It seems a little pointless sometimes-putting together collections of words, sending them out into the void of the world. Does it matter?
I am moved by the words of Sara Groves in her song “Why It Matters”. The lyrics were inspired by Vedran Smajlović, a former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quartet. During the Siege of Sarajevo, he played his cello in the bombed out buildings and on the streets where mortars had killed his neighbors and friends. He called this “a protest of the darkness” and spoke of his cello as a weapon.
Our efforts of creating art and music and writing matter. We can send them out “as a protest of the darkness.” Or as Sara Groves writes we can see our efforts as “small ramparts for the soul”.
Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And its protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters.
I am reminded that Beauty in the world combats evil and darkness. We have a choice to be part of that Beauty.
As we close our series together our individual journeys continue. We continue our efforts to draw near to God with the full assurance that He is waiting for us and he is holding out His offer of grace.
May it be our blessing, as the years go on, to add one grace to another, and advance upward, step by step, neither neglecting the lower after attaining the higher, nor aiming at the higher, before attaining the lower. The first grace is faith, the last is love; first comes zeal, afterwards comes loving-kindness; first comes humiliation, then comes peace; first comes diligence, then comes resignation. May we learn to mature all graces in us; fearing and trembling, watching and repenting, because Christ is coming; joyful, thankful, and careless of the future, because he is come. Karl Barth
The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. Numbers 6:22
Thank you for journeying with us these past thirty days. May God bless you as you continue the journey.
Imagine the pilgrims after the long journey to Jerusalem. Finally they enter the city and move toward God’s house. As we grow closer to God we cannot help but praise Him.
Glorify. Enjoy. There are other things involved in Christian discipleship. The Song of Ascents have shown some of them. But it is extremely important to know that one thing overrides everything else. The main thing is not to work for the Lord; it is not suffering in the name of the Lord; it is not witnessing to the Lord; it is not teaching Sunday school for the Lord; it is not being responsible for the sake of the Lord in the community; it is not keeping the Ten Commandments; not loving your neighbor, not observing the golden rule. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same DIrection
My whole heart I lay on the altar of thy praise, a whole burnt offering of praise I offer thee. . .Let the flame of my love…set on fire my whole heart, let nought in me be left to myself, nought wherein I may look to myself, but may I wholly burn towards thee, wholly be on fire toward thee, wholly love thee, as though set on fire by thee. St. Augustine
As we near the end of our 30 days of readings spend some time praising God. He has promised that as we draw near to Him he will draw near to us. That’s something to celebrate.
We are not alone on the journey. God gives us traveling companions. It is part of the plan.
So here is Adam, created by God and put into the garden of paradise, and yet his aloneness is “not good.” The Genesis narrative is implying that our intense relational capacity, created and given to us by God, was not fulfilled completely by our “vertical” relationship with him. God designed us to need “horizontal” relationships with other human beings. That is why even in paradise, loneliness is a terrible thing. We should therefore not be surprised to find that all the money, comforts, and pleasures in the world–our efforts to re-create a paradise for ourselves—are unable to fulfill us like love can. This is confirmation of our intuition that family and relationships are a greater blessing and provide greater satisfaction than anything money can buy. Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
Community is essential. Scripture knows nothing of the solitary Christian. People of faith are always members of a community. Creation itself was not complete until there was a community. Adam needed Eve before humanity was whole. God never works with individuals in isolation, but always with people in community. Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Who are you walking with as you draw near to God? We are thankful to have each of you on the journey with us.
The word obedience sounds harsh, oppressive, unpleasant. What if we could see obedience to God as a gift–as a way to draw closer and experience His love and peace?
Non-discipleship costs abiding peace, a life penetrated by love, faith that sees everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, hopefulness that stands firm in the most discouraging of circumstances, power to do what is right and withstand evil. In short, it costs exactly that abundance of life Jesus said he came to bring–life lived on its highest plane. Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. . . Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. . .God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you already know. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
Begin where you are. Obey now. Use what little obedience you are capable of, even if it be like a grain of mustard seed. Begin where you are. Live this present hour as you now sit in your seat, in utter, utter submission and openness toward God. Thomas Kelly
Rest requires trust. We don’t rest unless we feel safe.
We tend to think of surrender as that great thing we do when we want to show God how much we love Him, and how heroically we are willing to sacrifice everything. But a true surrender to God has nothing to do with such a flattering description as that. Let me tell you what real surrender is. It is simply resting in the love of God as a little baby rests in its mother’s arms. Fenelon, Let Go
I know that without Your rest, I will not have strength for the journey, I will not enjoy the journey, and I will not bring You glory. I want to come to You and receive Your yoke, which enables me to receive Your rest and direction. I want to come before You in all honesty and say that my heart is not conceited and my eyes are not arrogant or pretentious. I don’t want to be concerned about things I cannot understand; I want to trust You. I want to continue to grow so that I can come to You without demanding something in return. I want to know the joy and peace of Your presence. I want to be like a weaned child who asks for nothing. I want Your rest. Amen Cynthia Heald, A Woman’s Journey to the Heart of God
One of the things that gets in the way as we draw closer to God is our pride.
Humility is perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or vexed, or irritable, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing that is done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble. Andrew Murray
Humility is not a matter of beating ourselves up. It is not a question of judging ourselves as stupid or sinful, as hopeless or bad. Who are we to judge these things? Humility, it seems, is the gentle acceptance of that most tender place inside ourselves that throbs with the pain of separation from the Beloved. It is that deep knowingness that identification with the false self brings nothing but further separation. It is an initially reluctant dropping down into the emptiness and an ultimate experience of peace when we stop doing and rediscover simple being. . . when we heed the call to cease creating and remember that we are created. Mirabai Starr, Dark Night of the Soul
Can we release the focus on ourselves and shift it to God?
When we pray do we really expect God to hear us and to act on our behalf?
A watchman is an important person, but he doesn’t do very much. The massive turning of the earth, the immense energies released by the sun—all that goes on apart from him. He does nothing to influence or control such things; he is a watchman. He knows the dawn is coming; there are no doubts concerning that. Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction
Watchtowers served a variety of purposes in ancient culture—as built-in defense systems in the walls of ancient cities, as built-in pastures so shepherds could protect their flocks from wild animals, and as built-in vineyards for protection from thieves. Watchmen would climb into their watchtower, station themselves at their guard post, and scan the horizon for enemy armies or trading caravans. The watchmen were the first to see, and they saw the farthest. So it is with those who pray. Intercessors are watchmen and watchwomen. They see sooner and see farther into the spiritual realm. Why? Because prayer gives us a unique vantage point. Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle
As we draw closer to God, we become more and more aware of our sin. What can we do? How do we accept forgiveness from God, much less forgive ourselves?
Do you dare release the person you are today from the shadow of the wrong you did yesterday? Do you dare to forgive yourself? To forgive yourself takes high courage. Who are you, after all, to shake yourself free from the undeniable sins of your private history—as if what you once did has no bearing on who you are now? Where do you get the right—let alone the cheek—to forgive yourself when other people would want you to crawl in shame if they really knew? How dare you?
The answer is that you get the right to forgive yourself only from the entitlements of love. And you dare to forgive yourself only with the courage of love. Love is the ultimate source of both your right and your courage to ignore the indictment you level at yourself. Lewis Smedes, Forgive and Forget
What do you think happens when God forgives our sin? Is it God changing and suddenly reassessing us? Is it God deciding to waive some eternal and required punishment? No! Nothing happens in God. God is a perfect given-ness, totally and always given, literally fore-given, ahead of time, before our act of receptivity.
God does not change; we change. Here is what is happening in the experience of forgiveness; When God’s arms are tight enough around us, when for a moment we can believe in love, when we let God gaze into our eyes deeply enough and are ready to believe it, then we’re able to let God rob us of our sins! God pulls them out of our pocket while holding us in an intimate and intense gaze. It is the only time we are quite happy to be robbed! Richard Rohr, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations,
Can you forgive yourself? Can you accept His forgiveness?