On the Rudbeckia hirta

Gladsome we,
though our end be
to your eye decaying fury
our first blooms a surprising mystery:
purple-centered flaming glory
darkening to what you didn’t foresee
autumn’s legion embers a dreary
inventory.


2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient,
but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Cee's Flower of the Day (FOTD) October 17, 2021:
check out her incredible photography.
Sammi's Weekend Writing Prompt #231 - "Legion"
write prose or poetry in 32 words using the above word.

The Makarios Life: The First Beatitude (Matthew 5:3)

Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

I’d been talking with her on the phone for quite a while. Now I had come to the end of myself, not simply physically weary, but spiritually. She was still anxious, overwrought, doubtful of her salvation, overrun with the voice of the Accuser undercutting the gospel she had known and believed for most of her life. Painful circumstances had brought her to the end of her rope. And I was at the end of mine, spiritual weapons blunted and defeat looming.

I was, in effect, poor in spirit. Impoverished, like the woman who said to Elisha: “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil” (2 Kings 4:2). Destitute.

But Jesus had said this was a characteristic of those in the kingdom. So I was good, right?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 3)

Blessed/Happy: μακάριος “makarios” mak-ar’-ee-os (Gk.)
– “blessed,” “happy,” “possessed of peace (shalom), well-being”
— in the Amplified Bible: “happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous–with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions”

This is the very first beatitude, a statement of blessing. Jesus’ eight beatitudes are the dramatic opening to his teaching in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. The beatitudes are the tour de force of the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, consummate prophet, priest, king, knows how to grab the attention of his listeners by describing the happy, fulfilled life, the desire of every human being. He describes “the makarios life,” that is, the “blessed/happy life,” of those who follow Him. This life is available to every believer. The kingdom of heaven had already come with His appearance, even as it will come fully on the day He returns. As believers, we are citizens in His kingdom, and as kingdom-dwellers, we should possess all the qualities that the beatitudes describe.

The makarios life is the life of someone described in Psalm 11, and in Christ Jesus, we possess its qualities. So, as Jesus says, happy are we! And this first beatitude gives the foundational characteristic that leads to all the other attributes listed of the blessed life. Living the makarios life means we are first and foremost “poor in spirit.”

Well, I was certainly feeling my spiritual poverty on the phone with my desperately anxious friend. So why didn’t I feel blessed?

Simple. The kingdom of God is not a matter of feeling. It is knowing and believing and trusting that God’s word and promises are true. It is a matter of taking with both hands God’s revealed truth and turning around continually to Him, looking to Him, and relying on Him to provide for all that we need to apply that truth in our lives and our relationships. That is kingdom-living. That is happiness-producing. That is blessedness. That is the makarios life!

So I acknowledge my spiritual lack and gather the riches of the kingdom in Christ Jesus. And I give my friend what Christ gives me: His love.

Do you remember the song we grew up with as children, the one we taught our children? I ask her. We used to sing “Jesus Loves Me”?

Yes, she says.

Can we sing it together?

Jesus . . . loves . . . .

Her voice fades pitifully. I can feel her anguish, hear her cries of panic and uncertainty, powerless to hope, powerless to believe. She can’t bring herself to say “me.” Jesus loves ME.

She hardly has the breath to sing through her cries, so I sing it for the most part alone. She is silent while I sing. Listening. Then I ask her:

Can you, dear one, say “Jesus loves me”?

Patiently we repeat the words of the song. Simple words. Words at the heart of the gospel.

She stumbles many times, as if in unbelief at the immensity of the statement, that Jesus could love her, even her.

Yes, I remind her, Yes! Jesus loves you. Yes! Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones — us, you and me – to Him belong. You are weak and I am weak but He is strong. Say it, dear one: say, “Jesus loves me.”

And when at last she does say it, substituting her name for the “me,” it is as if another gate of hell had been broken through, and the Accuser driven back in defeat.

It is a moment of great victory. You see, the kingdom of God is ours, the poor in spirit, in the person of Jesus Christ who loved us and gave Himself on the cross for us. And He gives us the kingdom He won for us.

I am weak but He is strong. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Sister! Brother! Preach it to yourself, to each other. We are living the makarios life. Hallelujah!


1Psalm 1
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

To Christians Who Are Suffering – The Reformed Reader

A good and timely reminder from Rev. Shane Lems of Reformed Reader: “To Christians Who Are Suffering. May our Lord use it to touch the hearts of the suffering with his unceasing mercy and grace.

For it is written, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing(James 1: 2-4).

Psalm 115:1 — Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Journey (3)

fare thee well, my sister
fare thee well, my brother too
well met this day to savor
a spell of time to share

what see you in my path
what see I in yours
a cross laid upon our shoulders
to follow in His steps

be gentle, sister, brother
ours is not to judge
called are we to tarry
in comfort and in love

kneel and pray o sister
kneel and pray today
kneel and pray o brother
Manna for this day

For He who died on Calvary
is Bread of life to us
and He has sent His Spirit
to quench the thirst in us

now we rise to journey
on our way again
the time that we have tarried
a well of joy has been

I’ll see you at the Wedding
I’ll see you with the Lamb
we’ll sing with great rejoicing
never to part again.


I had just completed the next to the last verse when I received the news that my dear friend, A. J., had passed into glory. It was as if all the verses that had been written before were not a coincidence but had been a preparation for this, a reminder to all those who hear that our journey leads homeward to our heavenly Father, to God our Savior. “As it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’”— (1 Corinthians 2:9).

pax,

dora

image resource – https://www.lovethispic.com/image/56666/pathway-to-the-unknown
Join in Eugi's Weekly Prompt, "journey"

Rivers

PHOTO PROMPT © Penny Gadd
Genre: Realism; Word count: 100
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and limit our words to 100 or less. 
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Rivers

The first murder set it into motion, the river of death running red with blood, black with vengeance and lust. This rivulet was one of many winding their way past graveyards. At this bend, she kissed him goodbye for the last time. Just twenty and off to war.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of death
Thou art with me . . . .”¹

Once she had thought that death had the run of the land. Now sitting on the bank, praying with her daughter before beginning her home school lessons, she knew there was also a river of life.


1Psalm 23 [A Psalm of David.] (KJV)

The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Outsider No More

Come weal or come woe
Our status is quo

– Old Saying

Let’s face it. Most of us prefer to maintain the status quo. It’s painless, well-established, safe. Anything disruptive spells danger, so we go along with those who maintain the status quo. They prey on our sheep-like need for a communal feeling of security even if it leaves us shorn of our freedoms. We want to be included, not excluded from the social norm, so we compromise, even when “inclusion” means branding others in Orwellian terms (see Animal Farm).

One of the many unsettling characteristics of our time, though, is the unreliability of what is status quo: beliefs and assumptions that once took several decades to change, now can change in a matter of years, even weeks as we’re seeing when it comes to scientific opinion on biological gender, psychology, epidemiology. A lot of this change has to do with the political hurricanes blowing around us. They pressure us into jumping onto the currents of zeitgeist so we’re not left out of the “loop,” because who wants to be on the outside looking in on the popular fads or dictates of the moment.

But it has become increasingly difficult to ride the waves of popular sentiment and opinion. We could find ourselves being outsiders in the twinkling of an eye, the mob raging after us, “outed” for unpopular beliefs by our own families, friends, colleagues, and employers. Playing it safe has never been more dangerous than when sociopolitical tides shift rapidly.

“Choose the hill you want to die on carefully,” a wise man once told me. The problem? A terrain of equally worthy hills to make my stand.

No. That’s wrong. There’s only one hill to die on: Calvary’s rise where the greatest battle ever fought raged and one Man died the victor, defeating death once and for all to rise again in glory, and reign over heaven as one day he will over all the earth. In the meantime, he is sovereign over individual moments of history, personally and collectively.

As a Christian, that puts me on the wrong side of history according to the prevailing status quo. But as the Bible tells me, I’ve always been an outsider in this world, a stranger and a pilgrim. I should be ill at ease in a society that tells me that my security and comfort come first. And one day I may have to die on this hill, as an outsider, as Christ Jesus did outside the city walls.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

Truth is, with my rebirth and new life in Christ, my status quo changed from the world’s to the kingdom of God’s.

And that makes me an outsider no more, but included in the most secure and eternal kingdom of all, peopled by sinners of every nation, ethnicity, and language, each washed in the blood of the Lamb, knowing a freedom from guilt and sin’s hold.

More than that, I am a child of God, known and loved, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, united with Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And on this hill may I die a worthy death to be raised on that day when Christ returns.


Hebrews 11:13
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

Ephesians 2:19
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God . . . .

1 Peter 2:7-12, 21-25
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. …
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

The Bright Field

Since my last poem, “October Fire,” I encountered “The Bright Field” by R. S. Thomas, a Welsh poet and Anglican priest of the last century. It’s theme of illumination is so allied to mine (though its poetic genius far eclipses mine) that I’d like to share it with you, that it might enflame and brighten your heart with hope. We are living in times that make us distrust the very leaders and experts that vie for our trust, and suspect the motives of those who claim to speak for the general welfare, for the sick, the poor and the oppressed. Our hopes have been misplaced if they have been placed on men and women. In the days leading up to our national election, let us pray that many will turn to the only true source of hope, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and reach out again to their neighbor on every street and every corner with grace and love.

A field in the Shenandoah Valley

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R. S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Journey

I lift up my eyes‬

one day’s dawn closer‬

‪Love’s banners streaming‬

‪nail-scarred grace unrelenting ‬

‪boundless praise flowing‬

shouts bursting

‪tears spilling

‪prayers ascending‬

‪a radiant crescendo‬

‪jeweled vision before me —‬

‪New Jerusalem.‬


Psalm 84: 5-7 NIV

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Lenten Days

 

serveimage
Herodian Oil Lamp, 1st c. AD

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Cor. 7-11, ESV)

Father, before you I kneel in dismay
Ashamed I’ve grieved you again today
Aware that this handful of dust and clay
Rescued from darkness to eternal day
Betrayed your love, from You turned away:
O forgive me, I pray!

Driven by discontent and greed
All I could see was my own selfish need
Taking me swiftly where You do not lead
Enticing in thought, and word, and deed
Faithless to endure and your word to heed:
O Spirit of God, help me!

Nothing I do will right my wrong
Against You I have sinned and oh how I long
To be set free from guilt so strong
Blinding me to whom in love I belong
Who over death my victory won:
My hope rests in Jesus alone!

For His is the blood that washed me clean
His death on the cross covered all my sin
His is the power that sets me free to begin
Humbly to walk with You again
Trusting the word of my sovereign King
For life abundant united to Him!

Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!


Ash Wednesday was originally the day in the church year when people who were ordered to show public penitence for their sins began forty days of penance—outward displays of inward repentance. Sometime around the end of the first millennium the practice became more general. The symbol of this was marking the forehead with ashes. It was the sign that a person had begun a multi-week fast, with forty weekdays included. They were now setting out on an internal journey of the spirit that would end only with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter. The message was visible on their faces” (Sinclair Ferguson, To Seek and To Save).

O Christian, In Whom Do You Trust?

In my lifetime of walking with the Lord, I have met many weak Christians and a few mature ones. The latter always catch me off guard, so humble are they that it’s sometimes easy to miss them. I would like to think of myself among the latter but I have to live with myself and know better. So I keep praying for wisdom.

In general weak Christians fall somewhere between two extremes: those who carry their doctrine into the world in order to preach it or those who leave their doctrine at home in order to conceal it. The first group tend to be legalists and the second group antinomians.

The legalists take their doctrine and shove it in people’s faces, much like the Pharisees. So the biology professor who is a legalist will continually enter into disputations about creationism versus evolution, and make sure that everyone knows how doctrinally pure he is. He professes his doctrine but notably fails to live it. He keeps to the letter of the law and doesn’t live up to its spirit.

The antinomians take their doctrine and keep it closeted in the private sphere, so that their dealings in the world are indistinguishable from those of non-Christians. They compartmentalize their lives to such an extent that they freely transgress and justify their worldly-mindedness by claiming freedom from the law.

What both categories of weak Christians share is a distrust of God and a high degree of trust in themselves. The legalists are performance-based, trusting in their own works not God’s work on the cross and through the Spirit in them. The antinomians rely on their own partaking of the grace of God through the cross to complacently forego their reverence of His law in every aspect of their lives.

Neither one places her full confidence in God. And by so doing they fail to trust in Him at all. The Gospel is a tool or a plaything, to be used at will, not a way of life. One eye is on Christ Jesus, the other on circumstances.

A mature Christian is not so double-minded. She has relaxed her claim to herself, and committed herself wholly as a “living sacrifice” to her God and Savior. There is no holding back of anything. And she brings nothing but herself to the Cross to which she clings. And in her life “now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).

Whom Do You Serve?

1024px-Temptations_of_Christ_(San_Marco)
The Temptations of Christ, 12th-century mosaic at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice

The world tells us that our identity is always in flux and applauds those celebrities that “reinvent” themselves to achieve greater success. Someone who is “evolving” into whatever is touted to be accepted modes of thought and behavior can expect to be embraced by her peers in the workplace and rewarded by society.

But is this relativized approach to identity of ultimate benefit? Even humanists can see the pitfalls involved for the individual. As Jung put it, “The world asks you every day who you are, and if you don’t know, it will tell you who you are.” One of the most famous maxims the ancient Greeks gave us is “Know thyself.” Continue reading “Whom Do You Serve?”

O Love That Came Down

O Love that came down from heaven
Of Your glory I have glimpsed
Tides of mercy as you raise me
Even now to dwell with Thee.

Draw my eyes from worldy idols
So my sight is clear and free
To behold Your holy radiance
And always only worship Thee.

Wondrous, gracious are Your works, Lord
These I ponder with delight
Trusting, finding grace sufficient
As I daily walk with Thee.

Bread of Heaven, feed me ever
In Your kingdom as I am
Granted riches from Your table
Heavenly food from Your dear hand.

Cloud of Glory

Roll over me, Cloud of Glory, majestic mountain of Light
Clothing the enthroned Godhead!
Touch me with the Fire that no Promethean labor avails
To impart but the Love-enflamed Spirit!

A spark from Thee to this dry timber of my heart
Would burn wiry vines of Satan’s lies, noxious fears,
Corrupted roots, and leave unharmed the tender growth
Of life reborn, fed by living water and the Word,
To fruition of Abundance, a banquet of Life Eternal
Before the Most High God!

So Thou has promised, so let me receive
The fulness of Thy outpouring
Grace upon grace
That loosens tongues of gladness
And sets free faith
Till Heaven opens
On this child of the King!

Absent in the Spring

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This morning I read chapters 12 through 14 in the book of Job, the words of a man alternately addressing God and his deluded comforters in the midst of his suffering. Immediately after, I read the first chapter of Luke. The juxtaposition of the two readings left a strange sensation, a net of chiaroscuro, light and shadow, the sunrise of salvation and the nihilism of pain.

Oddly, there came to my mind, Agatha Christie’s psychological novel, Absent in the Spring, and Shakespeare’s sonnet from which it drew its title.

Sonnet 98

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him,
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

Caught in the pain of loss, the poet’s world is colored by it. What used to penetrate his senses with beauty now sharpens the knife’s edge of absence. Everything is a shadow of what it once was or ought to be and he is deeply aware of it.

Not so the narrator of the psychological Christie novel. She is absent to her own loss, that is, she doesn’t know what she’s missing. For a brief time an awareness of her loss, her failure to “be there” for those she claims to love, all of life that she’s failed to see and missed, cuts into her consciousness. Her grief is almost unendurable and she is overwhelmed by regret. She determines to change and make amends. But the moment passes like a mirage in the desert heat. She returns to her narcissistic life “absent” once again, oblivious to the misery of those who need her the most.

The pain of loss absorbs Job’s consciousness. But he engages with God through it all. While his “comforters” try to justify his suffering, Job goes straight to the One who can get him though it. He will not “curse God and die” as his wife advises. He will not absent himself to his suffering. He will neither deny it nor flee from it. Instead, in his suffering he looks for God. He remembers who God is. He knows that whatever the season, the summer of abundance or the winter of loss, God is unchanging, steadfast in love and faithfulness and sovereign in power. This knowledge emboldens Job and shores up his hope so that he doesn’t fall into the despair with which Satan  tempts us during hard times.

It is the first chapter of Luke that puts it all in perspective. This is where Christ’s birth is announced. Zechariah breaks into a joyful song of expectation and Mary bursts into a paean of praise as her spirit rejoices in God her Savior. Jesus’s birth breaks into history, the history of the world and our own personal history. His birth is pivotal to our understanding of temporal loss because His birth is the moment in time when the eternal becomes more real, more true, more present than absence caused by loss, whether the loss of health or loss through death.

His presence overtakes the absence. His reality in history, in the flesh, through His death and resurrection, overshadows everything. Eternity trumps the temporal. And by the word of God through the Holy Spirit we glean it daily as God who suffered here on earth suffers yet with us, making more real to us the glory that awaits us when we see Him face to face.

Praise God for that day!


Job 19: 25 (NASB)
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Hebrews 2: 14-15 (ESV) 
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.

Belief (4)

To ask Him if He sees, when He made the eyes
that angrily accuse;
To ask Him if He hears, when He made the ears
that ring with raging accusation;
To ask Him if He is mute, when He made the mouth
that spits hurt challenge;
To ask Him if He knows, cares, desires to stem
the flood of misery
When He knew, cared, desired enough to bear
the Cross;
To ask and then grieve to ask
And in my grief to fall abashed into waiting arms
again, and yet once again,
To ask, “O God, how great is Your lovingkindness!”