Wednesday, November 30, 2005


What is it about food? Having had a love affair with it all my life, suffering the consequences, and then being led into freedom, I am still at a loss as to the reason for the struggle. I can remember a time when my entire day revolved around food…when I looked forward to getting home so I could sit and eat…and eat a lot…until I was stuffed and couldn’t move. I remember lying about what or when I’d eaten so I wouldn’t have to miss out on some tasty morsel…only it was never just a morsel. I remember sneaking and hiding food so I wouldn’t have to feel guilty when someone saw me eating something I knew I shouldn’t have…or (worse?) might have to share with them. And more recently, I can recall cravings for something…anything…to shove in my mouth. Real, physical, yearning for a snack. Even more recently, though, I can also recall thanking the Lord for giving me the freedom to choose rightly despite what my belly was demanding.

Yet, still, I do not get it. But I know I am not the only one.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine e-mailed a prayer request about her daughter, who had apparently told her she needed to go on a diet because she was fat. She is 5!

Yesterday, I met a woman who could barely walk, partially crippled under 300lbs of excess weight.

And, today, I heard a woman quietly making herself vomit in the bathroom at work.

Three different situations…one common “enemy”…food.

I can’t begin to speculate as to the reasons behind each struggle, because I have no clue as to the origin of my own. But I do think that scripture touches on something that may give some direction on this issue.

In chapter 3 of Philippians, Paul is talking about believers who have fallen away and uses the following illustration: …their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:19)

Their god is their belly...

That is a rather odd statement. It has always struck me as such, but today when I read it, it seemed to make a bit more sense to me. In the OT, Joshua challenged the Israelites (and us) to “Choose this day whom you will serve…” In the NT, we are told we “can not serve God and mammon.” It seems clear that there are two choices – God or NOT God, i.e., Satan. The NOT God choice may take on many different forms, but if it isn’t God, it isn’t God and that means it can only be one other entity. As Jesus said, “You are either for me or against me.” In this case, the NOT God is the belly…or the appetites. That can differ for each of us, depending on what it is we crave and how we have gone about satisfying that craving. In my case, I chose to satisfy my cravings (for what I still am not sure) with food…as did my new 400+ pound friend…and to a degree the lady in the bathroom stall. But why?

They glory in their shame…

Secrets have a way of controlling us, don’t they? Especially when they are our secrets. We will do almost anything to keep them, and it has been my experience that that often means continuing in the shameful thing we do not want known, because to stop might mean coming clean. It also means giving up that tiny period of time when the world is just about us and what we want. I think there is also something innately in us that does indeed glory in our shame, in the carnal, base facets of our fleshly nature, and an equal part that fights to keep it intact, keep it fed, and keep it hidden from everyone. Whether it is secretly gorging oneself with abandon or making yourself vomit so you can eat whatever you like and remain thin, each has the appeal of a guilty, secret pleasure. Both are difficult to give up, though, possibly for very different reasons.

With minds set on earthly things...

This ties into “their god is their belly”…at least in my mind. To have one’s mind set on earthly things, is to have it NOT set on godly things…or at the very least to have earthly rather than godly things of first importance. It is easy to make one’s belly or appetites god when one’s mind is set on the temporal, when what is of first importance is what pertains to, affects and satisfies the flesh.

It doesn’t matter if that looks like an obese person stuffing herself silly because it takes her mind off of past, present and possible hurts or an anorexic refusing to eat because she worries that people see her as fat or a someone who has decided the best way to maintain her figure is to vomit up every other meal. The gaze is what is important, the mindset, the direction of the heart.

So maybe it doesn’t really matter why food seems to be the vehicle for so much sin…because in reality it is likely no greater a vehicle for sin than sex or alcohol or television viewing or ungodly speech. I guess, like what the Lord showed me this week, it is all about seeking. When we aren’t seeking Him, our cravings will turn to that which look upon, can touch, feel, consume and control.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

400 pound reminder

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.—So we do not lose heart.

This morning’s Daily Light started with yet another reminder of what the Lord has been saying to me…that I should seek after Him and be satisfied in Him. It actually used the verse I used in my post the day before: One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.—He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.
I can’t hear or read the word “Satisfied” and not think of food, and thus the journey the Lord has taken me on in dealing with the sin of gluttony in my life…and all He has done.

With these thoughts on my mind and fresh gratitude on my heart, both for what has been done and the faithfulness of the Lord to keep His truth at the forefront of my mind these past few days, I got a reminder of a different kind. A 400+ pound reminder.

I had just re-read Daily Light and closed the screen to begin work when a new employee walked in, or rather, hobbled in. As she got closer, I could actually feel the floor vibrating. I looked at her and was filled with compassion and had to choke back tears. I could imagine what she must be thinking and feeling as she surveyed the narrow isles, chairs with arms and saw that her appointed spot was on the “bad” end of a row (meaning she’d have to squeeze past 2 other people to get to it). I know because I have thought and felt those very things. I have known the feeling of “not fitting”, the embarrassment, the loneliness of being the only one of my kind and some sort of oddity that others don’t know how to respond to.

As I choked back the tears and tried to smile and be as welcoming as I could, I couldn’t help but think “but for the grace of God there go I.” But for the grace of God intervening in my life…that would be me. But for His grace I would never have changed. I wouldn’t have even attempted to begin this for fear of failure. I wouldn’t have been able to stop consoling myself by stuffing myself. I wouldn’t know that freedom from sin is far better than freedom to sin…and sin…and sin some more…till it hurts…till you can’t breathe…till you’re sick…till you wake up and find you are in that place, have become that thing, you never thought you’d be.

But for your grace
I could not be saved
But for your grace
I would go my way
I’m forever grateful
That you have been faithful
To me Lord
For your amazing grace.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.—So we do not lose heart.

So I do not lose heart, He continues to remind me of who He is...that "he who hath led will lead"...that what He has begun He will complete...that He is ever faithful and kind. How kind it was of Him to do this for me, at the time He did. It was very kind of Him, indeed, to begin this before Katrina, and living the life of an evacuee, having to take a bath (i.e. fitting in a bathtub), sit in a chair with arms, navigate narrow rows of desks and climb four flights of stairs when we go back home.

So. Very. Kind.

Lord, let me not forget all you’ve done. Let me not slack in showing gratitude through obedience. And let me not forget that it is all you…for you…by you…through you. Help me also to seek opportunities to share what you have done. I pray specifically for this woman, trapped in sin. If she knows you, reveal her sin and lead her to freedom. If she does not, reveal yourself and your truth to her that she may have a way of escape, both from the eternal and temporal consequences of sin. Reveal yourself in love, and make her crooked paths straight. Do for her what you have done for me…for your glory. And make me willing to be used…or not…to whatever degree you desire.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lest I forget...

As always, the Lord is faithful to remind and reinforce what has been said. This was what I read in my Daily Light this morning...

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”—“He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”

He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.—“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

Monday, November 28, 2005


I woke at 3:15 this morning, to the sound of something driving up a gravel road. Only, there is no gravel road near my window. After a few seconds, I realized it was only the rain, then looked at the clock to check the time. Rather than roll over and try to go back to sleep, I decided to "go with God" on this one, and rise earlier than necessary and spend time with Him. This isn't the first time He has woken me at this fact, it has become quiet a routine thing over the past few weeks. This was the first morning I didn't try to go back to sleep or wake and occupy myself with other things like baking or surfing the web.

As I got out of bed, I thought again of the strange sound of the rain...the sound of something approaching. Then I thought, something is approaching. A new mercy...fresh grace.

This morning, I desire that new mercy and fresh grace so much. I so want it to humble and break me, that I might be truly contrite before the Lord. I need's been far too long. Yet, as I type that, I am reminded that even the desire to come is a gift from the Spirit of God, and that what pleases God most is not emotion or outward shows of worship, but a heart that is turned toward Him.

Oh, what I wouldn't give to know that my heart was truly turned toward Him right now. I feel that it is so full of other things, so distracted, so prone to wander, so set on seeking all but Him.

This weekend, before our prayer time, we sang "Give Us Clean Hands."
We bow our hearts
We bend our knees
Oh, Spirit come make us humble.
We turn our eyes
From evil things,
Oh, Lord we cast down our idols

I thought about my idols, and how much they had been in the forefront lately. Then, as a kind and gentle Father, I was shown why.

I was created to know and be known by God. I was created to seek after Him...His glory...His kingdom. I can't honestly say that this has been the driving force of my life of late. What truly is? I can't really say that either. I've sort of just been going with the flow...not really seeking one thing...not really being ultra purposeful in much of anything.

Perhaps that is it? I've been seeking ease - minimum effort, maximum comfort.

Whatever it is, the point is that I know I haven't been seeking after the Lord as I should. Sure, I read most days, I throw up quick and needful prayers throughout the day, but that is not seeking. That is wanting the benefits of God without being truly subject to Him...without taking the time to stop and be still and know if what I am asking is what I should be know why I am being led to read what I am receive correction and application. No...not to receive, because that tends to come, regardless (thank you Lord) but to SEEK it more than I desire what I want, what I am praying about.

The Psalmist says, "
One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORDall the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." (Psalm 27:4)

I think the lesson of these last few weeks is, that when I am not seeking after this, I will seek after other things. I was made to seek. It is in my, put there by God. I was made to seek Him, but also made to have a choice. In effect, created with the ability to choose to NOT seek Him. If it were not so, the choice to seek Him wouldn't be a choice at all.

In her book, "Discipline, the Glad Surrender", Elisabeth Elliot speaks on this topic. She writes: "The freedom to obey (or choose or seek) would be nothing at all without the corresponding freedom to disobey (or choose wrongly or seek other things).

What an awesome thought! The creator of the universe...and of me...who knows that I am simply because He is and continues to give me breath, who has revealed Himself clearly through His creation, His word and His Son, has given me a choice to seek after Him or seek after other things. This same God, knowing what I would choose, and how sincerely, and how often, has called me and keeps me and continues to send new mercy and fresh grace each day.

If one is not humbled and broken by that thought...perhaps one needs to read it and think on it again.

Which is exactly what I did.

I read that passage and thunk on those things last night, underlined them and wrote them in my journal and everything...and nothing. Th
en I was awakened by the sound of something approaching on a gravel new mercy and fresh grace...and time to re-read and re-think.

Thank you Lord.

"One thing have I asked of the LORD,that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple." Lord, let this be true of me today! Holy Spirit, continue to stir up this desire to seek. Help me make right choices...choices that show that it is the Lord that I seek and desire most!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving a la Rock

Up until a few years ago, we had Thanksgiving dinner at my paternal grandparent's home. My grandfather would make a big long table out of plywood and saw horses in the livingroom and we'd all squeeze in and stuff ourselves on the buffet of turkey, dirty rice, sweet potatoes, corn, broccoli and sometimes even ham and baked macaroni. Then there was dessert, homemade pecan pie and jell-o cake (my grandmother's specialty). Several years ago, my grandmother began to suffer symptoms of dementia/alzheimer's and all the commotion of having us there cooking and moving about became too much for her, so we moved the dinner to my parent's home. We had to squeeze in even tighter as many of us were bigger, and there were more of us, and my parent's home was much smaller. To accomodate us, my dad brought the plywood/saw horse tables from my grandfather and set them up in our garage, which was essentially the kids table (even though us kids were in our 20s and 30s)...oh, and I had to start making the jell-o cake.

This year, I also made low carb pumkin pie and two kinds of sweet pototes, as well. We also had a change of venue. Since my parent's home was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and is still uninhabitable, and none of our homes are really suitable for hosting large numbers of people, my youngest brother opened up the restaurant he manages (The Rock...which was closed that day) for us. He and his wife went early and set up a long row of tables so we could all sit together and pulled the big screen tv right at the head of the table so the men could watch the game.

Other than the change of scenery, and quite a few less people (many of our relatives who normally come in couldn't find a place to stay), it was a pretty typical Gaspard Family Thanksgiving. Football was going, food was plentiful and my brother Brad, my cousin Christopher and myself had our annual sarcasm competition. One thing that is different is that we now have a third generation present, which is both a joy and kinda weird. At one point, the thought of my brothers and cousins procreating was horrifying to me, now it is just another thing to get used to and be thankful for. In fact, it is hard to remember what things were like before all these little ones were with us...or what we did to entertain ourselves. I mean, that is besides insulting each other and making jokes at another's expense.

Truth be told...we still do that, there are just longer breaks between insults and jokes now on account of watching, laughing, napping, playing with and otherwise being distracted by the third generation of Gaspards.

The other big, noteworthy Thanksgiving event was my brother Joey making it in. He moved to Tennessee in August and this is the longest we have been apart in our lives. Its been hard...and was so nice to ha
ve him home. He was only in for 2 days, but we got some good quality time in. He slept at my place Wednesday night...which was nice. Though, leaving him alone with the kids turned out to be not such a good idea. At one point, our nearly 3 year old niece, Kira, decided she was thirsty and went to the fridge to ge a drink. The jell-o cake was in her way, and as she pushed it aside, it fell to the floor. Thankfully, it was covered, so it didn't get completely ruined, just broken up. So, rather than the usual, cool whip iced cake, we had deconstructed jell-o cake with self-serve cool whip. It still tasted good, but to make it up to my brothers, I made a new cake this morning for them to have the old-fashioned and all together way.

Joey didn't get to partake though, as he is now back in Tennessee. He has called every day since he's been gone and I have a feeling he w
on't be in Tennessee much longer...maybe it is wishful thinking. But, I have a suspicion that he won't be able to stay away from his niece's for very long. Both girls absolutely adore their uncle Joey. Last night, I was looking at pictures from Thanksgiving on my computer with Kira and came upon this one...

She looked at it and said "That's Uncle Joey! He loves me!" If he had been there, I know he would have gotten all choked up...and maybe cancelled his flight home? Maybe I should e-mail that story to him and hope for the best?!?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I Love Chris Rice

I love Chris Rice. I recently uploaded one of his cd’s to my MP3 player and these two songs keep coming up in the rotation: Thirsty and Smellin’ Coffee. Thirsty always gets me choked up and Smellin’ Coffee always gets me boppin’ in my chair. Ironically, I also get “misty” while listening to The Cartoon Song…but that is neither here nor there.

Poet that he is, Chris Rice’s songs work equally well without music, so here are the lyrics. If you know the tunes…sing along!

I’m so thirsty, I can feel it
Burning through the furthest corners of my soul
Deep desire, can’t describe this
Nameless urge that drives me somewhere
Though I don’t know where to go

Seems I’ve heard about a River from someone who’s been
And they tell me once you reach it, oh, you’ll never thirst again
So I have to find the River, somehow my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

Other waters I’ve been drinkin’
But they always leave me empty like before
Satisfaction, all I’m askin’
Could I really feel this thirsty if there weren’t something more?

And I’ve heard about a River from someone who’s been
And they tell me once you reach it, oh, you’ll never thirst again
So I have to find the River, somehow my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

I’m on the shore now of the wildest River
And I kneel and beg for mercy from the sky
But no one answers, I’ve gotta take my chances
‘Cause something deep inside me’s cryin’
"This is why you are alive!"

So I plunge into the River with all that I am
Praying this will be the River where I’ll never thirst again
I’m abandoned to the River
And now my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

Glad to see it over, pullin’ covers over my head
But what were You doin’ while I dreamt the night away
‘Cause I can tell that somethin’s different and
My eyes ain’t even open yet

I’m smellin’ coffee, birds are singin’ just outside
Here comes Your mercy streamin’ in with the morning light
My heart is racin’, wakin’ up to You’re smile
It’s a good mornin’, good mornin’

I remember readin? You?re the God who never sleeps
And while I’ve been dreamin’ You’ve been singin’ over me, yeah
Singin’ about my freedom, wakin’ me up to hear Your song
Now I can’t dance hard enough
‘Cause yesterday is gone, gone, gone!

I’m smellin’ coffee, birds are singin’ just outside
Here comes Your mercy streamin’ in with the morning light
My heart is racin’, wakin’ up to You’re smile
It?s a good mornin’, good mornin’

Every little breath, every heartbeat
Is a gift of love that You give to me
You keep givin’ even when I’m asleep
‘Cause I know You never stop watchin’ over me

I wake up, my past is gone
‘Cause Your mercy’s new with the mornin’ sun
I’m forgiven, I’m free, it’s a brand new day
‘Cause Your faithfulness is the greatest, hey!

I’m smellin’ coffee, birds are singin’ just outside
Here comes Your mercy streamin’ in with the morning light
My heart is racin’, wakin’ up to You’re smile
It’s a good mornin’, good mornin’

Monday, November 21, 2005

What's Mine?

It is nearly 10pm and I just got out of the tub. Normally, I would have been fast asleep by now. But when I got "home" (to my godmother's house, where I have been staying during the week since late September), her grandchildren were there and the normal nightly routine went out the window. It was no real sacrifice, really. I haven't seen them in a long time and we had a ball. I ate a quick dinner and they entertained me while I packed my bags (I have a short week due to Thanksgiving), then we went downstairs and played go-fish and they helped me bake a gingerbread cake to bring to work in the morning. After our baking and game playing, they put on a talent show for us...which consisted of a lot of running and yelling and counting for some reason. I also found out I can still do a split...which amazed me and the kids!

So, after all that excitement, here I sit, still tingly from the hot water, knowing I will feel this diversion in the morning...and I don't mean from the split. I was tired when I got home, I know I will be even more tired when I drive to my real home tomorrow night. But, my brother Joey, whom I haven't seen since August, will be there waiting for I will press on.

One thing I've learned since Katrina is that nothing...not routines or likes or dislikes, my time or even my own home is mine. Everything is up for interuption, change, rearranging and just plain dismissing. I have learned to more easily push my preferences aside and hold what I thought was mine very loosely...and to be more willing to hand it over, toss it, or give it away.

My youngest brother and his family have been staying in my apartment since I've been working in Baton Rouge. Since they have moved in, my place is virtually unrecognizable. I have taken off slipcovers, changed out curtains, removed items that were either breakable, in the way or would otherwise cause problems for the kids. I gave away half a room's worth of stuff...things I have been holding on to for years. I come home every weekend to a place that looks, feels and smells like someone else's house.

On the weekends, I would normally have my niece's and nephew over and even spend the better part of my time with them. But now, I am the live-in babysitter and the time I would have had or made for myself, to do what I wanted to do is gone. At times, just getting to church on Saturday (we meet at another church now because ours church is a major accomplishment. If I can also squeeze in a short conversation with a friend...that is amazing!

People that I "had" to talk to everyday, I am now grateful to speak with a few times a month.

Things that were priorities for me, in terms of how I spent my time, are optional now or not even a part of the equation at the moment.

I've discovered that most things are optional.

I don't mean to sound like I am being abused or living the life of the martyr. I am not. I am happy to share my home and have so much time with my precious ones. I find it a tremendous blessing to think less about myself and do more for others. I have been very well taken care of throughout this whole post-Katrina thing, and I am finding great joy in returning the blessing to others. I think it was Amy Carmichael who said the things we are given are not just to bless us, they are given to be be shared with others.

Tonight, I put my routine aside and shared my time with two precious children that I rarely get to see. During the week, I bring treats to my co-workers. Since I don't have to buy many groceries, and have the time, I have taken to baking things for them. I usually have something a few times a week, if not every day. Whatever the frequency, it is enough for them to call me Betty Crocker. It has been a big hit and I am glad to do what little I can to make our situation more pleasant...and give of what I have been given.

I also hope that it give honor to the Lord. That they see godliness in my desire to bless them...and not just a girl with a penchant for baking.

Jim Elliot, a martyred missionary said "he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." I love that quote. Truly, all we can keep, all that will never be taken or become out-moded or lost or deteriorate is Christ. Everything up for grabs and subject to loss. So, what's mine. Nothing..nothing but Christ. To which He says:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

I am His and He is mine. What else is there to fear the loss of? What else should hold my attention or sway my emotions? Nothing.

All I have is yours Lord, make it so. Make my heart ever more willing to give and give and hope to gain nothing but Christ.

Breathing God-Saturated Air

Over the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to many people who seem stressed, anxious, overwhelmed. People who are daily experiencing what I was for a brief time a few weeks ago…the tight chest, sick feeling in the stomach, lack of sleep, and overall a general sense of panic.

Thankfully, mine only lasted a week or so. Some of my friends have been there since Hurricane Katrina. Others have been there most of their lives.

What the Lord showed me to bring me to my senses was that I had a thinking problem. I wasn’t thinking theologically…I was thinking emotionally.

Since that time, the Lord has continued to remind me and reinforce this idea…and show me the root, or perhaps the cause of wrong thinking…at least my wrong thinking right now.

In one of his messages on the life of John Owen, John Piper talks about the man and mode of life that produced such an unashamedly and unreservedly godly man. Simply put, he breathed God-saturated air.

Living in the world that we do…even in the world that he did (for there is nothing new under the sun)…that is a challenge, and I imagine would require much effort and purposefulness of thought.

I know, since Katrina, I have been breathing less God-saturated air. Before, I rose early and had about an hour of quiet time, went to work and spent the day with Piper and Begg and my Pastors in my ears, preaching the word of God. I went to small group fellowship and prayer time and bible study each week and had daily contact with other believers. Now…if I get 15 minutes in the morning or evening, I’m doing good. I am often distracted and tired. And my days are spent surrounded by unbelievers, stuffing my ears full or idle (and at times vulgar and immoral) chatter. Don’t get me wrong…I am enjoying getting to know the people I work with and they are nice people…but the way we live our lives, what motivates us and determines the choices we make is very different. With all this distraction and opposition, I should be making more of an effort to breathe God-air…not less.

Why haven’t I?

I don’t know. But, Amy Carmichael suggests that it is because we have let our hearts wander too far from the things that matter most…from the heart of God…from making our home in Him.

Other theologians have suggested that it is because we have lost sight of Calvary. That if, for every glance we took at ourselves, our circumstances, our desires, etc…we need to take 2 looks at Calvary. In truth, we need to daily gaze at the cross and drink deeply of its message, remember what we have been saved from and what we were saved for. And what could be closer to the heart of God than the cross?

This song sums that thought up beautifully. We sang it Sunday and it was the highlight of worship for me.

In the shadow of the cross
Let everything fall into place ...again
Jesus Christ, my Sacrifice
How I need to find Your grace...again

And nothing I can do could add to all You've done
So let my soul be satisfied
As I receive Your favor I will overcome
So in my life be glorified

Jesus Christ, My perfect Priest
How You understand my weaknesses
Thank You for Your gift to me
Through Your sufferings I now possess…this peace

And nothing I can do could add to all You've done
So let my soul be satisfied
As I receive Your favor I will overcome
So in my life be glorified

Let my soul be satisfied
Let my soul be satisfied
Let my soul be satisfied
Let my soul be satisfied

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The life of Job

Yesterday, I decided it was high time to listen to John Piper’s poem on the Book of Job. I usually listen to it at least once a month, but haven’t since Katrina (which was nearly 3 months ago! Whew!!)

I am always amazed, humbled, broken and encouraged when I listen to this poem. My response is not simply because I enjoy poetry or because Piper has a way of saying things or pricking my heart as no one else can…but because of the truth of scripture and the example found in the life of Job.

In the opening section of the poem, Piper says “Each day Job would lift His hands to God & wonder why he’s spared the rod of suffering…” Then, when it is obvious to him that the Lord required his children of him, Job says (through Piper) “I yield to what you have decreed…” This kills me every time. His children were what he treasured above his land and wealth and status. Each day he would rise and pray for them, asking the Lord to forgive not just their sins, but their “errors.” Each week he would offer a sacrifice for their sins. Next to his own right standing with God, it was the heart of Job that his children would also be right with the Lord and he was willing to do whatever he could to help their obvious lack of love for God.

I can’t listen to that without thinking of my own precious ones. “I yield to what you have decreed”…I yield to them being taken…to their being horribly killed…to their “premature” death (by our standards anyway). As I type that, I feel the lump rising in my throat.

After Job had received the word that not one, or three, but ALL of his children (7 sons and – I think – 3 daughters) “the servants waited to see what Job would do & how he might deal with his God.”

“At last He rose, and took a knife,
and passed it like a razor over all his silver head,
and tore his shawl and robe,
and fell face down upon the ground and lay there till the dawn.
The servants knelt by him in fright,
And heard him whisper through the night:
"I came with nothing from the womb,
I go with nothing to the tomb.
God gave me children freely, then
He took them to himself again.
At last I taste the bitter rod,
My wise and ever blessed God.”

Piper ends this section of the poem with,
"Learn the lesson of the rod, this treasure that we have in God.
He is not poor or much enticed who loses everything but Christ.”
(Oh, Piper, I've missed you!)

When Job went to the altar that morning, stained with the blood of previous sacrifices, he had no idea the Lord would demand the blood of his children. Who could or would think that…who would want to? Who would willingly live through that…and the personal and physical suffering that followed the loss of his children? No one would sign up for that on purpose. But, stepping back from the fear that prospect causes, from the loss and pain, and looking at the entirety of Job…the aerial view of his story…the example of Job would not be what it is without suffering.

I know we can all look at our lives and say, “Were it not for this denial, this bit of suffering, this trial, I would not be who I am today…God indeed worked it out for good.”

Yet, when these horrors knock at our door, we want to bar and lock it and keep them out. But that is not the way of God.

This morning, I read the following:

Luke 22:32 I have prayed for thee, that they faith fail not
These words have helped me mightily of late, and chiefly because of that for which our Lord prayed. He did not pray that Peter would be delivered from the strain of life in a cruel Roman prison, or from a torturing death. But He did pray that, through all that lay ahead, his faith would not fail…So the words were searching as well as comforting. What do I, in my inmost heart, desire? Is it ease or relief from the undesired, the unexplained? Is it any merely earthly good? Then my prayers for others will not do much for them; a fountain cannot rise higher than its spring. Perhaps this is why our prayer are sometimes ineffectual. But the thought swings back to comfort again. He ever liveth to make intercession for us. He will not prayer weaker prayers, easier prayer for us than He prayed for Himself and then for His disciple. He will enable us to live the life which makes the prayer of John 12:27 possible, and then he will lead us on to the place where we can pray as He prayed for His dear Peter.
(Amy Carmichael, from “Edges of His Ways”)

We are promised not freedom from trials and true suffering, but that we will be given all we need to come through it if we set our hearts to “yield to what He has decreed.”

There are times when, in the face of suffering or denials (or even in the face of thoughts of possible suffering and denial), I feel that I am clinging “with feeble fingers to the ledge of [His] great grace.” (Job, by John Piper) But, if I listen and take a moment to be still before my God, I am assured that, should my fingers slip, underneath me are the everlasting arms.

"I wish Thy way,
But when in me myself would rise,
And long for something otherwise,
Then, Holy One, take sword and spear,
And slay."

"Lord, grant to me a quiet mind,
That trusting Thee--for Thou art kind--
I may go on without a fear,
For Thou, my Lord, art always near."

"See in this which seems to stir up
all you most wish were not stirred up--
see in it a chance to die to self in every form.
Accept it as just that--a chance to die."

--Amy Carmichael

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fear vs. Theology

I fancy myself my family’s peace keeper. Whenever there is an argument or complaint or any amount of grumbling from one about another, I step in and do whatever I can to quench the flames and diffuse a blow up. I would like to think that my intention is always to help whomever it is think the best of the other (and often simultaneously, put selfish thinking aside). I have to admit, though, that mostly, my motivation is fear.

I live most of the week away from my family. Monday – Thursday, I am about an hour away from home, staying with family and working in another city while our home office, which was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, is being repaired. Every time my phone rings, and I see it is a call from home, my heart leaps into my throat and I imagine any number of disputes and controversies the caller is waiting to relate to me. I fear division, separation.

At this point in my life, that is one of my biggest fears and something I battle often. I worry about being denied the joy of not just having most of my immediate family around and watching the kids grow up, but having an active role in their lives. I think both fears are rooted in improper thinking and can only be effectively dealt with by applying my theology to my emotions and responding accordingly.

Last night after work I went to the grocery. As I was loading the bags into the car, I heard my cell phone ring. After I’d finished, I checked to see whose call I’d missed…it was my brother (the father of my nieces and nephew). As per usual, my heart was in my throat as I contemplated returning the call. I threw up a quick prayer, saying “Lord, give me grace.” And as I set to hit redial, I heard “to fear the worst is to believe God isn’t good.”

The application that came from that word was this: my fears about contentious phone calls (calls which have yet to come, mind you) and all of the other fears says that *I* am the most important factor in these equations. It is saying that *I* am responsible for keeping my family together. It is arrogant. It is saying that God isn’t who He says He is…that He isn’t equally sovereign over their lives and mine…that He isn’t in control – or worse, that His control, plan and purpose are not good…that He isn’t good…that He isn’t capable of working all things for the good (especially if those things are my worst fears).

I do not really believe those things, obviously.

In those moments when I let fear take hold and brace for the worst, or (worse) dwell on the worst case scenarios or become overcome by my emotions, I am believing a lie and saying “Lord, you aren’t really good.”

That was quite a “slap me upside the head” reality check.

This morning in my quiet time, I read in “Edges of His Ways” - a devotional book of writings from Amy Carmichael. The writings are taken, primarily, from the things she wrote to the Dohnavur Family during the last several years of her life…years spent separated from the family due to illness and injuries sustained in a fall. The final years of Amy’s life were spent in her Room of Peace, in bed, unable to take part in the daily life of the family as she had before. From the writings, it is evident that her burden for them only increased. I wouldn’t doubt that she too had to occasionally be reminded that God’s involvement was necessary – her “hands on” involvement was determined by His good pleasure and, therefore, optional. One thing she did know, it would seem, is that her involvement in prayer was not optional.

Knowing this about Amma (this is what her family called her), made what I read this morning take on a more intense meaning.

But are we to go on striving to the end?

No, here is a point to which we come, when utterly trusting the promise of our Father, we rest our hearts upon Him. It is then we are given what Paul calls “access with confidence.” But do not forget that this access is by faith, not by feeling; faith in Him our living Lord. He who says “come unto me” does not push us away when we come. As we go on, led by the Holy Spirit who so kindly heals our infirmities, we find ourselves in 1 John 5:14-15 and lastly in Phil 4:6-7 “and this is the confidence that we have in him, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us and if we know that He hear us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him.” “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is good to remember that immediate answer to prayer is not always something seen, but it is always inward peace. And if the day end otherwise, and we feel discouraged then tell him so “nothing ashamed of our tears upon Thy feet Lord…thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” But do not settle down in into an attitude of “it will never be different.” It will be different if only in earnest we follow on to know the Lord.

This was followed up, and reinforced, by my reading in Daily Light…

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful… That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

With these thoughts swirling in my head and floating near the top of my heart, I went to work, plugged in my MP3 player and heard: “Even when I’m unfaithful (or, in this case, fearful), you are faithful!”

Thinking on this some more, I can recall specific instances where my concerns or fears cast a large, ominous shadow over the future, but turned out to be a much smaller version of the devouring monster I’d envisioned. Often times, the mountainous obstacle turned out to be a speed bump…the long, scraggly fingers reaching out for me or a loved one were, in reality, nothing more than dried twigs to be pushed aside.

God is indeed good, and well acquainted not just with our general griefs but with the tendencies and leanings of our individual hearts…with my individual, changeable, easily wearied heart. And I am so grateful!

Lord, help me to rightly apply my theology to my thoughts and feelings. May they say you are good…may my actions also agree with my theology and reflect the truth of who you are.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Even when I'm unfaithful...

A group of guys from our church have formed a band. It is called Undone. They have put together a couple of cd’s and were working on another just before Katrina hit. I have a copy of their first cd and have recently put it on my mp3 player. At least once a day, I hear a song from that cd. The song that comes up most often “for some reason” is a song called “Always Faithful.” The part that sticks in my head and keeps me singing the rest of the day is “Even when I’m unfaithful, you are faithful…”

With this verse still ringing in my head, I received an e-mail from our worship leader. He closed it with this “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He CANNOT deny Himself. (2 Tim 2.13)”

I couldn’t dismiss it as coincidence…in fact there isn’t much I could dismiss as coincidence.

As I read that, and sang the song simultaneously, I thought about my post from yesterday. “Even when I’m unfaithful (to walk as I should) He is faithful (to speak and lead and correct and bless and provide and get me where it is I need to be).

In my mind (and it is possible that this is only a unique thing for me through the Holy Spirit and will not make any sense to anyone else), I can’t think about the faithfulness of God without thinking of a few specific things…

First, my family…”you will be saved, you and your household. (Acts 16:31)”, second my weight loss “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion (Phil 1:6)” and finally, marriage. I don’t have a bible promise on this. There is nothing in scripture that guarantees me a husband. I am promised that “all these things” will be added to me and that if I delight myself in the Lord He will give me the desires of my heart.

Marriage is a desire I believe he has put in my heart. Other than truly delighting in the Lord, seeing my family come to know Christ, and my nieces and nephew grow up in purity and become godly men and women, there is nothing I desire more.

I believe this is of the Lord, as esteeming the gifts of husband and children is not a given just because I am a woman. I come in contact with many women (single and married) who do not esteem wifedom and motherhood as I do…many with these gift that wish they’d made different choices.

At times, I am tempted to think that I have a choice in this and that if I had made different choices throughout my life I would not be where I am today…i.e., single and childless. But the truth of the matter is that I am exactly where I need to be.

This life I am living now is not a consolation prize, it is not punishment and it is not an accident. It was planned, purposed and accomplished by the Hand of God…and therefore it is not just ok or bearable…it is good…the best for me right now. Right now, it is best for me to be at this job, living this life, with the freedom to serve my family as I am currently being called to do. My singleness has given me the freedom to help care for my nieces and nephew on the weekends, to (without reservation or discussions) open up my home to my brother and his family as long as they need to stay, to live away from home 4 nights a week and (hopefully) show the love of Christ to family members I wouldn’t ordinarily have such time with, and to have additional time to further my walk and better prepare for what the Lord has for me.

At times, the ache in my heart makes it is hard to see all that…but then I am reminded of the truth. Yesterday, it came in the form of an e-mail from our worship leader, which said…some might think time has made a cynic out of even God and that the ‘streams of mercy never ceasing’ have – “we’re sorry to report” – seceded. No, we’re confident of better things, because of just this attribute and just this truth: “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He CANNOT deny Himself. (2 Tim 2.13)”

He also reminded me that the same grace and mercy and love that seals me eternally, works for my good and (as John Piper has said ) is "plotting" for my joy daily…working all things to my good. Even current struggles in my walk…even my unfaithfulness.

What struck me in the car this morning as I pondered all of this was…though my actions (or inaction) does matter…it really doesn’t because God is bigger than anything I can or can’t do…bigger than the best thing I can accomplish for Him and the worst of my failings. His sovereignty guarantees that even my worst days are for my good…are not just happenstance. They are purposeful and intended to teach me more of Him, convince me more of my need of Him, and train me in righteousness.

This “theology” is not a license for me to go my merry way doing as I please…in fact, this realization served only to remind me that I am utterly incapable of doing any good thing outside of the grace of God. It led me to thank Him for what He has done and to acknowledge my “helpless estate” and ask for the grace to walk as I should today. It humbled me…and I believe that is the proper response to all doctrine. We must be humbled…we must decrease so He can increase.

It is only in this posture, with this motivation that we can effectively walk in the way He has “shewn” (as Amy Carmichael would say), for “He resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

It is only in this posture that we can do what today’s Daily Light encourages…[bear] fruit in every good work and [increase] in the knowledge of God…and present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

Daily, I find I am faced with choices…choices to obey or disobey…to conform or be transformed…to seek my own will or His. As a child of God, in any circumstance, there really is one choice…one way…and we are told that His way is always the best way. In effect, we are to chose as He would chose…and as my Elisabeth Elliot devotion said this morning…"He gives the very best to those who leave the choice with Him."

Lord, let us…let me…endeavor to leave each choice to you…seeking only to honor and please you and walk in a way that reflects you, testifies to you, blesses you. In so doing, let me also leave the outcome to you, and trust in your faithfulness.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

"So Walk in Him"

Yet again, the Lord is the Lord…stringing together threads daily to weave the tapestry of His will for me as I walk along, mostly blind…mostly haphazardly. It never ceases to amaze me how He always knows where to find me…and how purposeful He is in what He speaks, how He instructs, where He leads.

In my inbox this morning is a devotional reading that I really haven’t been keeping up on, but when I saw the title in the subject line, I knew I had to read it. It is from today’s Morning & Evening Devotion, by Spurgeon (as edited by Alistair Begg)

SO WALK IN HIM - Colossians 2:6
If we have received Christ Himself in our inmost hearts, our new life will display its intimate acquaintance with Him by a walk of faith in Him. Walking implies action. Our Christian life is not to be confined to our closet; our belief must be revealed in our practice. If a man walks in Christ, then he must act as Christ would act; since Christ is in him-his hope, his love, his joy, his life-he is the reflection of the image of Jesus; and men will say of that man, "He is like his Master; he lives like Jesus Christ." Walking signifies progress. "So walk in him." Proceed from grace to grace; run forward until you reach the ultimate degree of knowledge that a man can attain concerning Christ. Walking implies continuance. There must be a continual abiding in Christ. Many Christians think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Jesus, but regard the rest of the day as their own: But this is poor living; we should always be with Him, treading in His steps and doing His will. Walking also implies habit. When we speak of a man's walk and conversation, we mean his habits, the constant theme of his life. Now, if we sometimes enjoy Christ and then forget Him, sometimes call Him ours and then lose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in Him. We must keep to Him, cling to Him, never let Him go, but live and have our being in Him. "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him"; persevere in the same way in which you began, and, just as at the beginning Christ Jesus was the trust of your faith, the source of your life, the principle of your action, and the joy of your spirit, so let Him be the same until life's end, the same when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death and enter into the joy and the rest that remain for the people of God. O Holy Spirit, enable us to obey this heavenly precept.

This Sunday at church an older lady came over and hugged me. She whispered in my ear. “You are so beautiful. There is something in your eyes now…I can see Jesus all over you and that is the best beauty there is.” As the tears formed in my eyes, there was no time to be flattered. My thoughts were, “Lord, I know this is all you, and all of grace.” It is truly by His grace alone that anyone sees anything good in me, because I know I have not been diligent in seeking to walk in Him and reflect Him as I should.

My reading in “Edges of His Ways” this morning is again my heart’s prayer…
Father of spirits, this my earnest plea
I bring again, and yet again to Thee
Fulfill me now with love that I may know
A daily inflow, daily overflow.
For love – for love my Lord was crucified
With cords of love He bound me to His side
Pour through me now; I give myself to Thee,
O Love that led my Lord to Calvary.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Edges of His Ways

I recently bought a devotional book full of writings from Amy Carmichael. There are quotes from some of her books, but most are things she wrote as words of encouragement to her family at Dohnavur…things the Lord laid on her heart as she prayed for them or during her personal time with the Lord that she felt led to share.

The book is called “Edges of His Ways.”

That title really struck a chord with me, because I feel very much as if I am living on the edges of His ways…very much as if I am just on the outskirts, barely keeping pace with or walking in step with His way, His will…knowing there is so much more to be seen, to be revealed, to do.

I have heard Him say “this is the way…now walk in it” yet, I can not see the next step and so I stay on the edges, trodding in the familiar, too timid to venture forth. Also, I feel too choked with cares to expend the energy required to walk as I know I should.

By walking as I should, I mean spending the time in the Lord I need to, extending my hands to do His service, having the proper perspective and joy in said service, endeavoring to reflect Him as much as possible, to decrease that He might increase. Sadly, these have not been the driving force of my daily life…things have been more about going and doing and just getting through what it is that has been laid before me. That is not to say that there have not been blessings and moments of joy in any of it…there have been…but I guess the simplest way to put it is I feel that my thoughts have been too much about me, what I want, how I think things should work out, what I do not want to lose or give up.

Even in caring for and praying for my family. I often find myself having to say “forgive me, Lord for wanting my way”…and then painfully having to surrender to the thought that things might not go as I’d like. There may be hurts and (gulp) loss.

Reading in “Edges of His Ways” over the past several days has been like reading from my own personal journal. Each day there has been something that is like the cry of my heart.

When there were no words I could form to pray, I read…What are words when “all my desire is before thee…" Psalm 38:9. And I was reminded that words or no words, the Lord is both aware of my desire and very near…

"It is not far to go, for Thou art near;
It is not far to go, for Thou art here;
And not by traveling, Lord, men come to Thee,
But by the way of love; and we love Thee. "

As my thoughts continued to be many and scattered and unintelligible, I read:
"Gather my thoughts, good Lord, they fitful roam
Like a child bent on foolish wandering"

All the while, I’d been experiencing extreme and much needed quiet in my heart … so quiet that it made prayer difficult (why is it easier to pray when I am distressed?). Then the quiet began to subside…fears began to creep up again…and I read:

“I have been noticing in the Psalms every experience of distress turns to a straight look-up, and praise…Surely this emphasis on praise in the Psalms is because to turn from discouraging things and look up with a song in one's heart is the only sure way of continuance…to quickly look up, and turn our back on the discouraging [and] set our faces again toward sun rising.”

And in Daily Light, I was encouraged to “taste and see that the Lord is good…blessed is the [wo]man who takes refuge in Him.”

And then…
"Lord, give to me a quiet heart
That does not ask to understand
But confident steps forward in
The darkness guided by thy hand"
--Elisabeth Elliot, from Keep a Quiet Heart

The truth is, I do not need to remain on the Edges of His Ways…I can walk exactly as He has called me to walk. Though there may be darkness…He is there and His hand is guiding me just as effectively as in the light…for in Him there is no darkness at all, or shadow of turning.

He is “ the Lord who slept upon the pillow…
the Lord who soothed the furious sea,
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee?
Hold us in quiet through the age-long minute
While Thou art silent, and the wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink while Thou, deal Lord art in it?
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?”
--Amy Carmichael, from Toward Jerusalem

Thursday, November 3, 2005

He speaks peace to my soul and is the lifter of my head

Over the last several weeks, I have battled great anxiety and fear. There have been moments when I felt as if I could not breathe, others where my heart raced and the fear was so palpable, I instinctively looked around me to see which direction the danger was coming from, and still others where I was simply overcome by tears. I can’t really say that my fears were unfounded or even badly motivated…but fear being what it is, I can say with certainty that what I feared seemed bigger than the reality. My heart and mind were perceiving a giant, and really, the threat was much smaller…still real, just not as big as the shadow it was casting on my life.

This weekend, I think, I reached the breaking point. There were few moments when I wasn’t either crying, tearing up or choking back tears. I drove home Thursday evening in tears, I hugged the kiddos in tears, I fell asleep praying and in tears, I choked them back during most of the daytime hours, but the floodgates opened again in the wee small hours of the morning. I went to church wiping away the make-up I’d hastily applied that morning…after wiping my face dry, first of course. I shared a bit of my fears with friends…yes, in tears. Amid all the crying and fretting and fretting and crying about crying and fretting, I did one wise thing…I asked for prayer.

I don’t know for sure if it is simply the independently merciful hand of God or the effect of the prayers of some righteous and faithful friend…but this week I have had an amazing peace and quietness in my heart. In the times when I did endeavor to pray about the situations causing fear and anxiety, there was none. Disconcerted, I tried to remind myself of the giant that had been looming over me and still…peace and quiet.

Nothing has changed…not circumstances or opinions…but the Lord has come in, speaking peace to my soul and lifting my head.

Today, my sister-in-law called me from Texas. She, my brother and the kids are there visiting her family. She called to let me know they made it safe and to let me talk to the kids. In that moment, I was freshly reminded both of the enormity of my fears and also of the great mercy the Lord has shown me be stepping in and keeping me from turning this week into a fretapalooza.

I drove into Baton Rouge Sunday prepared to do exactly that…to spend the week trying not to completely breakdown at the office, yet expecting some tears at my desk at some point. The first tears came this morning…and they were few and short-lived.

As I sit here thinking over real possibilities, legitimate concerns and just how much I am going to miss the kids this weekend, the tears are there again…but as they threaten to roll down my cheeks I am reminded of something the Lord gave me through my dear Amy Carmichael…"Burnt offerings...even as the duty of every day required. Sometimes we look ahead and things look rather difficult, indeed impossible (or scary). But we have nothing to do with tomorrow, we have only to think about today; and the one thing that matters is that we offer our burnt offering (all we have to give of time, strength, love, everything) as the duty of the day requires."

What have I do to with tomorrow…I need only think of today. Truly, today has enough trouble of its own.

I find it a sufficient challenge to “walk in a manner worthy” on a daily basis on a good day…worrying about tomorrow is the equivalent of putting concrete blocks around my ankles. It is a distraction I don’t need…and is in the end unfruitful, for who by worrying can change one hair on his head?

Today’s Daily Light opens with…The ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.

My worry and fear has caused me to walk the way of the transgressor…stumbling in His ways. There is but one pleasing response…repent. I know the way… now I am to walk in it.

Lord, I know nothing good dwells in me except you. I must decrease and you must increase. Have your way in me. Let this bit of struggle and correction have its proper effect and help me to walk the rest of it out in a way that is pleasing to you. Thank you for protecting me from my sinful ways so often…thank you for speaking peace…thank you for lifting my head…thank you for the battles you have already won. I know your grace is greater than any sin of mine…your sovereignty more powerful than any fear…your mercy more boundless than I could ever measure. Thank you that I have this testimony, and for the testimony this momentary light affliction will one day be.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

From Today's Daily Light

Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.

Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.

“It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there.”—“In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.”

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.—Pray without ceasing.

It always amazes me both the timeliness of God and the ability of the Holy Spirit to impart what it is that we need individually.

When I read this entry in my Daily Light yesterday, what came to my mind first was Mary, bowed on the ground, washing Jesus feet with her tears and wiping them clean with her hair.

I thought of humility, not just momentary, but purposing to be humble and lingering there. I also thought of how little lingering I have done, humbled at the feet of my Lord...watching at the gates...wating at the door for Him to come.

I have spent a lot of time at other things...with my eyes fixed on personal matters...watching for some change, resolution, or progress. Too much time, actually. Distractions have been plentiful...deadlines at work, my family, trying to stay connected to displaced friends as I am displaced myself, men, sickness, shopping for fall clothes in smaller get the idea.

Then I read:

“It shall be a regular burnt offering throughout your generations at the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there.”—“In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.”

The words "burnt offering" have been coming up a lot lately in my readings. When I think of burnt offerings, I think of sacrificing something of value...something that costs...something maybe even precious or necessary for survival.

I think of Israelites in times of hunger, offering bulls and rams...and not just the sickly ones they couldn't eat...the choicest, plumpest...before they had eaten.

I also have to think of what things I need to set fire to...what things the Lord is desiring to burn away, that I might then see that He alone is worthy of my time and attention...that it is His face my eyes need to be fixed on...His move I need to anticipate...His will (not my own) that I need to desire above all. And, not just desire, but delight in...rejoice in...regardless of what it looks like or how it fits in with my desires or plans or hopes.

Lord...get me there, bowed at the funeral pire of all the softening, distracting things that spin my head and sway my heart. Let the flame of sacrifice cleanse me of all that keeps me from you.