The Path to Peace

“Lord, You know…” (John 21:17)
“Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” (Psalm 139)

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Last sunset of the summer on Balm Beach

Resting on God

O GOD MOST HIGH, MOST GLORIOUS,

The thought of thine infinite serenity
cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled
and distressed,
but thou art for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care
of unfulfilment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,
thy goodness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
  and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows,
to leave every concern entirely to thee,
every sin calling for Christ’s precious blood;
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great Shepherd,
hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide
in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power
of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
  burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach,
vindicate it,
see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
  unbelief mars my confidence,
  sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut
at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
                                  that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout,
    strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.

— Valley of Vision

 

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The search for joy.

 In these past few weeks, I have been trying to understand ‘joy’ as a character (fruit) we are called to bear (Galatians 5). 

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Unexpectedly warm evening at the lake

What is the joy that is possible for us in every situation (Philippians 4:12)?

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” 

 

I have come to know that things in life are not always as we would want.

  • This past week, I have sung hymns among sisters who cannot hear or sing with their voices, who used sign language to sing beautifully beside me.
  • Today, I have heard the news of a brother who finished his battle with cancer, and now rests with God. I read of the sacrifices at his conversion, of breaking his parents’ heart when they heard that he believes in Jesus and not the god of his people. Of the love that he continued to show for his people as a preacher. Of his joy as he approached the end. He leaves with us his wife and young daughter.
  • Every day, I see and hear about the matters of daily life that ails us — unexpected illness, chronic pain, family unhappiness, uncertainties at work…

The joy of Philippians 4, this χαρά, this calm delight seems almost impossible… Nothing in sight seems pleasant. Pain is pervasive and joy seems elusive.

But this week, You reminded me that You are enough. That this life is not always what we would have wished. That things are not always well by our definition of ‘well,’ but things are well because You are over all. You have always been, as You are now, and You will always be.

The hope that God has provided for you is not merely a wish. Neither is it dependent on other people, possessions, or circumstances for its validity. Instead, biblical hope is an application of your faith that supplies a confident expectation in God’s fulfillment of His promises. Coupled with faith and love, hope is part of the abiding characteristics in a believer’s life.

And this week, You gave me the beauty of your creation, the brilliant colors and artwork that only You can make. It is often in nature that I feel Your presence and Your Word is made alive and made known.

One day, all will be made well. The imperfections now, the sorrows here, only make us long for You more. And makes our hope, our faith in You, even sweeter.

 

So, in my search for joy, You have led me once again to You:

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

Just keep coming back to Me.

———

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Deuteronomy 29:29

“1. Though God has kept much of his counsel secret, yet there is enough revealed to satisfy and save us. He has kept back nothing that is profitable for us, but that only which it is good for us to be ignorant of.

2. We ought to acquaint ourselves, and our children too, with the things of God that are revealed. We are not only allowed to search into them, but are concerned to do so. They are things which we and ours are nearly interested in. They are the rules we are to live by, the grants we are to live upon; and therefore we are to learn them diligently ourselves, and to teach them diligently to our children.

3. All our knowledge must be in order to practice, for this is the end of all divine revelation, not to furnish us with curious subjects of speculation and discourse, with which to entertain ourselves and our friends, but that we may do all the words of this law, and be blessed in our deed.”

— Matthew Henry

Vous me manquez

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“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it.

At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it.

It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation.

But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Long days; too many short nights
Wrong ways that almost felt right
Lovesick but no one you’re holding on to
God knows you question your courage
And some days I can’t walk for stumbling
If we could only see what we’re becoming

To the soulful
Heart open hopeful
Keep on charging ahead

 

“Joy draws its nourishment from quietness and from the unfathomable.”

Even this shall pass away

Once in Persia reigned a king,
Who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel at a glance
Fit for every change and chance.
Solemn words, and these are they;
“Even this shall pass away.”

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Mikvah | The Jerusalem Archaeological Center

Trains of camels through the sand
Brought him gems from Samarcand;
Fleets of galleys through the seas
Brought him pearls to match with these;
But he counted not his gain
Treasures of the mine or main;
“What is wealth?” the king would say;
“Even this shall pass away.”

‘Mid the revels of his court,
At the zenith of his sport,
When the palms of all his guests
Burned with clapping at his jests,
He, amid his figs and wine,
Cried, “O loving friends of mine;
Pleasures come, but do not stay;
‘Even this shall pass away.’

Lady, fairest ever seen,
Was the bride he crowned the queen.
Pillowed on his marriage bed,
Softly to his soul he said:
“Though no bridegroom ever pressed
Fairer bossom to his breast,
Mortal flesh must come to clay –
Even this shall pass away.”

Fighting on a furious field,
Once a javelin pierced his shield;
Soldiers, with a loud lament,
Bore him bleeding to his tent.
Groaning from his tortured side,
“Pain is hard to bear,” he cried;
“But with patience, day by day,
Even this shall pass away.”

Towering in the public square,
Twenty cubits in the air,
Rose his statue, carved in stone.
Then the king, disguised, unknown,
Stood before his sculptured name,
Musing meekly: “What is fame?
Fame is but a slow decay;
Even this shall pass away.”

Struck with palsy, sore and old,
Waiting at the Gates of Gold,
Said he with his dying breath,
“Life is done, but what is Death?”
Then, in answer to the king,
Fell a sunbeam on his ring,
Showing by a heavenly ray,
“Even this shall pass away.”

–Theodore Tilton

 

What eclipses life and death, and all the sorrows and joys in between?
Life in Him, for eternity.
(Philippians 1:21-23)

A Matter of Life and Death.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
| Colossians 3:2-4

 

 

It’s not an easy road.
But we don’t walk as ourselves.
We walk with the full power of His life in us.
We are living His life.

Yes, trials and difficulties are real.
But in being hard pressed, His power is more evidently seen.

(Today. The day an earthen vessel was broken, and through its destruction, the light finally shone through. Thank You, Father, for this is Your grace and wisdom.)

 

 

Start again.

If you get a new start — try to listen this time.

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Tel Aviv. Day One. | YYMVA

“Are the walls to lock you in or to keep others away
And if the doors were to be opened would you leave or would you stay

The comfort of your misery you cherish dearly,
And you haven’t started dreaming ’cause you’re still fast asleep, you’re fast asleep…

You’re a lion full of power who forgot how to roar
You’re an eagle full of beauty but you can’t seem to soar

Will you return to the garden where you were first made whole
Will you turn to the one who can liberate your soul

…To every soul locked in a cage
In the prison of your past mistakes
No, there’s no time left to waste
You can make your great escape
We’re made to run wild

Run, Forest, all depends what direction
Some people run from fear, some from their own reflection
Some people run their mouth, some people run their house
Ruling with the heart of a tyrant

That’s the environment, how we were raised
Living like lions but trapped in a cage
Back to imago Dei with the blood of a king and the heart of a slave

Don’t you wanna run?

 

#peoplenotprojects

Memories in the morning

C.S. Lewis described pain as ‘the megaphone of God.’
Are we listening?
What does it take to hear?

on the coast

No man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

— John Donne
(Reportedly written while convalescing from what was thought to be the bubonic plague)

Dark night of the soul.

“In his face there came to be a brooding peace that is seen most often in the faces of the very sorrowful or the very wise. But still he wandered through the streets of the town, always silent and alone.” — C.M.

YaoyaoMVA_CarryOn
By Yaoyao Ma VA

Of all the goodbyes, why has this wounded so deeply?
There were others held in higher esteem, futures that shone brighter still.
But why this? Why now?

Was it the nonjudgmental welcome?
Your feigned confusion with my questions, and the honest and creative response.
Even when the answer was beyond you, you walked through the depth of the maze with me, both guided by light one step ahead.
(Though time and again, I wondered if you were there, and waited until I arrived there, too.)

At the end of the maze, I look back and realize it was not perfection, not skill, not beauty, not abundance… No.
It was just a willingness to walk together — to wander, to be lost, to wait, to be found… repeating this again and again on this path full of strange and unexpected turns.
That it was a choice. To choose the same again, and again, and again.

And I think the wound is this.
At the end of the maze, I see a fork in the road.
One is well suited to you, and the other, me.
There is no reason to choose any other. Logically, we should embark our own.

You asked why ‘joy’ was the most difficult one for me.
It is this: To live with unknowns and the painful aftermath…
Yet believing that all is well and will be well.
To sit silently, bearing pain and wondering about the meaning.
To be reasonably happy here, and supremely happy in the next.

To wake up.
Those seconds of blissful forgetfulness.
To be washed over by these same waves over and again.
The anchor is faith and hope in Him.
Healing is with Him, too.

(That this will not be known here, until the day we stand. That, too, is well.)

Tonight, the wound is fresh, and deepens with understanding.
But ‘all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.’

Faith in Work & Play

Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.  Also bring with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you while you and your sons are with you before the tabernacle of witness. 

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Just before sunrise on the Masada snake trail

A great deal of honour God had now lately put upon Aaron; his rod had budded and blossomed, when the rods of the rest of the princes remained dry, and destitute both of fruit and ornament. Now lest Aaron should be puffed up with the abundance of the favours that were done him, and the miracles that were wrought for the support of him in his high station, God comes to him to remind him of the burden that was laid upon him, and the duty required from him as a priest. He would see reason not to be proud of his preferment, but to receive the honours of his office with reverence and holy trembling, when he considered how great was the charge committed to him, and how hard it would be for him to give a good account of it. Be not high-minded, but fear.

…This is a good reason why we should neither be envious at others’ honours nor ambitious ourselves of high places, because great dignity exposes us to great iniquity. Those that are entrusted with the charge of the sanctuary will have a great deal to answer for. Who would covet the care of souls who considers the account that must be given of that care? (Matthew Henry)

 

Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting.  And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’”

 

When the Levites had thus paid the tenth of their income, as a heave-offering to the Lord, they had themselves the comfortable enjoyment of the other nine parts (Num. 18:30): “When you have thus heaved the best from it (for still God’s part must be the best) then you shall eat the rest, not as a holy thing, but with the same freedom that the other Israelites eat their part with, in every place, you and your households,” Num. 18:31. See here what is the way to have the comfort of all our worldly possessions so as to bear no sin by reason of them, as it follows, Num. 18:32.

[1.] We must be sure that what we have be got honestly and in the service of God. It is your reward for your service; that meat is the best eating that is first earned; but, if any will not work, neither shall he eat2 Thess. 3:10. And that seems to be spoken of as having a particular comfort and satisfaction in it which is the reward of faithful service done in the tabernacle of the congregation.

[2.] We must be sure that God has his dues out of it. Then we have the comfort of our substance when we have honoured the Lord with it. The you shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have heaved the best from it. This intimates that we must never feed ourselves without fear, lest our table become a snare, and we bear sin by reason of it; and that therefore we are concerned to give alms of such things as we have, that all may be clean and comfortable to us.
(Matthew Henry)

You are good, even when You are not understood.
(You chose us to be a royal priesthood.
To proclaim your light to the nations.
Keep Your people on my heart always.)

 

“Since I know, O my God, that You try the heart and delight in uprightness, I, in the integrity of my heart, have willingly offered all these things; so now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here, make their offerings willingly to You.
“O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, our fathers, preserve this forever in the intentions of the heart of Your people, and direct their heart to You…”

— 1 Chronicles 19:17-18

Who’s good enough?

We’ll spend years, Lord, toiling for a mention in the books of history.
But the world forgets… forgets the greatest and the worst.

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Capernaum. Contemplating Jesus’ offer of comfort

“Be Extraordinary.”
“Stand Out!”

Yes, and dinners and parties and conversations and worth.

But all spotlights dim.
What then?
Left in the dark again.

Where does this leave us?
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Of all the books, this Book is the only one that matters to have your name in — a matter of Life and death.

Nevertheless, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)

Yes, Lord.

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

And the reminder that while the world looks for elites, ‘cream-of-the-crop,’ the perfect people… You came for the broken! You came to heal the broken!

…the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners. (Isaiah 61:1)

Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

Good enough? Not good enough?

By Your standard, none is.
But here is the place for Grace.
And by grace, through faith (not because we were good), but by the gift of God, we receive the acceptance that our souls have long cried out for.  

Then Lord, may all thoughts of inadequacy, all worries of worth, all doubt past-present-and-future be laid to rest. Let the only work they achieve be to prompt us to seek You.

Thank You for loving the broken.

But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours