Thursday, April 28, 2016

disconnected

For nearly the whole congregation, or for all of them, and especially the men and the children, there was a disconnection between the little white clapboard church with its steeple and bell, it observances and forms of worship, and the world's daily life and work. It was as though the building itself, its emptiness between services, contained along with its smells of old paper and stale perfume a solemnity that the people entered into and departed from, quickening it for a few hours a week with the stirrings and smells of living flesh, but could neither inflect with the tone of their daily preoccupations nor transpose into their actual lives. This was a disconnection perhaps exactly coextensive with the disconnection they felt between Heaven and Sycamore, eternity and time. Laura recognized these disconnections in the people because she felt them, and labored over them, in herself.
- Wendell Berry, "A Desirable Woman"

The church of my youth wasn't built of white clapboards, but deep red bricks with rough edges. I cannot call it mine, but it's the closest thing I had back then. All these years later, on the rare occasions I enter that sanctuary, the distinct smell takes me back; I am a little girl grasping my grandmother's hand while her friends make a fuss about how much I've grown and wondering where the time has gone. Granddaddy would join us on the pew after he had passed out bulletins or taken up the offering. He was as soft-spoken as Grandma was not, and I loved both of them more than I ever knew until they were gone.

My grandfather was a farmer. Anyone who knew him knew it was his calling. The Lord fashioned him well for it. He approached people as he approached farming: with patience, care, and wisdom. He was the same inside the church and outside of it. He knew how to connect his faith to his daily living. How I wish I could say the same!

Most nights I crawl into bed wearied by the day, eager to find respite in the Word and sweet slumber. Trying with all my might not to think about how miserably I failed at representing Christ. Like Berry's fictitious Laura and the people of Sycamore, I wrestle with infusing my daily preoccupations with worship. Christine Hoover suggests that gospel illiteracy is to blame - knowing the gospel but not how to apply it, understanding what it means for salvation but not for every day. Yes, I think, that's true.

There's a sadness that comes with knowing my work will not be remembered. Yet acknowledging its futility helps me understand why I close each day feeling overwhelmed by what I didn't accomplish. Checking things off my list is for my own glory (the writer of Ecclesiastes aptly describes it as "vanity"). It is only the work I do "as enabled by and through Christ" that matters (source). Perhaps this is what Paul is referring to in his instruction to the Philippians to work out their salvation (Phil. 2:12). It is in daily work done faithfully and obediently that I acknowledge my helplessness and His sufficiency. It is in that work that I worship.

When I pull back the covers at the end of this day, may I not be tempted to judge it based on my works. May I be able to say that in my work, I worshiped well.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

taking flight

Every year a mama bird builds her nest atop one of our porch pillars. Newborns tweet the morning alarm, perched high above the reach of the stray cats that inevitably come. Stealthily they prowl about, hoping one of the babies will test its wings too soon and breakfast will be served. Mama returns with food and a soothing lullaby. She nurtures and strengthens her young, preparing them for the future. Meanwhile, the enemy lurks below.

Most of the babies stay put, nestled away in a fortress of twigs and leaves. But every once in a while, one will grow restless. Mama doesn't return before hunger overtakes sense. Shaky, immature wings are no match for gravity. The enemy pounces, struts away in victory.

I've watched the ritual each Spring. This year it moves me to tears.

It's nearly 18 years since I became a Mama. By God's grace, I've nurtured and protected. The enemy has come close, but my baby has been shielded atop the pillar of God's truth. Her dad and I have provided what we could and loved all we could. We've trusted God for the rest.

In my mind I trace the outline of her fragile wings. Will they stand up to the pull of this world, the lure of the enemy? Will she know where to find protection? Have we taught her how to soar?

It doesn't seem that long ago that I sang her to sleep, but the nights of tucking her in have long since past. The days of knowing she'll be there when I return to the nest, chirping about her day and mesmerizing me with her glorious plumage, are coming to an end. These are the final months of wrapping her tight in my graying wings. Watching her grow has been a gift that I will cherish always. I spend these days singing songs I hope will prepare her for the future. Meanwhile, my heart aches with the thought of it.

It's almost time for her to fly.

Monday, April 18, 2016

on a crisp spring morning

I grab the Word and pull the covers tight around my waist. I am soon lost in Paul's instructions to the church at Thessalonica.

Three exhortations leap off the page. My pencil draws them back there, nailing them down tight to my heart.

Encourage the fainthearted. These days I am so faint of heart. The sharp edges of this world have scraped my soul raw. Daggers pierce, wounds fester. How can I give from the shallows? Paul, too, must have been fainthearted. Years of ministry had left him spent. Beatings and chains, not to mention that mysterious thorn (2 Cor. 12:7-9). He had witnessed fighting among the brethren and the Gospel compromised. Surely Paul was weary, yet he encouraged.

Help the weak. To bare our weaknesses is a sign of...well, weakness. This photo-shopped, pixel-perfect world has no place for the broken. Am I the only one cowering behind the guise of an ideal life, afraid to lift the veil and let others peer into reality? Pride is a cruel taskmaster that keeps me from admitting the truth of my imperfection. It robs me of the joy of helping others; I make no offers because who needs help from a weakened wretch like me?

Be patient.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, a variety I rarely possess. Annoyances light the short fuse in my heart. Words, like sparks, fly out. I can't retrieve them before they burn. Grace. I expect too much and offer too little. Patience requires a heart that is willing to wait, and I don't like to. My internal clock has been reset to the rapid rhythms of the world.

As I ponder Paul's words, I realize that these are the very things the church needs today. The lack of encouragement, help, and patience among believers is glaring. I am the first who should be condemned.

The leather feels cool against my hand as I close the cover. I pull back the blankets to start the day, praying for the Lord's grace to be more encouraging, helpful, and patient as I go.

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 
- 1 Thess. 5:14

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

in this place...

How would you describe your blog?

My friend's question caught me a little off-guard.

Other than dormant, I had no idea. Instead, I described what I wanted this little spot to be. Behind my words, the question of my success began to haunt me.

A sanctuary of sorts. A place where visitors can stop in, worship the Lord and come away feeling at least a little refreshed. In fact, I want this place to feel exactly like my visit in my friend's home. I was met with a fluffy bathrobe and fancy towels. There was a bottle of water in the car when she picked me up, and a gift bag waiting on the bed for my arrival. Her family made me feel welcome, loved. Our conversations took many twists and turns, but the goodness of the Lord was the common thread that wove them all together.

~~~~~~~~~~

I want to read less opinion, more beauty. That tweet pierced my heart. Yes! my soul whispered.

Opinions are loud, brash, invasive. Opinions demand attention.

Beauty is calming, assuring, inspiring. Beauty captures attention.

Opinions have the potential to be thought-provoking and valuable. I've yet to encounter beauty that wasn't both. Among the onslaught of opinions out there, I want to read beauty - online and off.

                 The truth of Scripture.

                 Exquisitely written prose.

                 Exhortation to walk in the light of the Gospel.

                 Encouragement to worship the Lord God.


I want to read these things. I want to write these things.

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As I continue to work out my salvation (Phil. 2:12) and pursue the quiet life (1 Thess. 4:11-12), I hope to encourage others to walk in the knowledge of God's love, mercy and grace. I pray that in this place the truth of God's Word, his goodness, and his faithfulness will be found. May we worship the Lord together, and find respite for our souls here.