Jesus in the Day of Small Things

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice ….”

– Zechariah 4: 10
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Constitutional Convention Assembly Room, Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Anyone who hasn’t turned on the news and come away disheartened isn’t paying attention. The years that saw men and women strive for noble ideals in the interest of their countrymen, when the Constitutional Convention assembled to debate the great truths that should be enshrined as the foundational principles of a nation, those days are long past. The leaders that strode across the canvas of time – George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson – seem shrouded in the distant past replaced by the frontrunners of our current presidential primaries, a morally and intellectually bankrupt buffoon and an equally corrupt power-hungry crony capitalist.

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Eastertide

Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee

Ah, LORD, what am I
that You would provide
for me, a sinner,
the feast of life
the true life of all
the breath of You
body and blood
sinless Lamb
incarnate Son
my Lord and my God!

Hesed Love

A wet stone in my open palm
and the water trickling down my arm
returning to the brook like tears,
the only sign that eyes
set like stones yet can weep.

Such moments deserve better frames
from the hand that sends them
down the assembly line of time
even the luxury to inhabit them endlessly,
a black hole until all feeling is gone.

Holding on to the resentment kept me sane,
kept me from screaming, until I entered
into the rock, limestone hard glitter
so that Elijah-like the earthquake, the storm,
the fiery shaking of world passed over me.

What I feared the most was the whisper
when it came, that would not break a bruised reed
or quench a smoking flax, that would not leave me alone
but sought me out as if this Person
from whom I have a right to expect nothing
would give me everything.

Hesed. Lovingkindness. Waiting for me
to come out of the cave-harbored wretchedness
into the healing light of grace unlooked for,
undeserved, mine to harbor
forevermore.

John Singer Sargent,
John Singer Sargent, “Magnolias” (c. 1890)

1 Kings 19:9-13

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.”And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Isaiah 42:1-4

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.

Note: In this poem, I use a line from the following excerpt:

“In the Old Testament, God defined himself by the term hesed. This is an untranslatable Hebrew word which is sometimes rendered mercy, loving kindness, covenant-faithfulness or even love. It takes a whole sentence to even begin to translate the term, but this is a good place to start. When someone from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything, I experience hesed.” – Michael Card

Advent

IcySnowTree
The Urals, photography by Sergey Makurin

She was dead she thought
The leaves gone gray with frostbite
Fullness of life pinched like the last rays
Of twilight and the seed rotten
In the grave of her heart where it lay
Thick corpse unlooked for, unhoped for.

Then the recrudescence of the unseen cloaked –
Birth pains preceded by incredulous laughter
Behind three visitors, welcome yet sorely
Testing her faith that after all these years
The barren belly and breasts hanging loose
Like the flaps of Abraham’s tent would swell
With child and milk and passion flailing
In her arms in cries of longing.

Still yet would the muted prayers of her heart
Confuse a blind priest and escape like drunken speech
From a spirit overburdened with years of enduring
Whispers interspersed with “poor Hannah”
And taunts hastily stifled between pursed lips
Escape the earth to a listener in the heavens
Beneath the frozen stare of endless reeling stars.

Oh, birth that fell upon the girl betrothed twice:
First to the gallant, plainspoken carpenter by trade
Then to the shame that lay as heavy upon her as the child
Ripening within, immortal Savior, promised to a broken remnant
Who had almost ceased to believe their barren vineyard –
Stripped, plundered, bruised under heel of pharisee and emperor –
Would find its fruit at last in the promised seed of God
Eternal hid here in the virgin’s bespoken womb!

Now to ready the still beating heart beneath the flesh
That spawns decay, loss, grief, hate, pain and misery
Unbroken by relentless time, but that time itself stoops
To enter into a stable wherein lies a gurgling babe,
The hope of every longing heart
The joy of bright expectant eyes
The peace of life newborn where once there was none
Now in this advent of his return.


Isaiah 9:6-7
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

The Time is Now: Daily Reflections for Advent

How are you “preparing the way of the Lord” this advent season?

Dreams from a Pilgrimage

The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics has put out a series of daily reflections for advent which provide a beautifully meditative context for our individual prayers and reflection. Each meditation begins with a passage of scripture read by David Suchet and then a five-minute exposition by Amy Orr-Ewing which places the scripture within the framework of God’s unfolding design of salvation. The reflections “dwell on God’s preparation of people and events in history, which made the incarnation possible,” with the focus being on how God works in chronos time to achieve his kairos purpose, the coming of the Messiah, Christ Jesus. The introductory video does a good job of explaining the Biblical use of the two Greek words for time, chronos/kairos, kairos being used by the New Testament writers to “communicate the idea of God’s time; it is eternal reality breaking into the now.”

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Selkies, Us All: The Curse and the Cure

There she stood, in a pool of light on the stage, and in the silence between songs she told a story from her native land in the western isles of Scotland, of children born to the king and queen of Norway, born only to be cursed to dwell in the ocean as seals, “always on the shore, never able to go home.”

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I didn’t at once think of the selkie-folk, stories of whom abound in the northern climes, including the Orkney isles where they are believed to be fallen angels that fell into the sea rather than on land like the faery-folk.

I thought of the damned around us, immortal like us who are Christian believers, but for whom eternity will be in the “lake of fire” (Rev. 21:8), the “fiery furnace” that Jesus warns us of in Matthew 13:50 and Mark 9:43.

Once I too was damned, cursed like the selkie children of folklore, cursed for my sins, born of a sinful nature which I had inherited from my parents, from the race of Adam. As a sinner I too had been banished from Eden, always on her shore – longing for perfection from myself, longing for a perfect world free of hatred, violence, war, famine, disease, pain, and suffering – never able to “go home” to that garden where God descends to walk “in the cool of the evening” (Gen. 3:8) as a Father with His child, made in His own image.

But He didn’t abandon us, sinful creatures though we had become, His image defaced in us by our sins. He took on our flesh. He came down to the shore and walked with us, teaching us, healing us, and reminding us of His love. And He allowed Himself to be spat upon, beaten, torn and nailed to a cross so that “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Is. 52:14).

He allowed the atrocity of His crucifixion out of love for us who were damned. He bore upon Himself the judgment that was ours. All the wrath that was due to us for ours sins was poured out on Him.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed  (Isaiah 53:5).

What, then, are we healed of? What peace do we have?

We are healed of the curse of sin. We can shed our “selkie” skin and be clothed with His perfect righteousness. We have the peace of eternal reconciliation to God our Father.

Dear Reader, are you healed? Do you have this peace? Or will you be doomed to the shores until that day when you will be judged for your sins and suffer the eternal punishment of the damned in hell?

Believe now in the Lord Jesus, and by faith receive the salvation He offers you, and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). He is waiting for you, as a loving father waits longingly for his wayward child (Luke 15: 11-32).

You don’t have to remain a “selkie,” trapped in the coming flames of judgement you richly deserve for your sins. You can go home.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).

 

 

Exorcising the Zombie

Sometimes when you “express yourself,” you’re just exorcising the zombie you’ve become – or attempting to. It’s a rare moment of self-awareness when you want to break free of the accumulated dead cells of all that stifles life. Writing is one way for me, especially if it begins and ends with a deeper awareness not just of myself but also of my Maker and my God! The following verse was written in a burst of frustration as thoughts began intruding into my quiet time:

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More than the Bread of Angels

Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. (Psalm 78:25)

The hymn, Panis Angelicus, written by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, comes close to describing the ineffable mixture of unspeakable joy and perfect peace that we experience in the sacrament of holy communion. Yet when we partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ by faith, we are feasting on more than the bread of angels, this manna that rained down for forty years upon the Israelites in the wilderness that the psalmist describes. Instead, by faith we receive Christ Himself, the Son of God incarnate, in a gift of atonement and communion that even the angels cannot know but that by grace we possess through the Holy Spirit leading us into fellowship with the Trinitarian God, a fellowship inscribed within the eternal, steadfast love of the Father.

Continue reading “More than the Bread of Angels”

Koinōnia

κοινωνία

There you sit, you strange little Greek word, daring me to say you:
koy-nohn-ee’-ah. Heard it on the grapevine. Neeah. Neeah. Coin O Neeah.
Koinōnia. Can’t scare me. Fat plum you are. Soaking in the sun.
Shiny little purple friend, all decked out on half-promises. Fellowship, is it?
Comraderie? Smarmy times of togetherness maybe. Then a kiss and a shove out the door. And leave your wallet behind if you please. No joke.
Cynic, am I? Just leave me alone. Jesus and I get on just fine.
Walking through a church door, community-of-believers door,
praying together, sharing together, caring, feeding,
hungering, thirsting together, finding courage and staying together,
that’s not me, that’s someone else,
wandering, seeking, and finding
that you can’t pick and choose the family you belong to
when God plants you there, like you can bloom where you’re planted.
Sunflower-clichèd, when it’s coming up roses just where I am,
just as I am, accepted for who I am by the One
who is the great I Am, finding grace and mercy,
redemption in the Lamb, slain for my sins, leading me
to drink from the fountain of salvation, giving me new life,
born again and adopted into His family, a new family,
in the house that He built.
Walking through a church door,
seeing is believing, and I see people belonging,
who were lost and now are found,
sending workers into the harvest,
fellowshipping,
still growing past imperfect,
stepping on toes on their way to the altar,
unruly sinners repenting, singing and crying,
praising the God who loved them enough
to send His only Son
to die upon a cross
and bring them home to Him.
Koinōnia.
You don’t scare me, you plum of a word.
Not now.


John 13:34-35  [Jesus said,] “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Acts 2:42  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship [koinōnia], to the breaking of bread and the prayers

Romans 12:9-13  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

The Self’s Prayer

What do I have to offer You, my God?
My self? A nightmare, this wretched thing that like a silly sheep
has gone this way and that, astray and beyond, and that
just today. This sin-encrusted self is too paltry a thing to offer
my God. Yet it beats with a heart that You have turned
from stone to flesh by the sweet breath of Your Spirit,
an altar made acceptable by the blood of Your Son
where You, O God, Father-Son-Spirit, one God,
holy Trinity, abide to save, rescue, cleanse, protect
this heart of mine to love, adore, worship and praise You.
Of my self I possess no love that is not weak and tainted.
You know, O God. You know, my Father. By Your Word,
flood, melt, devour me with Your love.
Give me the love I thirst to love You with.
For if I cannot love You with Your love
overtaking my self,
O God, I am nothing.

The Enchanted Castle

(c) Paintings Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
Francis Danby, “The Enchanted Castle” (c. 1841)

When I first saw this painting, I was struck by the intensity of its vision, not simply the artist’s but the lingering figure of the woman by the reflecting pool. She seems oblivious to the slow burn of the golden light beyond the dark overarching trees and the darkened castle. Their shadows have won the day. She looks down, dwelling on her thoughts even as the shadows grow. She seems unaware of the fiery sunset, perhaps unconcerned. Her introspection holds her captive, there by the enchanted castle, be it memories or dreams or affairs of the heart or the world or the steady drone of the day.

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Maundy Thursday Prayer

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Lord Jesus, when You washed the disciples’ feet,
did You see mine too?

They aren’t very pretty,
after all these years:
many times the shoes they’ve worn
conscience warned against;
sometimes they’ve strayed among the briers,
wandering from your word,
and dark has been the journey home
though You were always near;
illness, too, has made them weak,
sorrows left their marks,
and serpent bites still swell the sores
of bitterness and grief.
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God’s Power Behind The Weakness

I was greatly moved and convicted by Karina Susanto’s testimony as it comes from one who finds God’s word to be more desired than gold and sweeter than honey to the taste (Ps. 19:10; Ps. 119:103). When we allow God’s word to abide in us richly, we can see past our weaknesses to the One whose power transforms us to be instruments of His glory and a testimony to His amazing love.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17)

Karina's Thought

GOD'S POWER BEHIND THE WEAKNESS -Karina's Thought-Sue Nash

I begin my post this time with a short testimony about myself. Everyone who didn’t know me very well always said that I am a perfect woman. They said that I have inner and outer beauty, have an established life, have great charisma, and many more. Right now, unashamedly I am going to tell all of you that in fact, everything that they said about me was not entirely true. As a human being, I also have a weakness. I have congenital defect. Since age of 3 months, I have impaired hearing function. As a result, to remain be able to hear I have to use a hearing aid until now. This is what I mean as my weakness. No matter how sophisticated the hearing aid that I use, it still has limitations. I am still not being able to hear sound very well like others who have normal ears…

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