Saturday, January 29, 2011

Hidden Wisdom

  And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 
      Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,
even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
      But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed
them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
                                                                                              ~  1 Corinthians 2:1-10

Will I accept the broken places, the shattered dreams
The things I can't explain?
Will I accept with outstretched fingers and call God good,
despite the searing pain?

When all is dark with silence, doubt and questions;
No answers given within the great unknown;
Will I believe in Light and Sovereign wisdom?
Will I believe that He's still on the throne?

When I have failed, will I accept forgiveness,
Won by His wounds, nail wounds upon the tree?
When wronged will I forgive as I'm forgiven?
Will I release and by Him be set free?

When crushed in heart, when bruised and battle weary;
Will I believe in Him who doth restore?
Will I believe His love is endless flowing?
That He has plans and glory's grace in store?

It is not ours to question Sovereign mercy,
But to say "Yes" unto His perfect plan.
Sin marred the world, but greater His salvation;
The groaning soul, redeemed by God made man.

His grace our hope, His elixir of mercy,
The cordial that our fainting heart's so need.
He calls us "Come," gives beauty for our ashes.
Casting on Him our cares we find we're freed.

We are renewed. Our doubts no longer linger.
Though pain remains, His nail scarred hand upholds.
The hill, the cross, the darkness leads to glory.
Our dust refined is turned to Heaven's gold.
                                                            ~  Rachael Lofgren

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Wonder


     Snow flakes fall - whirling, twirling, dancing, drifting - Winter magic.  I watch, fingers curled round hot coffee mug, soaking up warmth within, heart warmed by wonder of winter without. 

     The world is blanketed in ponderous silence.  My heart slows to match it's pace. Stops to marvel anew. Marvel at millions of tiny crystalline miracles that make up this world of whiteness. I trace the design of a drifting delicacy. Delightful individual, with no other like it. A testament to His endless creativity. My heart bows in worship.

     Suddenly there's Laughter - like sunshine, bursting in on silent reverie. Merry lad bound for the out of doors goes trooping past. Cold air sweeps in - curls round my toes. Door slams shut. I watch him trudge through snow to the slope below the house. 

     I watch him dig a path through fresh whiteness. Watch him pull a sled uphill. Anticipation written on his face.

      Now he's sliding down - progress slow like the falling flakes.  At the bottom he tumbles out, his joyous laughter ringing out over the silent hills and woods.  He too is delighting in the wonder - he too is worshiping,  all unawares. Worshiping the marvelous Creator. The author of Winter Wonder.
       This is a combination of several winter days happenings rolled into one to create a story...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

He asks all


"What kind of a God is it who asks everything of us? The same God "...who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, and with this gift, how can He fail to lavish upon us all he has to give."

He gives all.

He asks all. 

-Elizabeth Elliot

I will serve Thee because I love Thee
You have given life to me
I was nothing before You found me
You have given life to me

Heartaches, broken pieces
Ruined lives are why You died on Calvary
Your touch was what I longed for
You have given life to me
                       - William and Gloria Gaither

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds."  Matthew 16:24-27 nlt

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

No Scar?

Photo courtesy of Brian Lofgren
No Scar?

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?
    --Amy Carmichael 
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."  2 Cor. 4:7-11 & 16-18

Friday, January 21, 2011

Miracle Rainbows

     Sometimes in our lives we look around us and wonder. At least I do. Wonder at the brokenness, the darkness, the pain, the splintered families, reeling lives, the brokenness and throbbing pain within ourselves. Wonder why? Where God is in all of this?  
     Then we come, groping, stumbling, to the Light, to the source of Life, to the all knowing One. It is a comfort to draw near Him. Solid, Unchanging.  But in our reeling world we long for answers.  Is there no remedy for all the pain and darkness we see around us?  We know He is the God of miracles. Why is it that we seem to see so few? 
     Sometimes in the silence there is no answer to our questions.  Only the strong quiet comfort of His presence. And this is enough.  But sometimes He answers.  Answers us with the gleam of a reminder of yesterday's miracle.  A gleam that shines through the rain of today's questions and pain and glows in the rainbow of promise, heralding the miracles of tomorrow. And sometimes it's in the least expected moments, when you've seen nothing but gray sky for days that He chooses to send these reminders.
     It was on a short flight from Chicago to Fargo. The weather outside was cold and blustery --Much like some of the situations I'd been thinking about of late.  Snow, sleet, ice, wind.  Not very promising rainbow weather. It was then that a tall, sharp looking gentleman sat down next to me.
     I wasn't particularly inclined to talk.  It'd been a long day. A long week for that matter.  Maybe I'd read a book.  Maybe I'd catch a few winks of sleep.  But the cheerful blue eyed gentleman beside me was feeling rather conversational.  So to be polite I conceded.  I try to keep in mind that God plans even little things like seatmates.  So I wondered now, as we exchanged pleasantries and basic location and vocation information, if perhaps there was something more to this connection than what was visible now.
     It was at least an hour into our conversation that I saw the rainbow. I had discovered Aaron to be a lively and strongly intellectual conversationalist. Our interchange had covered everything from Theology to Science.   "Would you mind sharing how you came to Christ?"  It seemed the next thing in order after all we had discussed.  His face lit up when I asked.  
     "Sure. I'd be glad to."  
     His expressive eyes grew thoughtful as he looked down at his hands. "I came to Christ as a Senior in High School."  He paused.  Then smiling a bit awkwardly he continued.  "I wasn't a very promising case."  I nodded in anticipation. 
     "I grew up in an abusive home. Dad was 21 when he married my mother.  She was 13.  I was born just after she turned 14.  Five more kids came later.  One day when I was five Mom left me with Dad and went to town.  My Dad got angry and smashed my head against a rocking chair arm. I ended up in the hospital and the doctors predicted I would be brain damaged from the trauma."  His sensitive mouth twitches.  The memories are painful ones.  But he smiles and goes on.
     "At ten years old I remember my Dad choking my mother and threatening to kill her. As I watched him I remember praying.  "Lord if I ever even consider treating my wife and kids like this, please take my life. Even send me to hell if need be. But never let this happen.  Never."  In my mind hell was better than the degraded state my Dad was in.
      It was at this point that Mom finally got out.  She had tried several times unsuccessfully before to leave the relationship, but this was the last straw.  She got a divorce and Dad walked out of our lives.
     We were extremely poor.  The house we lived in had walls so thin you could stick your hand through them, literally.  We would stuff the cracks with socks to try and keep warm.  I hated rich folks.  In fact I hated most everyone.  Life had dealt me a low blow and now I carried a chip on my shoulder.  Anybody who had it better than me somehow owed me something.
     Life went on.  Mom was in and out of relationships.  She was young and beautiful and men were drawn to her because of it.  But the relationships never lasted.  They'd come for what they wanted and leave.  She had us and six kids was more than any man wanted, especially someone else's kids. 
     "But I had praying grandparents, "  Here he smiled again.  "If they wouldn't have prayed for me I wouldn't have made it. I believe it was through their prayers that I found Christ.
     I was a bad case as I said before.  I was into drugs and my life was a mess to say the least.  The year I was 17 my Mom had had enough.  "You're going to your Dad's.  I'm done with you."  Her words stung.  They made me afraid.  Maybe if I did better Mom would let me try again.  
     The summer passed.  Mom had told me many times that I couldn't have my life both ways.  I either served God or I didn't. You couldn't ride the fence.  Even though she didn't live it she knew the truth.  My Grandma had told me some of the same things as I grew up.  In fact I knew all about hell and sin and all the things you had to avoid if you wanted to get to Heaven.  I knew God was a God of Justice.  But I didn't know He was a God of mercy.
      That is until I started back to school in my senior year.  Things looked as bad as ever.  My life was still a mess.  Mom still hadn't changed her mind about sending me to Dad's.  I knew it was only a matter of time till she carried out her threat.  I still held on to a thread of hope that perhaps I could prove myself, somehow, and get her to change her mind.
     It was the first day in a new school.  (I had switched school's even though I was still with my Mom.) I was jamming with another guy in the band room when he suddenly stopped playing his instrument.  I stopped playing my guitar and looked up at him, questioning.  "Ya know, I'm a born again, Spirit filled Christian, who loves Jesus with all my heart."  
     For a second I looked at him then nodded slightly. "Uh,  nice." Inwardly I thought.  "So this is one of those kooks."    
     He smiled "I just wanted to tell you that." then he turned back to his music as if nothing unusual had happened.
     At lunch that day I scanned the throng of talking laughing teenagers and wondered inwardly who I should eat with.  I really didn't know anyone except Mr. Kook.  I decided I'd ask him if I could eat with him. "Just until I've had a chance to meet some other people."  I told myself.
    Mr. Kook seemed glad to have me and we joined a group of young people he obviously knew well, sitting around a table in the cafeteria. As I tuned into the conversation I was shocked to discover that the topic of conversation was God.  But unlike so many times in my growing up years and much like Mr. Kook's reference to God earlier these young people were all going on about how God was blessing them and what they were learning as they grew in their walk with Him. 
     "This is unreal."  I thought.  "They can't all have the real thing.  They're a bunch of fakes, that's what they are.  By the end of the week I'll prove it."  But as I sat there among these young people I suddenly heard an almost audible voice ask, "So what keeps YOU from serving Me, now?" I looked around, confused. No one seemed to have noticed anything.  I went back to eating, but strangely I wasn't thinking about proving my point anymore, I was thinking about my own spiritual condition in comparison to theirs.
      For the rest of the week I ate lunch with them.  By the end of the week I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that what these young people had was real.  And I wanted what they had!  That Friday  when I got home from school I went to my room and for the first time in my life I truly cried out to God in repentance.  "God I want You!  Show me Yourself. Take me if You will. I want to be Yours!"
     In that moment I knew something had changed.  I had a new joy.  A new peace.  I told my friends I wasn't the same guy anymore.  Normally on a weekend we would have partied but that weekend when I told one of my drinking buddies that I was a new man he responded. "Well, I just met a hot girl and she invited me to her church.  We could go together if you want."
     That Sunday we found ourselves in the midst of a lively congregation.  To my surprise I spotted my friend (alias Mr. Kook.)  sitting several benches in front of us.  So this must be his church!  God certainly moved in strange ways.
     At the end of his sermon the minister gave an invitation. He asked if anyone would like to give their lives to Christ.  "That's not me." I thought.  Then he asked, "Is there anyone here who wants to recommit their life to Him?"  "That's not me either."  I sighed in relief.  It was on the third invitation that God spoke to me.  "Does anyone here want to go all the way with God? Perhaps you've started on the right road but you know God has more out there for you?  Anyone who wants to go all the way with God go ahead and raise your hand now." 
     I knew this was me.  I knew I wanted whatever God had for me.  Everything He'd given me so far had been so good.  I raised my hand.  Then the minister asked us to stand.  This I did with my knees shaking.  "Would those of you standing please come forward. We'd love to pray with you in one of the prayer rooms at the back of the auditorium."  
     I thought "are you kidding?"  But he wasn't and neither was God and I knew it. I went forward.  As I prayed with someone in those back prayer rooms I cried out for all that God had to give me. I told Him I wanted to go all the way with Him.  In that moment I felt a powerful tingling sensation run through me from the top of my head to the tip of my toes and back again.  Never before or since have I experienced anything like it.  I began to speak in tongues.  I had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
     In the days and weeks that followed I took my Bible with me wherever I went. I shared the gospel with all my younger brothers and sisters and within a months time they too had committed their lives to Christ.  Always before I had been the trouble maker on the bus.  The ringleader in all sorts of trouble.  Now I went back and apologized to the bus driver.  I took my Bible on the bus with me and I shared the gospel with the other kids.  Soon they too where carrying Bibles on the bus..."
     As I listened the rainbow of hope shone out in a million iridescent sparkling colors. Inwardly I thanked my Heavenly Father for sending me such a powerful living testimony of His miraculous grace. 
    Brought back to the present by Aaron's questioning voice I heard him ask,  "So when did you get saved?"  I replied that I had been saved at 9.  Half sadly he mused.  "I think perhaps it's those who have been saved all their lives that have a more powerful testimony than those of us who have come from such a horrible mess."    
I could feel his pain as he considered the wasted years and the scars of poor choices. But it was his story that had given me hope.  Turning to him I replied.  " Oh, I don't think so, sir. I have several wayward siblings and your story has given me hope for them."   Again he smiled and his eyes smiled too.  "I hope it could be an encouragement. I feel like God brought me up out of the pit. Don't give up hope.  They'll come around."
     I saw a second bow shimmering in the sky of my soul as we parted with a firm handshake.  A double rainbow of promise.  Promise that miracles do still happen, today.  Aaron is living, speaking proof that God is still in the process of redeeming broken hearts and broken lives and transforming them into radiant testimonies of His amazing Grace.

(This is a true account. A few minor details have been altered to improve the flow of the story.)



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Believe to See - Abigail Miller

This song has become a favorite in the past several months - May it bless your heart as you listen.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

His Story

     "...The first words spoken into the cold expanse of the cosmos are words meant to reassure: “In the beginning…” It is all story. We live in narrative; the epic of existence is His story. And it is His story: “In the beginning, God….” God is the central character. His story flashes with Him. Our stories are not our own, not even really about us, but spotlight His heart. I forget that, listening to my story, these days, to know more about me instead of Him. How often had I missed the point of the story?

    ... He’s writing a romance. The bridegroom woos: “And when I passed by again, I saw that you were old enough for love. So I wrapped my cloak around you to cover your nakedness and declared my marriage vows. I made a covenant with you, says the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine” (Eze. 16:8).

     ... In Him, there are only happy endings, lovers united. No, I don’t know how the middle chapters will read. Yes, with embarrassing frequency fear strangles me and I wrangle against turning the page. Regardless of angst, the next scene comes. But this is a story I can trust, an Author I can believe in. He’s writing a story with a beginning, an ending—this middle must make sense. Will I remember when the anxieties loom, bear down: I can trust His storyline.

     Our lives are not random, haphazard, absurd. The story has a Storyteller Who is making meaning of these moments. Nor do I have to slip a peek at the last page. He’s already told us the words inked there: “I have plans for you… plans to prosper you..plans to give you a hope and future Jer. 29:11I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am John 14:3No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him 1 Cor. 2:9.”
My hands are stained with the ink of a good story.

Because The Word came, His hands stained red."
                                                                   -- Ann Voskamp  
Excerpt from her blog: