Monday, May 27, 2013

Part 2: A Home of Mercy

A home of mercy . . . Our homes are to be havens of hospitality, sharing the love of our Savior, but also shelters of mercy through prayer and sacrifice.

The merciful home is the prayer-saturated home, where petition and praise are daily offered up to the Creator, the Father of all mercy, the One who has begotten us to “a living hope” (I Peter 1:3), and chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8)-in the great mystery of the ages.

It is prayer-filled, because mercy cannot dwell where prayer doesn’t dwell—the true mercy that points the hurting towards the Healer of souls and Hearer of the downcast—prayer is the fountain and mercy is the glorious refreshment that flows from it.

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19), and therefore we love the brethren and have compassion on those who are “going astray”(Hebrews 5:2) as Jesus did, upon those who have not yet tasted His salvation and mercy. We have mercy because of Him –on our dear brothers and sisters in their need, whatever it may be, and also upon a world that is dying in their sin—“ And then Jesus looked at the multitude and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Mercy does not snub and snobbishly think of its own election; mercy does not parade, but implores the hurting to be healed and the dying to taste and see that the Lord is good. This attitude of mercy must begin in the Church and then flood the homes of believers who are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
The home that is merciful is the home in which the Savior resides, where there is spiritual healing and joy and grace and truth.

The home that is merciful is also the home that is often misunderstood, by both Christians and non-Christians alike. It is misunderstood, because Jesus was, and often the Holy Spirit’s direction, though always consistent with Scripture, does not make “common sense” to those around us. And so they will question the merciful home and possibly balk at its unusual ways. We need to be ready for people not to understand why we open our homes to foster children, and orphans, and to the forgotten-elderly, and yes, to abused and discarded animals, when the Lord places these things particularly upon our hearts, no matter the inconvenience to our comfort.

“His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 136) . . . and our mercy is to mirror His, stretching on and on before us, reflecting His love and work in our lives, always pointing to the Great Father of lights (James 1:17) and bringing glory to Him.

And this is mercy that does not come from us, but from Him working in and through us as we submit to Him, in earnest, honest reverence. He is the One who does the work, and we yield to Him—otherwise we would have reason to boast in ourselves, to boast in our benevolent efforts. When we recognize His work in and through us, the realization produces humility. And humility produces action—a response to the One who graciously gives us all things (Romans 8:32). Our desire for our homes will be for them to become havens of mercy, through His work in our lives and hearts.

Jesus calls us to be merciful, and there are specific ways that His mercy may be made manifest through us, and in our homes. What is it that mercy does? Here are some of the actions that the Lord as been opening my own heart to, that reverent, humble, Spirit-filled mercy takes--

Mercy reaches out towards the lowly—Who do we offer our hospitality to, who do we invite to our homes on Sunday afternoons; do we welcome those who cannot repay us with a similar invitation? (Luke 14:14) Do we gravitate towards the most “popular” people in church, or do our hearts have compassion on those who are socially “beneath” us? Do we love the “alien and the stranger,” or do we briskly walk past them to our preferred pew, barely nodding hello? Do we invite them into our homes and our hearts? Do I secretly reach toward those I deem to be the “important” people? What are the motives of my heart? We need to continually pray that the Spirit of truth would cleanse our inner motives with His purity in these areas.

Mercy also protects the weak, and this applies to both people and animals. We are familiar with William Wilberforce’s efforts to end slavery in England, but most people are not aware that he was also instrumental in establishing the SPCA. The cruel practices of the English people in his day towards animals (bull-baiting, cock-fighting, etc.) deeply bothered Wilberforce’s sensitive conscience, and he sought with final success, to outlaw these inhumane practices. There is a sensitivity of the regenerate conscience that should be awoken towards suffering and pain that are a consequence of the fall. If the Lord’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil (Habbakuk 1:13), and if His eye is upon each “worthless” sparrow that falls (Matthew 10:29-31), then we should hate to see any creature suffering, and put a stop to it, if we are able to.

As this principle applies to people, when our fellow bothers and sisters are going through times of suffering, we should be the first to reach out to them in mercy. We should meet their urgent needs, “weeping with those who weep,” praying with and for them, and laying aside our own interests to attend the needs of others. We should be known for our mercy and protection of the weak through the power of Jesus Christ working in and through us—towards the unborn, towards the elderly and infirm, towards the poor, and towards the poor in spirit. “Be merciful, then, as your Father in heaven is merciful . . . (Luke 6:36).” Corrie Ten Boom and the Ten Boom family are an excellent example of this principle, secretly opening their home to hide persecuted Jews during WWII, at a great cost to themselves. Our homes may be used as shelters of mercy towards both human beings, made in the image of God, and toward His creation surrounding us.

Mercy gives a cup of cold water to a little child. Mercy is especially tender towards the little ones around us whose hearts are yet soft and teachable. There are little ones who live in our homes, whom the Lord has given us responsibility for, and little ones who ought to be invited into our homes. There is an open-ness about children, an unassuming-ness that adults have lost. Mercy remembers that Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto Me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).” Mercy reaches out in love towards little children and mercy realizes that we must become as little children to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven and taste the gentle, Fatherly love of the Lord. Mercy is not “wise” to everyone and everything—Mercy is childlike and Father-trusting. Mercy seeks and craves the light through the darkness of this sin-sick world filled with so much pain and agony and wretchedness. This light is the Gospel of the glory of Jesus Christ (II Corinthians 4:4), and we hold it in our hands and in our hearts. Let the little children learn of Him in our homes through our loving, gentle hospitality and welcoming spirit towards them, whether this means raising our own children in the ways of the Lord, or welcoming other little ones into our homes as the Lord sends them to us.

Mercy is humble, and doesn’t seek to draw attention to itself. The merciful man or woman does not desire to draw attention to the fact that he is being merciful, and thereby embarrass the recipient of his mercy. It is usually obvious to all around us when we are showing mercy in a self-exalting spirit. D. L. Moody says, “A man can counterfeit love, he can counterfeit faith, he can counterfeit hope and all the other graces, but it is very difficult to counterfeit humility.” Furthermore, the “ability” to be humble doesn’t come from our own efforts; this is a lesson that I am continually learning. Lillias Trotter writes, “We have not to produce out of our higher nature a lowliness and a patience and a purity of our own, but simply to let the pure, patient, lowly life of Jesus have its way in us by yieldingness to it and by faith in its indwelling might. All that God wants from man is opportunity. The whole of our relationship to His power, whether for sanctification or for service, is summed up in those words.” Mercy is humble because the one who shows mercy realizes that he has been the recipient of it, though undeserved. The merciful home is also the humble home, filled with a sense of all that He has done for His people.

Mercy is many things, but above all, mercy is grateful—grateful to the One Who gave His mercy first. It may be said, that we are able to be merciful because He was first merciful to us . . . So out of the outpouring of gratitude towards our Savior, may our homes be havens of mercy and our hearts be filled with the merciful, abiding presence of the Savior of our souls—delightful joyful dwelling places of peace and rest.

Friday, May 24, 2013


The earth was silent, still

And all the people, hushed in breath

Looked up into the brilliant clouds

Of heaven, though the ice of death

 Was on their weary hearts-

For hopeful spring’s last shower

Had passed away at last-

And that without a flower

 The time had grown so deep

And many hearts were crying

For hope to be renewed

And many now were dying

 I see the fragrant light

Look now! For through the trees

A fiery chariot comes

To part our stormy seas!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Part One: The Home that Ministers

“Hospitality, however, seeks to minister. It says, ‘This home is not mine. It is truly a gift from my Master. I am His servant and I use it as He desires.’ Hospitality does not try to impress, but to serve.”

― Karen Burton Mains, Open Heart, Open Home

Everyone needs a place of shelter, a place for warmth, a place to take in meals, to be refreshed, to gather together with friends and husband and family. A place where there is quiet, peace, and love. A place where there is joy of the Holy Spirit and laughter and singing and closets for clothes and closets for prayer.

What is a house for? Or an apartment or a room or a dormitory or wherever the Lord has called you, in your peculiar and individual circumstances? If everything in our lives is directed there by the Lord of all things, then our homes are entrusted to us for a specific purpose.

I’ve been in homes where I have felt welcomed and homes where I’ve felt intensely uncomfortable. I’ve been in homes where the orderliness is overwhelming and the scent of cleaning solution wraps around me with a constriction that is suffocating. I’ve been in homes where the dust and disarray speak of a lack of order, a lack of caring. Our homes often reflect our lives, whether for good or for bad.

What are our homes for?

Ultimately, to bring glory to God.

Our homes are to be used for a specific purpose--To point those who the Lord brings to us, to Jesus. They are not showcases of our particular style. They are not monuments to our financial success or to our high-paying job. They are not given to us, as Karen Mains says, to “impress” our neighbor, but to humbly offer our neighbor grace, to serve our neighbor with truth and love.

There is always the temptation, as Christians to think, “Well, since ‘this world is not my home’, it doesn’t matter.” It doesn’t matter if the floor is grimy, if the table is haphazardly set, if the yard if over-run with weeds and grass overdue for cutting and no beauty to be found anywhere, only clutter and chaos.

Edith Schaeffer, co-founder of L’Abri wrote in her book The Art of Life, “Life is a work of art shaped by the subtle shades of patience and creativity, faith and truth, hope and love. And when every day activities of home and work become infused with these qualities, the hidden art that lies beneath the surface begins to shine through.”

In other words, our lives as Christians should reflect the beauty and creativity, order and discipline of the Creator. When we “put on” these traits, in imitation of our Lord, they will reflect themselves in our work (whether in the home or elsewhere) and permeate all that we do.

Edith Schaeffer was known partly for her gift of hospitality. She believed that it was important to make a guest feel loved and welcomed through the way in which she ministered creativity and beauty in her home. She practiced this philosophy through simple flower arrangements, nourishing, delicious, economic meals, and a clean, delightfully welcoming atmosphere of order and peace, of Christ within the walls of her home.

Sometimes, our homes are the very opposite of this (and I am speaking in general, not the occasional times when life and circumstances are hectic for a season). But often we continually, habitually run disorderly, jumbled homes-a reflection of our distracted 21st century busy lives. Our homes are unwelcoming, uninviting and we don’t have the time and don’t really even care to do otherwise. We have to ask ourselves-Does this attitude honor God? Are we honoring the Lord of our lives with the homes that He has given to us and what is our focus truly on—advancing ourselves in our often petty everyday interests, or His kingdom?

This thought came to my mind this week—What should our homes be? What do I want my home to be, and are the motives of my heart pure?

Because there is another attitude that we may take in the way that we view our homes, and that is, as our miniature kingdom on this earth. Our tidy, bug free, bird free, person free, pristine lawn sits touched only by a sprinkler system and the landscapers that weekly adorn it. Our furniture is so clean that the average visitor is afraid to sit on it lest he leave a smudge. There are no animals to be found, in fact, even the squirrels tiptoe nervously over the lawn. Our television and computer sit sentinel in the family room, captivating each family member accordingly. There is no sound of singing, no happy children’s voices, no praise and barely any prayer. It is a cold, clean, immaculate palace; an ode to the “American Dream.”

But our homes are for service; our voices for praise, our lawns and our living rooms to minister to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to bring the Gospel of truth and grace to our neighbors and mailman and yes, the annoying, knock-on-your-door-at the worst-time-possible petition-bearers. Every opportunity is an opportunity for the Gospel, an opportunity to share the love of Christ, whether we take it or leave it.

Again, Edith Schaeffer says, “Often one is asked, ‘How does one get children to have compassion and love for others?’ One important way is by demonstrating love and compassion in action, not just talking about it. . . . Nothing can be given in a course of study which can substitute for the day-to-day observation on the part of the children in the home of a mother or father who truly treat human beings as human, and not machines.”

A home that is cold and sterile cannot be a welcome haven to those around us. It cannot be used to minister to those around us, and isn’t ministry our calling in this life? Ministry and joy and prayer and praise to the glory of the Father.

May our homes be a sanctuary and a tribute to the Lord of grace as we seek to be the aroma of life, the sweet freshness of Christ to those around us. Not a kingdom devoted to ourselves, nor a novelty of neglect, but a shelter of beauty and hospitality and peace.

"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality."

Romans 12:10-13  (NKJV)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Strength for Each Day

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest upon the way,
From the burning of the noontide heat, and the burden of the day.

-Elizabeth Clephane

The sun sinks slowly on these lingering spring days. Weary, tired beyond expression, my head finds rest on the soft pillow and I drift into sweet sleep almost immediately. Moments later, I hear the jolting cry.

Baby, please sleep, I hope I pray . . . and then I will my exhausted body from my safe, warm bed to comfort the small one, the sweet, demanding one. Again and again. I wake from sleep in this night until morning and then the battle of the duties and demands of the day begin.

Lord, I am weary, my tired heart cries out while I nod off and on into the pleasure of sleep . . . Go downstairs, make my husband’s lunch, do the laundry . . . baby, please sleep.

Morning comes, and the new day is fresh and sweet, like laundry blowing in the warm June air. His mercies are new every morning . . . This is only for a season, the season of babies and tired arms and warm milk and a full heart; accept it, embrace it with joy

There is a season to raise our babies and then our little ones and then a season to step back and to pray and to watch them become the vessel that the Lord God intended them to become by His grace.

A season to pour myself out, to lay myself aside, to fully enter this awesome task of Motherhood.

A season to forego the things that I used to take for granted—things like washing my hair, having time to myself, shopping, going away alone with my husband . . . for this season.

The tiny one was brought into the world. And for now, she is the great responsibility that the Lord has given me.

Do I then take His gift and try to constantly pass it off to someone else so that I can be free?

Do I embrace this calling or secretly resent it that my time and energy are so fully demanded?

Do I, as Jim Elliot said, “Live to the hilt every situation that you believe to be the will of God,” or do I shirk my duty and ultimate joy to be rid of some of the burden?

For me, this means spending myself even when I am tired, reading books, singing songs when I really don’t “feel” like it, holding my baby even when my arms ache and it would be easier just to put her down, training, teaching, addressing, nurturing, raising her up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

For me this means not “passing her off” to whoever will take her for a while to give me a break, not seeing her fussiness as a cross to bear, but as an opportunity to learn patience and grace.

For me this means repetition and discipline . . . praying with her at the same time each day . . . demonstrating through my actions, not just my words that it is life and peace itself to walk near to Jesus, to be full of Him and to become more and more empty of this world and all of its fleeting pleasures and promises.

My friend Christine taught me how to knit—I never would have learned if I didn’t go home after she taught me a skill and practice it over and over and over . . . knit, purl, knit, purl . . . horrid, lumpy, misshapen . . .knit, purl, knit, purl . . . getting a little better . . . knit, purl, knit, purl . . . beauty. Beauty is born from the womb of discipline. Nothing of worth follows mediocrity. As I was constantly reminded of the Biblical truth growing up –“it’s better to be cold than lukewarm.”

It is easy to retreat, as Amy Carmichael calls it, into “silken self,” shrinking back from the hard duties, excusing myself when the weight of my calling becomes too uncomfortable, too rigorous, too demanding.  Making an excuse—“I’m only human...”

Discipline and repetition . . . no matter how weary I am, no matter whether I “feel” like doing it or not . . . with joy . . . the joy of being filled with His strength, the strength that is not of me, the strength that is perfect.

“As your days, so shall your strength be . . .(Deuteronomy 33:25)”

When I think that I cannot go on, He fills my empty vessel with His grace . . . when my body is weak, His grace is sufficient . . . “as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” (Isaiah 32:2).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring and Gladness

All around

           the aching shadows

                             sift their gloomy apparitions

              over winter's sorrowing hills.

The rain falls in great teardrops.

               The wind moans a mourning song,

the glory seemingly departed

                       from this forsaken land.

           But look-there-

on the pale line

          of the misty horizon

                      the gray mist vanishes-

                             with tender drops of sunlight.

          Silently now, the light hushes over the barren earth

pushing away the deep-settled darkness

                        with her warm hands of spring.

            The birds rejoice, in glad, hopeful voices.

      The flowers burst from their sleeping womb-

All around is spring and gladness

 and rest.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Grief of grief,

              the pain, this pain---

                                searing, cutting, ravenous--

                  slicing into bone and marrow-

      ruthless sorrow,

                  breathing over, bending, breaking--

                                        all around is shaking, shaking,

                   while those eyes so dark, so calm,

           and now so cold,

                             cut ribbons of this agony deeper.


                       with me

                             not indifferent--

                 with me here--

    I know Him.

                This, the Man of Sorrows-


         the pierced,

                  the bruised,

                             the cursed

                  is with me, near me

         in this trouble--

              so terrible.

     But I know

          He loves and holds

                   His precious, still creation

                      and restores

                          all life

           This life--

                this tiny, insignificant creature.

     He loves,

          He knows

                 even the sparrow

and renews.

      Creation groans--

            He will recall

                   and not forget

                         that which was broken

                by the Fall . . .