Do Thou for Me

“Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,
Do Thou for me.
I need not toil to find the word
That carefully
Unfolds my prayer and offers it,
My God, to Thee.

It is enough that Thou wilt do,
And wilt not tire,
Wilt lead by cloud, all the night through
By light of fire,
Till Thou has perfected in me
Thy heart’s desire.

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.

O blessèd be the love that bears
The burden now,
The love that frames our very prayers,
Well knowing how
To coin our gold.  O God the Lord,
Do Thou, Do Thou” (Amy Carmichael).

There are times when we simply don’t know how to pray for a circumstance or a loved one. Try as we may, the words will not come.

I think even then God hears the groans and sighs of our petitions and knows what they mean. He hears the deepest desires of our hearts and knows best how to grant them.

Even when we have words, they aren’t always the best ones. Sometimes, we ask without such a limited point of view. Sometimes we ask selfishly. Sometimes we have too small a view of God and ask too little.

In Jan Karon’s Mitford series, Father Tim Kavanaugh always has his go-to prayer, or “the prayer that never fails,” as he calls it. The prayer goes “Thy will be done.”

You can never go wrong with leaving the matter in God’s hands.

A Drop the Mic Moment

If microphones had been invented in the late 1800’s when Spurgeon was in his heydey, I’m sure he would have been at least a little tempted to drop the mic after saying this little nugget of wisdom.

The temptation is real because it’s human nature to focus on hardships over blessings. I think we have very selective memories when it comes to trials versus blessings. When life gets hard, it’s difficult to focus on the joys we’ve experienced. All you and I can see sometimes are the moments of darkness and pain.

But it’s the trials that are temporary like the writing in the sand. It’s the blessing that comes after the momentary affliction passes that will endure.

Jesus is saying to each one of us going through hardship to take heart and remember that He has already overcome the world and conquered whatever it is that causes you grief and pain.

Weeping and trials may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

 

Learning the New Dance Steps

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp” (Anne Lamott).

Man, is that ever true. I’ve known a lot of people lately who are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, grieving the passing of a loved one.

No matter how young or old, how healthy or sick, however near or far they are, you’re never quite ready to say that final earthly goodbye. In the end, you’re always greedy for a little more time.

But you know that in Christ that death is not forever and the grave is not final. Hope has the final say. Jesus will have the final word. Just as He called 4-day old smelly Lazarus, wrapped up like a mummy from head to toe, from the tomb, so will He one day speak the name of that loved one to rise forevermore from the grave. One day, He will call you by your own name.

That won’t be the end. That will be the real and true beginning.

 

Known By Our Love

“Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful” (Colossians 3:12:15, The Voice).

I was supremely convicted tonight by a question the Bible study teacher asked us: If you say you love God, and don’t love the people He died for, do you really love God?

I think every one of us, if we’re honest, can point to a person or a group that they have trouble loving. But when I read the words of Jesus, He doesn’t give us suggestions or advice about what to do with people who are hard to love. He flat out says, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.”

One of the hallmark characteristics of Abba’s children is that they are known for putting compassion above politics and preferences. They know that Jesus died for every kind of person and people group, so they choose to love them all– gay, bisexual, transgender, straight, Muslim, Hindu, Democrat, Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Black Lives Matter people, white supremacists, socialists, Trump supporters, headbangers, country music fans . . . the list goes on and on.

Jesus died for all of them. God desires for all of them to come to salvation. The best litmus test for the genuineness of our faith isn’t as much perfect doctrine or practices as it is compassion for our enemies and what Jesus called the least of these — those who will never be able to repay our kindnesses and generosity.

It helps me personally to remember that Jesus loved me when I was a least of these. Jesus died for me when I was an enemy. This is the kind of love that God calls us to and in Jesus enables us to live out. This is the kind of love that changes everything.

 

Praying the Unattainable

I was in a Bible study this evening, sitting at a table with some people that I barely knew or had just met. We were discussing why it is that thanksgiving isn’t more of a part of our lives of faith.

One girl said that when she prays, she starts off by thanking God for those certain attributes of His that she will never have.

That took me by surprise. At first, it sounded like she was copping out, but I figured I’d hear her out so I tuned all the way in to the rest of what she said.

She basically said that she praises God for attributes like His omniscience and omnipotence. That centers the rest of her prayers around the fact that God knows way more than she does and can see from a bigger vantage point than she can.

I wonder how that would change my own prayer life. If I was mindful of God’s ability to know and see things I can’t, it might change my perspective toward what I think God needs to give me. It might shift my focus from what I don’t have to what I do.

I might even choose to ask for less and pray more “Thy will be done,” leaving the choice to God to provide what He knows I need instead of what I think I want (that often times I don’t really want once I get it).

Thanksgiving comes first. It changes my mindset from entitled whiner to grateful praiser. It reminds me that everything I am and have is really only God’s doing, so I have no reason to think I’m all that and a bag of chips. Then I can rightly see myself as God sees me and understand that when God sees Jesus in me, that’s a very good thing.

 

 

The Fear of God

“I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery” (Brennan Manning).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NIV)

The fear of God was the topic of tonight’s sermon from Kairos. I don’t mean fear as in uncontrollable terror, but more as a reverential awe. A healthy fear of God means that I can’t stay comfortable in my own sin, but this God who loves me as I am won’t leave me that way, but does all that is in His power to make me just like Jesus.

This God of the Bible isn’t a daft old grandfatherly type who will wink at your misdeeds and sins. This is the God who is completely Other, whom we could never hope to know if He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself to us.

My favorite illustration of the fear of God comes from John Piper. He said it’s like witnessing a mighty thunderstorm from the safety of a shelter. You see the majesty and power of the storm but are protected from the danger of it.

This God of love is also a God of holiness. Jesus Himself said that God’s standard is perfection, yet Jesus also met that standard on our behalf. He said not to fear those who can kill the body only, but to fear Him who can kill the body and the soul, namely God.

I’m thankful God poured the wrath that my own sins deserved on Jesus. I hope I never take for granted that my sins always are costly and always bring death in some form. I hope I never lose sight of the wonder and awe and mystery of God who has made Himself known in the person of Jesus.

 

The Sacred Silence

As I was hiking the Gainier Ridge and South Cove Trails alone today at Randor Lake State Park, I was sharply reminded just how rare true silence is.

How often in a day you do leave room for quiet and silence?

I know for me that I often turn on the television or the radio almost out of reflex, even if only for some kind of background noise. So many of us have an almost manic desire to fill every second of our day with sound.

Yet as I walked up the trail, I could feel the stress leaving my body in the midst of all the silence. Only in this case, it wasn’t true silence. I found I could hear the little rhythms of nature, like little chipmunks and squirrels scurrying about and deer prancing by in the background.

For our spiritual and mental health, we need to leave margins in our day for intentional moments of silence. We need the quiet if only to hear ourselves think.

This culture is almost allergic to silence. You will almost never hear a quiet moment on the radio or television or any kind of streaming device. But I believe that the vast majority of us are drowning in a sea of noise pollution. We need silence.

The Psalmist says of God: “Be still and know that I am God.”

The stillness has to be a deliberate and intentional act on our part. We do not naturally find silence unless we choose to make room for it. As with anything truly important, we won’t ever have time unless we make time for it.

Once there, you have to keep disciplining your mind, bringing it back from all the little tangents and diversions it takes (or at least mine takes) to be centered on hearing the still small voice of God in the silence.

But it has to start with silence.

 

 

A Tale of Two Grandmothers

At The Church at Avenue South this morning, the guest pastor, Hunter Melton, talked about how four women played an integral part in the spreading of the resurrection news on that first Easter Sunday.

It may not seem like a big deal now, but in a 1st century world were women were seen as second class citizens and had little to no rights, this was revolutionary for the gospel writers to include them.

I’m certain that most of you can point back to at least one woman who helped to shape who you are today. I know that I can point to at least (but not limited to) two women– both my grandmothers, Iris and Ruby.

Iris was a lady who loved her Bible and loved her hymns. She was almost always talking about her love for Jesus or singing one of the old hymns that you don’t hear much of these days. She definitely had a huge impact on my faith.

Ruby didn’t vocalize her faith as much but she sure did live it out. She was always ready to help out and lend a hand. She made incredible sacrifices for her friends and family, and we are all better for it.

I miss both of them. If you have one or both of your grandmothers, take every opportunity to let them know how much you love them and how much they mean to you. Don’t just call– go and see them and spend time with them and listen to their stories (even if they get repeated a few times).

If you are a mother or grandmother, never take for granted the incredible influence you have on the next generations. If you are faithful to be present in the lives of your children and grandchildren, one day they will rise up and call you blessed.

Stop the Insanity!

“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ” (Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets).

I suspect that this little gem of a quote will hit home with many of you as it did with me.

I quite agree that being able to still the inner dialogue and the endless chatter of human thought to recognize God’s presence and find true peace. Sometimes, that’s easier said than done.

 

Praying vs. Panicking

“Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One” (Philippians 4:6-7, The Voice).

I don’t know about you, but I have my moments of anxiety as well as anyone else. For me, anxiety tends to take me to a future of what ifs and what might happens, where I envision all sorts of scenarios.

I’ve noticed that my anxious thoughts take me to a future with no God in it. I find it’s just me having to solve all my own problems, and none of my scenarios play out very well. Most of what I dread and fear in the future never comes remotely close to happening, yet that never seems to stop the obsessing when anxiety strikes.

The secret is to take every moment of anxiety and turn it into an occasion for prayer. After all, prayer is really about reminding you and me who’s really in charge. When we give thanks for God’s mercies in the past, we find that we can hold fast to the same God in the future to be as faithful.

And that peace? It really does defy all human understanding. Once you’ve decided that you’re not the ruler of your own life and destiny, you let go trying to control every possible outcome and find that God is more than able to take your place. That’s very freeing.

I was reminded yesterday of the truth that when storms and troubles come, you don’t tell God how big your storm is, you tell your storm how big your God is.