful than you can ever imagine. It is being prepared for you now.”

The most glorious temple did not last.
The homes here do not last forever.
But your eternal home, that is secure.
You have a home. Eternally.
He has gone to prepare a place for you.

And a better promise than deeds and treaties:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:3

And what other response have I but this:
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”Psalm 131:2

“Peace that passes, my understanding
Love that conquers, my fear and regret
Joy unending, eternal pleasure
In your presence, my risen King
I will seek first, your kingdom
I will seek first, your righteousness
Everything I need, you will provide for me
My heart is to seek first, your kingdom”