Monday, July 29, 2013

A Father to Us

Three little girls and their Mama, their Mama always dressed in plaid. Long plaid skirts down to her calf and those old-penny loafer shoes. So we still like plaid, still wear it whenever we can get our hands on it, because it was a familiar comfort to us, spoke of home, spoke of warmth and her constant presence of love. She baked banana bread in the kitchen, the big kitchen that she wanted because it reminded her of Carolyn Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie. She asked for the hewn boards on the walls, but he said that they were too expensive, so she had to settle for wallpaper. And he bought cigarettes, but she couldn’t have her walls. 

There were walls . . . and the comfort of my Mama, her firm comfort, that never beat around a bush and always said things like they were, in a loving way. There were no half-truths with my Mama, no excuses for behavior, like “I’m too tired,” or “I’m too hungry.” There was grace, but honest grace. Grace without truth is just frosting with no cake, and who wants frosting all the time?

He wanted frosting. He wanted the half-truths and the no-questions-asked, and the license to go, to do what he wanted to and no one to answer to. And he was warm when things went his way and he was steel-cold when they didn’t and when he left he left hurt and he left pain and he twisted the knife so that it cut deep. And when he left . . . so many times. And we scrimped and we saved and we made sacrifices because my Mama was determined to pay the tuition to the Christian school that we attended. And then he came back and it was a little better until the next time.

Until the final blow when all hell broke loose and he didn’t scream and he didn’t storm and there was just silence, icy silence that chilled the bone and left a hollow cavity in the air of unrest. And the knife stuck, stuck and twisted deep and the pain nearly broke us, tore us limb for limb and groping for the agony of the wound. So he left . . . And we would have lost heart, tumbled deep, tumbled far, but the Lord was a light to us, a sure and certain light and the agony of the wound was hushed, not erased, but hushed and there was grace.

He was a Father to us . . . O Lord, my Rock and my Deliverer . . . a strength in times of trouble, the One who held us up and did not leave us destitute. “I have never seen the righteous forsaken, not his children begging for bread . . .” (Psalm 37:25) He was a Father to us, a Father to the fatherless, a defender of widows.

Years ago, before my heart was opened to the understanding, I felt cheated, hurt and forsaken by my father’s lack of caring, lack of involvement in our lives, lack of sacrificial love for my Mama, absence of love for his God. I felt hurt and I felt cheated and I let the wound fester inside my heart, let the grief run into tears of bitter woe. There were times like the day that I wanted him to teach me how to drive, and I knew that he didn’t want to. When I asked him he was reluctant; he wanted to watch the football game, and that was more important to him, more important than teaching his daughter how to drive, than spending time with me. And his reluctance bit into my soul and crushed my spirit. And so many times I felt cheated and crushed. And I looked at the other girls with their daddys who adored them and spent time with them and loved them . . . and felt a hollow ache that couldn’t be filled.

Until the Lord broke through to me, my Baal Perizim, my enlightening, and the lifting of my heart’s heavy load.

The love of the Father, poured into my heart, filling the empty places, flooding the dark places with the light of heaven. I knew, I felt His love and compassion. He filled the empty place and my heart sang for joy. The Lord in His wisdom had allowed me not to “have” an earthly father, so that I would cling to my heavenly One. The pain was softened. The load was lightened and I could reach out my hands to the unseen Father and feel His pleasure and joy. I could sing with all my heart:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

My Heavenly Father had filled the void with His sweet presence, with His deep, deep, Father-love and I could cry out to Him in my need and He would never be indifferent or too busy or absent from me. He allowed me not to have something that I ached for so that He could give me something better . . . His peace, His joy, Himself—a Father to the fatherless . . . the love of my heart.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sweet Baby

Baby sweetness

Little one

Sleeping soundly

Sleeping softly

Peaceful, breathing

In and out--

Baby brightness

Joy of heaven

My heart’s blessing

My soul’s loving


Gift of heaven

This sweet baby

Baby crying

Clinging to me

Drawing closer

Each glad morning

Each new sunshine

Flesh of our flesh

Bone of union

This, our small one

This our bright one

Lamb of Jesus

Loved of heaven

Precious, tiny one

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Proper Grief

Sorrow overtakes and sorrow surrounds and sorrow cleanses and purges and burns dross away. Sorrow pierces the soul and sorrow ushers in the anointing of the spirit with healing and grace. Sorrow stiffens and sorrow softens and sorrow creates an ache for that which is hastening—a place where tears are no more and death is swallowed up in victory, where sickness and weeping and disease and fear are a forgotten “once was."

Sometimes it is tempting as believers to ignore the present sorrow, to move about in a bubble of sorts, unbothered by the pain of those around us, unmoved by the suffering and sorrow that lies in our midst and on our very doorsteps.

We are “marching to Zion” with closed eyes and shallow hearts, falsely proud that we are not affected by disaster and disease and pain because this world is not our home, we are headed for a heavenly country. We forget that we are pilgrims and sojourners, not tourists on vacation, breezing through this life and into the next on a rose float of sorts.

It bothers me when Christians take death lightly, when I take death lightly. I once heard our pastor describe the difference between funeral services in this country as opposed to those in other countries. He said that here, the body is puffed up and painted, the hair fixed, the outfit immaculate, the makeup overdone. Death is “dressed up,” so to speak, and made to appear as appealing and unthreatening as possible, right down to the corpse’s manicured nails. However in many other places around the world, this is not the case. Extreme heat often allows the “odor” of death to bathe the corpse in an unattractive smell. There is wailing and the sound of drums and the earthy reality that death has a sting, an element to it of finality, the sealing of the fate of a man or a woman unto eternity. Death is not a pretty parade; it is a stark statement that man has an appointed hour, a time of reckoning, a day when the deeds done in the flesh are sealed and stamped and sent to the great Judge of all the earth.

I remember poignantly the “odor” of death when a baby rabbit that we were trying to revive didn’t make it. It sickens me now, and I don’t like to think of it, don’t like to dwell upon it, but I write it here to illustrate that death is ugly and death has a sting. The bloated body of that tiny creation of God shouts of its sting. The writhing of a dying starling, the startling, eerie cry of a bird caught in the claws of a hawk before it’s flesh is torn from its body and its beating heart is silenced, the thud of a deer and its heaving breath in the cold Autumn air from the hunter’s bow, the suffering of a nest of baby opposums whose mother never returns to it for one reason or another—these all speak, shout, of the sting of death, of the groaning of creation. And it is ugly and it is not funny and there is no glory in it, only glory in the knowledge that it will one day be swallowed up in victory.

And I think that the Lord allows us to see things like this, to taste things like this, even though they are painful, to reiterate to our stubborn, forgetful, prideful hearts again and again, that death has a sting and it is a bitter sting.

But that He has gained the victory over it . . .

And in this we rejoice, but not glibly.

Jesus wept when He went to the sisters of Lazarus. He waited and then He wept and He had power over death and knew the ultimate outcome and yet wept.


And why was the King of all the universe, the Author of all joy, also called “a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief,” One who can relate to all of our sorrows and infirmities on this earth because He also suffered?

Vance Havner says, “We’re to glory in our tribulation, but we’re not to glorify our tribulation” --that we shouldn’t try to put a “halo” around sin and suffering, accident and disease.

Jesus hung upon a cross to abolish death; the God-Man, King of all the universe, hung on a rugged, homely cross, for the sins of the world, for the love of His people.

He hung there, the Man of Sorrows, so that death could lose its sting for you and for me, and to magnify the Father’s grace, to bring Him glory.

We wait for what is to come, but we dwell in the “now,” a world where sorrow and suffering and death surround us. We are over-comers through His grace, but we are also affected by the bitterness and woe of this fallen world and all its troubles, pain, loneliness, and trials.

And we are here to “weep with those who weep,” to experience sorrow in this life so that we may taste deliverance in the next. We are here to alleviate pain and anguish whenever we are able to, to show the love and compassion of Christ to fellow men and women and bird and beast. We are here to protect and to restore, to wait for the final restoration, when He puts all things under His feet and when death is swallowed up in victory.

There is a proper grief, a grief that reaches out to the grieving, a grief that is touched by the infirmities of those around us, as Jesus was touched when He walked upon the earth. There is a proper grief, and it points to the Savior-the Man of Sorrows, who felt the utter sting of death and cried out “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” It points to the Savior whose death enables us to say with joy inexpressible and full of the realization of what was accomplished for us--

“Where, O death, is thy sting, and where, O grave, is thy victory . . .?” (I Corinthians 15:55)

We are not here to pretend that disease and death and suffering do not exist. We are here to show that through them, through Christ and His shed blood, there is victory, and that we are not utterly bound by them.

Our funerals are not parties, showcases of the individual. Our funerals are reminders of the solemnity of death and of the blessed hope that we have as believers in Christ. Our funerals are showcases of God and His mercy and kindness, bestowed not on a superman or woman, but on a sinner, saved by grace. I am reminded of what William Carey requested be written on his grave, and I end here with his humble, grace-saturated words towards the Savior Whom he loved and served—

“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fall.”

There is a proper grief, a grief that is bathed in humility—and it’s end is thanksgiving and peace and true rest.

Friday, July 19, 2013


O Lamb of God who takes away my sin

What I thought gain, now will I count as loss

And dwell beneath the glory of the cross

For He has taken all my shame away

I sing to Him with all my heart and might

And with my mind, with all my soul engaged

For even to the end of this world’s age

With all my strength pursue His perfect will 

And run the course, of His commandments true

For He, His love, it shall enlarge my heart 

And set my feet upon the righteous chart

For His own glory’s sake, and for my peace

Monday, July 15, 2013


He was right, dead right, as he sped along

But he was just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

Frustration stiffens my neck and I fume inside. A pasty smile on my thin lips, thin pursed lips and the inside of my soul is burning. Again and again they flogged me, flogged my weary, worried body, bit into my soft skin with adder-venom and I bled. “Their words were like drawn spears . . . the poison of asps was under their tongue . . .” And it was so subtle, so “innocent,” so glassily beautiful, like a spider’s weaving in the placid night. 

The spider wove, threw her lacey fingers into her work and fastened strand upon sticky strand together. A masterpiece of sticky threads, perfect and deadly, the poison waiting, the jaws immaculately poised. The poison of words, the thrashing of a moment, and the still shell of the victim after it all. 

Unless . . . I do not fall into the web, into the web of deceit and distraction. Unless I thrust my body into the wind of truth and fly into the gust that drives me away from the woven prison. 

Sometimes there is a choice—sometimes the spider seeks to pull us in, to distract us with her garish beauty, and we become so caught up, so entangled in the fight that we end up powerless in a web of sorts, frustrated and empty. 

Often we fall prey to this attack. The enemy of our souls throws out his fiery dart, in the form of an argument, a misunderstanding, a blatant lie against us, a smearing of our reputation-unwarranted, unfounded, ungodly. The spider spins her web in the cover of darkness. The damage done, the adversary crouches in hiding. 

We see the web and we want to fight. We think that if only we can get in close enough, we can do battle with the perpetrator, with the one who authored our pain. 

Yet, if we enter into the web, our limbs become fastened, our hands tied, useless, the life sucked from our being—dead, cold, and still.  

Years ago, I learned a valuable lesson, one that I find I must continually re-learn . . . 

It was a lesson in humility. 

And I faced two options, so I thought, vascilating between them both, at a loss for clarity and direction. 

I found myself surrounded, as it were, on every side, and there was no respite, no reprieve in sight. 

And the two options that seemed the most obvious to me were to either valiantly attempt to outsmart/outwit the adversary—I could do it graciously; I could do it in a godly fashion, so I thought—Or, to try to reason with my “offender;” maybe I would not slip and get entangled in the web that was laid like a death-trap before me. 

I struggled and I fumbled and I failed until I learned that the answer was not to outsmart, to outwit. The answer was not to try to jump in and reason and then to pull myself out of the web that was intended for me. 

The answer was humility. 

There are times when another person, even another believer may set their will against yours, may seek to cause you harm, to wound your spirit, to render you powerless. Despite all of their best words, their intentions towards you are not peaceable; their words are smoother than oil, but are really a “drawn sword.” (Psalm 55:21) They do not wish you good; they intend evil toward you and would be very happy to see you fall into trouble or gain a bad reputation.  

I remember so clearly a certain situation in which I had been misunderstood by some and deeply wounded by others. I sought my mother’s advice and what she said took me back and frustrated me at the moment, until I learned that it was freedom for me and the only way that I could keep my conscience clear before God and men. 

She said, in essence, “Humble yourself, even if you are right, even if you have been done a great injustice. Humble yourself and pray that the Lord would enable you to sincerely love the person who is hurting you. Humble yourself and He will lift you up in due time. Do whatever it takes to show humility and grace towards those who have hurt you, for the sake of the Lord Jesus who bought you at a great price.” 

She wasn’t talking about cowering before an unjust attack, but instead, holding one’s head up in the confidence of Jesus, forgiving as one who has also been forgiven much. 

And if they accept it, good. May the Lord’s peace and grace and forgiveness reign in that situation. But if not, your conscience is set free to serve the Lord with fear and to continue in the path that the Lord has led you, to the glory of the Father. 

Satan would have us become distracted—distracted by our own frustrations, distracted by the way that those around us are hurting us, distracted by our own emotions. It is foolish to become distracted and doesn’t bring glory to God nor do us or anyone else any good. 

Humility keeps us from distraction, keeps our eyes fixed on Jesus, because they are no longer on ourselves. Humility emboldens and humility starves the pride that will maim the soul. 

The forms that humility may take will differ, and the reactions to it will be different as well. But there will be freedom and joy at the root of humility, a freedom and joy that cannot be snuffed out by the one who antagonizes us, by the spite or the sarcasm or the ridicule of the one who does us harm. 

And ultimately, the Lord, not I, is the one who can judge the utter motives of another’s heart. Perhaps you are surrounded by, as John Proctor described the lying witnesses in The Crucible, “marvelous pretenders.” The Lord knows the depths of each one’s inner being. 

But we do not need to be bound by pretense—instead, by the power of the Holy Spirit we may walk in the light, as He is in the light, loving sincerely from the heart, walking in the grace of humility—“slow to speak, slow to become angry, quick to forgive.” (James 1:19)

And ultimately trusting that in the last day all pretense and pride will be swallowed up by the fire of His awesome, all-revealing truth—

“For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.”   I Corinthians 4:4-5

Friday, July 12, 2013


Suffering breaks upon my soul-

The rain of the leprosy of affliction.

It eats away my flesh, my joy-

The pride of life is gone

Flitting away, like a moth in the wind--

O Lord, restore my joy again

Unite my soul to You in suffering

That I may see

This momentary affliction

As a light weight,

A prelude to dawn, to glory—

O Lord,

Fix my eyes upon Your sweetness,

The light of Your brightness

The radiance from Your scepter in the sky

Heal the wound of my leprosy-

My bitterness

My spirit complaining against Your ways

And let my sinful, pallid flesh

Be restored

In Your joy

By Your Spirit

Through Your hope

For Your glory


Monday, July 8, 2013

An Answered Prayer and a Beautiful Gift

Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
John 12:3

I listen to an audio recording of the life of Lillian Trasher and the tears spring to my eyes. A life of faith, lived out in trust, for so she believed the promises and found Him faithful-- Through acting upon the precious Word of God, the precious Word to her soul, when all around her seemed impossible, He was the God who saw and heard and listened and answered. 

I sought the Lord, and He heard me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces were not ashamed.
This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him,
And saved him out of all his troubles. 

Psalm 34:4-6

Praise stirs in my heart and the gentle laughter of thanksgiving . . . a prayer answered. The Lord sought . . . in fasting and prayer these last weeks and I asked the Lord to reveal in my present circumstances that He would provide for the ministry that He called me to, that He presses upon my heart. Unexpected . . . someone gave . . . so unexpected; unasked for, except to the Lord, the answer came and my soul bubbled up in quiet praise. 

The firstfruit and the glory of heaven; the banner raised in my soul. 

And I write about it here because not only was it an answer to my prayers, but it was also a beautiful gift, a gift that astonished me and surprised me and was wrapped in a sacrifice, by the grace of God, who gave Himself first, an offering for all, so that we could also give. 

Someone unexpected gave, gave everything that they had, offered up a sacrifice, took the flask and broke it over the feet of Jesus. 

And the fragrance filled my heart . . . 

The fragrance rose, a precious gift; this individual spared nothing and gave. 

One of the poor in this world but rich in faith gave, and the beauty fell. 

Gave not because there was something to fall back on, because there were adequate savings in the bank, but because God constrained them in His love and this small, humble servant obeyed. 

And I praise Him. An answer to prayer, an encouragement again to live by faith. The gift and the promise and the sacrifice. Because the gift should always have something of the sacrifice in it, if it is pure . . .

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 

And blessed is the one who gives out of their poverty, who gives not from their abundance but from their joy . . .

for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.

Luke 21:4

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Meager Multiplied

“What makes him different?” I wonder. And I look at him in his brown suit and his ordinary face and his natural unpretentious way with those around him. And I know what it is, what it is, that makes him different--He makes much of his God. His humility draws attention to the Father and he is a man with a purpose and with a beating heart, with iron in his bones and with a jaw that is set. The world is not “too much with him,” and he has given himself away to Jesus. It is evident and it is beautiful and rich and humbling all at the same time. And he makes much of Jesus, the Savior of His soul and the Lord of His being, in every aspect.

His wife beside him; she serves. Her nimble hands making sandwiches, her servant’s heart offering, giving. Her life is an offering, a gift. Dressed plainly, a simple covering on her head, she serves those at the table, and she blesses them.

Little ones all around, respectful, kind little ones who watch their mama and their father and imitate what they see. They see Jesus. They see His love being poured out, being lived out before them. They are happy and content, even though they don’t have a lot of “stuff.” They have one another and the fellowship of the brethren. They have their God and He is enough. He satisfies them and gives them to drink from the river of His pleasure. Their little girl gathers sticks from the ground and she arranges them on the picnic bench. She is content with little; her soul is satisfied. She is content to play with her sticks and to watch my little Debbie play on the ground with her blocks and we have fellowship and we eat and we are satisfied. The joy of the Lord is in the cooling night air and the men take up their guitars and their Celtic drum and their fife and the melody wafts into the gentle sky while they sing hymns to Jesus.

And we talk with this man who has given his life to Jesus, given his whole being, an offering poured out by the grace of God.

What strange providence bid me pick up his book, The Bible or the Axe? I read it, savored it, drew breath and strength from it and then realized that he and his family lived a state over, lived within reach to visit our church.

So I asked him if he would come and he came and he spoke and we listened and were touched and the blessing fell and the grace of God startled and humbled us.

They talk to us now, give us advice, while the cool, sweet night air mists the ocean breeze around us. And we eat our meal that his wife prepares on the worn picnic table, simple sandwiches on grainy bread and we listen as they speak and as they give.

He speaks, this one who suffered for his faith, suffered because he believed the promises. He clings to them still, ready to suffer again, if that is what serving His Savior means. And he serves and he gives, and he goes back to his native land to heal and to restore what was broken. Not with cautious humanitarian efforts, not with the scraps of an offering, like the loose change that’s thrown haphazardly into the locked boxes under the McDonalds’s drive-thru window, but with his whole self and being, he and his wife and their family-an offering to Jesus, an offering of faith.

They live by faith, day to day. Continually dependent upon Jehovah-Jireh for their needs, their supplies, they depend upon Him, and He fills them. Their mouths open wide, their hearts heavy with praise, He fills them and they glory in Him. Their family is an offering unto the Father, and the smoke and the glory rises upward, a sweet, fragrant aroma, borne into the placid sky, the sky heavy with glory.

And we pray and they bow their heads, heads that have long-bowed in reverence to the Father. He offers up his prayer and the beauty rises. And the Spirit is present and sings in my heart as we sit there together.

He says, and the words ring in my ears, “God doesn’t call the qualified; He qualifies the called.”

And I think of Vance Havner’s sermon, "The Budget and the Boy", that Jesus didn’t need Phillip’s careful budget, but the willingness of a simple boy and the faith that he had in the One who multiples when we have given our all, given our best, by faith.

No striving, no careful calculations as an end in themselves, but a heart of faith aching to be filled with the love of the Father, being faithful in little, and abounding in child-like prayer and grateful thanksgiving.

How much I still must learn . . .

So I take my little, my meager offering and place it in His hands. And He takes it and blesses it and there are baskets left over and the sun sets and we are filled and there is glory


The missionaries that I was referencing in this blog post are William and Hannah Levi. William is the founder of Operation Nehemiah Missions International. If you would like to learn more about William and Hannah Levi and their ministry, please visit their website: http:/ Their life and walk of faith are deeply commendable and glorifying to the Lord.