29 July 2009

To know God...

"To know God is to know fear. The fear of God is a heart-pounding, knee-trembling, spine-tingling, shuddering recognition that God is infinitely more good and powerful and important than me. It means that I live and think and act and speak with a keen awareness that He is the Creator and I am the creature; He is holy and I am not; He is wise and I am a fool; He is powerful and I am weak; He is ruler and I am servant; He is self-sufficient and I am utterly dependent.

To fear God means to be ever-aware of His all-pervasive presence, conscious of my absolute need for Him, mindful of my responsibility to follow His way, determined to obey Him, cautious of offending Him, and overwhelmed in amazement and gratitude at His incredible goodness and grace."

[[Mary Kassian, Knowing God by Name]]

26 July 2009


Send some rain, would You send some rain?
'Cause the earth is dry and needs to drink again
And the sun is high and we are sinking in the shade

Would You send a cloud, thunder long and loud?
Let the sky grow black and send some mercy down

Surely You can see that we are thirsty and afraid

I have felt a large amount of overwhelmed in the last few months. I've traveled to Indiana and Montana, watched my grandmother begin recovering from a stroke and seen a new baby just days after his birth. I've watched the sun set over some of the bluest water and coolest mountains that I've seen, and I've experienced physical pain that I can't begin to describe.
I've watched friends get engaged and married and seen new babies, and watched my other grandmother struggle to speak mere sentences so that we know she's still in there. I've begun counting the days until I leave my job and I've prayed fervently that God would provide Christopher with employment.

Perhaps it is all why the happy is so mixed in with the sad. Perhaps my latest grace-laden acquisition of discipline is keeping me in joy and perspective when everything is changing.

There are times when I pray that God would simply shock my system. I know that I am owed nothing and yet, day by day He pours forth grace when I know that all I deserve, sans Christ, is death and vengeance. I've been thirsty to know the Spirit's movement and afraid when I finally do. I feel I have lost a lot of who I have been in Christ, but yet I have not found Christ in lieu of my absence. I'm not quite sure what that means - I just know that it's there.

But maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways

And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to thirst for You
How to bless the very sun that warms our face
If You never send us rain

I so very often fail to give thanks for even the smallest blessings, like fresh water or the idea that I can sit down and read the Spirit-inspired words written on pages in a book that is banned in several countries and neutered in our own. I do not appreciate the fact that I am able to converse with others freely, without labored speech, or consume liquids without thickening them, as my grandmothers have had need to do. My thirst can be easily quenched, regardless of whether or not God ever gives me anything. He has given me all that I could ever need for life and godliness!

Daily bread, give us daily bread
Bless our bodies, keep our children fed
Fill our cups, then fill them up again tonight

Wrap us up and warm us through
Tucked away beneath our sturdy roofs
Let us slumber safe from danger's view this time

It is so simple to not realize the gift it is to have my husband next to me at night. We have a wonderful home and share it with good people. We sleep well. We have air conditioning! The Father in all His glory has no reason whatsoever to feed and protect us, and yet He does night after night, week after week, year after year. How dare I doubt that He has anything but good for us? But dare I assume that I understand what that good might look like?

Or maybe not, not today
Maybe You'll provide in other ways
And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
A lesson learned to hunger after You
That a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead
And if we never taste that bread

Because, you see, in my years I've seen kids who have been emotionally starved by their parents but who are given everything they could ever want and I've seen families with nothing in foreign countries who give what little they have away and who are the most joyful, content people I have ever known. I've known people to experience the common grace of God through the simple act of holding a newborn in their arms or through marrying their best friend and I've known others, believers, to die without explicable reason. If all we had was taken from us, would we still give thanks to the One who orchestrated the sun to set in such a brilliant display? Would we doubt His goodness if our lot was that of the rural woman in Guatemala, trying to feed her family with whatever can be found?

Oh, the differences that often are between
Everything we want and what we really need

Perhaps the world has messed with my head. Perhaps it is as they tell you in media studies, that everything can be interpreted either as a scheme to buy something or as a scheme to advance conformity/socialist tendencies. Regardless, I am more and more certain that the third perspective is the best one to hold - that there is no direct effect. It starts and ends in my head, with my heart. As downhere so deftly puts it, "the problem with the world is me." I do not understand what I truly have need for - I do not even process daily my need for a Savior!

So grant us peace, Jesus, grant us peace
Move our hearts to hear a single beat
Between alibis and enemies tonight

Or maybe not, not today
Peace might be another world away

And if that's the case . . .

We'll give thanks to You
With gratitude
For lessons learned in how to trust in You
That we are blessed beyond what we could ever dream
In abundance or in need
And if You never grant us peace

But Jesus, would You please . . .

If I never finish my tea tonight or if I never walk out of bed in the morning; if the world is suddenly dark and I never again see a friend smile or find joy in something simple; if I never have children or we fail to be able to pay our bills; if I find myself paralyzed in speech and with Christ as my only companion... Would I be content? Would Christ truly be my companion? Could I find joy in silence or peace in difficult circumstances? Would I understand that I still have all that I could ever need when all I could ever want is no longer there on top of it?

In the wisdom of Martin Smith, I pray that God would "save me, from the kingdom of comfort where I am king." The heavens are certainly aware of the despot who sits on that throne.

[[Nichole Nordeman, "Gratitude"]]