Friday, February 25, 2011
Thou has brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in my mountains of sin, I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.
Over Thanksgiving break, I went to Guatemala and served for the week in an orphanage, Casa Bernabé. My friend and co-worker from last summer, Hamp, and I met our friend McKenzie at SIFAT in July when she was home visiting. See, she's from Louisiana, but she works/lives full time at the orphanage in Guatemala. So, she invited us to come down, and although I don't know if she actually thought we would, we made the plans!
I fell in love with the place. The kids, the staff, other volunteers, the land.
But the purpose of me writing is not to talk about my time there or my desire to one day go back. I met a guy named David, who is also from New Orleans and was the one who invited McKenzie to Casa Bernabé for the first time. Well, David needs your prayers. This is from his profile and explains the situation better than I can, so see for yourselves:
“I arrived at Casa Bernabé (orphanage where I have been living for a while now).
One day I went to the baby house here at the orphanage. One of the American girls who was watching the infants had her hands full. She asked me to take one of the crying babies into my arms. She handed me this small little girl and I just remember staring at that little face filled with tears and wishing that I could make her laugh and stop crying. After a few minutes she stopped. I asked what her name was and they said, “Her name is Juliet.”
Since that day, I have watched Juliet grow up. I have had the chance to spend time her everyday. I have taught her to be tough. She knows not cry when she falls down, she gets right back up and brushes herself off. She is intelligent. She is beautiful. She is brave. She isn’t scared of dogs. She loves riding in my car. She loves to laugh. She loves it when I throw her up in the air as high as I can. She loves going on walks with me. She loves when I carry her but knows that she needs to walk on her own too. She wears Saints shirts. She won’t let anyone but me hold her when I’m around. She cries when I leave the house. She is funny. She watches movies with me. She isn’t scared to play with the big boys in the house. She loves playing with sticks. She loves to swing. She loves to give me kisses. She loves to love me.
Everything that Juliet loves, I love about her. She is my baby. Juliet is the most amazing gift that I have received in my life and she IS my daughter.
This Monday she will be going to a court case, which could possibly send her to live with an uncle in the family. I can’t give details but the truth is that it will not be good for her. It is a delicate situation.
The bottom line is, in the beginning, I didn’t choose Juliet. She chose me. She is my life. I can’t imagine my life without her. I can’t imagine not being able to protect her and care for her.
This Monday is a vital moment in our lives. We need your prayers. We need your voices raised to the One who will bring justice and fight for Juliet.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
When you find yourself longing for everlasting, complete happiness given from above, and long to depart from your tired soul so that you may see my glory, open your heart wide and drink in this holy inspiration. Give fullest thanks to the heavenly Goodness that treats with with descent from on high, visiting you Mercifully, stirring you up and powerfully lifting you up so that you will not fall down to earthly things by your own weight.
Daughter, the desires of some ablaze toward heavenly things, but yet they are not free from temptations of worldly affection. Do not ask what is delightful and profitable to you, but what is acceptable to Me and is for My Honor. I know your desire and have heard your grief. You long to enjoy liberty of the children of God and to be full of Joy. But that hour is not yet present. There still remains a time of fighting, labor, and trial.
It is I. Wait For Me. you must be tried on this earth and tested by many things. You must put on the new self. You must often do what you do not want to do, and leave undone what you would prefer to do. When others succeed, you will not. Others will be praised, while you remain unnoticed. To others, this office will be committed, but you will be accounted fit for nothing. But consider, beloved, the fruit of your labor, how quickly the trials will end, and their great Reward. Rather you will have the solace to strengthen your patience.
One day, in heaven with Me, you will have all that you can desire. There you will have within reach all good, without fear of losing it. There, your will, always being with mine, will not want any outward or selfish thing. There, no one will resist you, hinder you, or stand in your way. All things you desire will be present to Replenish your love. But now, child, at present, Bow yourself humbly under it all. And let this be your constant desire, that whether in life or death, I may always be Glorified in you. Wait a little while, and bear this cross courageously; life everlasting is worthy of all these conflicts.
If you could only see the saints in heaven who are rejoicing now, who in times before were struggling before like you, truly you would quickly humble yourself to the ground, and not long for pleasant days in this life, but instead Rejoice to suffer distressing trials in My name. If you allow these things to sink deeply into your heart, how dare you complain even once? Should not all labors gladly be endured? It is no small thing to lose or gain sight of the kingdom of God. For what you love, you will take delight in. Lift your eyes and strengthen your weak knees, for the King of Glory will sustain you. Endure with steadfast hope in what I promise."
Let that truth seep into your heart and your mind. Even if you're hurting, even if your trial seems unbearable, take heart, have good courage, and remember that you serve a just and merciful God who loves you.
Monday, February 21, 2011
I think what's making it most difficult to not be angry with God right now is that following him has caused her this much pain. It's not everyday that you go running to someone who hurts you. What she has to remember, though, is that it isn't the Lord who is hurting her. He is testing her, making sure that when she says, "God, you are enough for me. You are all I need. Even if my hands are emptied of everything else, I am satisfied in you," that she means it.
God doesn't break us to leave us broken. He breaks us to rebuild and restore. He takes us through the fire so we can come out on the other side more holy. It just hurts to be broken, it burns to pass through fire.
Since she made this tough decision, she has been racked with doubt and uncertainty that is surely of the flesh. So not only must she trust God that what he called her to do was right, but she must trust him completely with her heart and her future. God knows best, that's what I tell her. And he knows the difference between good and best, when it comes to our lives and our future, and especially timing, even when we don't see it at all.
Someone once told me that our lives are like blankets on a loom. We can only see the underside - the one that isn't that beautiful, with the extra threads hanging all over the place and the knots visible. But God, the Crafter, works from the other side and sees the bigger picture, the masterpiece. Another friend told me recently that God is a Painter, and even when it looks like there's a mistake, a stray mark of paint or a wobble, that he uses it to make the finished product even more beautiful and more unique. After all, no two blankets or paintings are the same, are they?
My friend said one of the hardest things is not being able to physically feel God right now, in her time of suffering.
It's hard, isn't it? It would be so easy if God were sitting on the couch with us, holding our hand, walking us through our hard times while telling us audibly how much he cares about us and how special we are to him. But he doesn't do that.
I think maybe that it's more sanctifying for us and glorifying to him to put our faith in him without seeing him, trusting him when our human eyes are only capable of seeing this human world. But I heard a wise man say that the spiritual realm is so much more real than the meager world we're in. After all, we don't have a soul.. we ARE a soul. We just have a body. So for us to get beyond this world and trust in the other is very glorifying to God, and to him be all glory.
So, right now, she has a decision: to continue trusting God. She knows that he is strength for today and hope for tomorrow. Each morning she will wake up, renewed, trusting that the Lord will provide her daily bread. Just make it through each moment, and God will give her the faith and the courage and the strength that she needs then. In that moment. And then renew it for the next. She said she has to be careful of not looking too far ahead, and like Lot's wife, not looking back, but trusting God right now. Because he is enough. She is satisfied with her hands emptied of everything else, even if it doesn't always feel good. She sees some purpose in her suffering.
The most important thing in her life, she said, is that God is glorified. And while it's difficult to stick by that when it feels like her heart is crumbling into little pieces that maybe won't fit all back together the right way again, she is more certain than ever that the goal of her life is to see God's glory and make it known here on earth.
Because he is good. He is loving. He is working together for the good of those who love him.
He is enough.
And she knows that the purpose of running to him is not to get relief of her pain, to receive blessing after blessing, to get a glimpse of her future, or get strength not her own. The purpose of running to God is to get GOD. He is the prize.
Even in pain, even in suffering, even in heartache, HE IS THE PRIZE.
Friday, February 11, 2011
But, being a time of new beginnings, as I have always viewed the springtime, I have been so compelled to share a few thoughts.
1. The friends that I don't deserve.
2. The sun warming up the air today, although still not at a comfortable hammock temperature.
3. Music that stirs my heart and leads me to tears.
4. Watching friends plan weddings.
5. People I love in Spain, Guatemala, and Bolivia.
6. Diet Coke.
8. Cleanliness and organization.
9. Watching children play, and the affection in their small hands.
10. The smell of coffee in the morning.
11. Old friendships rekindling.
12. Letters in the mail.
13. Big smiles.
Anyone thinking, "Uhh.. #7? Do you mean, like.. Olympic time trials?"
Let me expound.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith producing perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Maybe we've read that a lot. I have, and yet, while I think I always said, "Yeah, James, so true. Let's still have joy even when times are hard," I'm not sure that I actually did. Or even understood it. Until now. And while I don't claim to understand completely or have anything figured out, because I don't, I do think the Spirit has enlightened me a little bit as to what that's really like.
Trials do two things for us. First of all, like James says, testing leads to perseverance leads to maturity. Hopefully, if we continue to seek the Lord in tough times, at the end of them, we'll look more like Jesus. And isn't that the goal of our lives? It's not always mine, that's certain, but it should be, and I try to make it be. Second of all, any comfort or ease or happiness that is sacrificed and laid at the feet of Jesus when we endure trials shouldn't even be considered a sacrifice, for what we are gaining - more of Jesus - is so much greater. Trials let us show the world that these earthly things are not our treasure, but Christ is.