Daily Doxology

How’s your day been today?

This morning, I was going on day 2 of washing dishes in the bathroom sink due to a stubborn clog somewhere in the deep recesses of an unseen line.

But that’s only this week. Earlier in this month, we’ve faced the clearing out of my childhood home, a daughter battling a bad concussion, and the end of our beloved dog’s 14 year life.

All that sometimes seems like a mighty weight of sadness and worry, and yet today I was overwhelmed to praise my Savior.

No, I didn’t get any overwhelming good news (well, apart from getting the sink running again by the hands of some skillful plumbers).

No, the skies weren’t full of sunshine, bluebirds, and puffy white clouds.

And no, we didn’t get a new puppy.

My morning started out with the Olympic event of clothes changing–5 times and still not me, but wearable. Rain drizzled. Quiet reigned. I sat at our kitchen table, folded my arms on the wooden surface, and lay my head down upon them–and prayed.

And as I was praying for light on the path, for leading through the storm, my heart broke and tears flowed.

I realized, how selfish I was.

  • Surrounded in clean clothes within the walls of a house with running water and air conditioning.
  • Supported by faithful family and friends who speak truth and love when I need it most.
  • Stayed firm and steadfast by the work of Christ on the cross and the empty tomb that holds His full measure of love.

Who was I to pray FOR something.

I could do nothing but praise the one who gave and did everything for me.

And how that lifted away all those worries and concerns! Death had no sting. Trials had no snare. Concerns had no importance. Suddenly, nothing mattered more than praising Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Doesn’t the Bible call us to praise Him through prayer and song? Consider Psalm 148, verses 11 and 12:

Praise him, kings and all peoples,
    princes and all other rulers;
     young women and young men,
    old people and children, too.

and Psalm 100, verses 1 through 4:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

I quickly found versions of the Doxology hymn on my music system, and as I sang those simple words, God blessed me with peace.

I so encourage you ~ give it a try!

And if you’re curious about the Doxology hymn (as I was)…

 Thomas Ken, was an Anglican priest in England, in the 17th century. The Doxology is actually the chorus to two hymns he wrote for his students at Winchester College–one for the morning (“Awake, my soul, and with the sun”) and one for the evening (“Glory to thee, my God, this night). The full story of his most interesting life (and the full evening song) can be found at Hymn History

If you’re eager to hear the Doxology sung in beautiful new ways, open these links:

Here is the chorus ~ let it be the chorus of our lives, come trials and concerns or clogged drains and rain.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Amen and Alleluia

 

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Home

I have a home.

It’s not made of brick or wood.

It’s not in town or in the country.

It’s in heaven, and this life is but a gentle journey toward that home.

As I write this entry, it was three weeks ago that my 94 year old mother took her last breath. Especially over the last year, she had been besieged with terrible pain and mental confusion, yet her last breath was gentle, slow, and soft. We loved her dearly, but it was a bittersweet blessing to know she was no longer in pain and was with Christ.

Since then, my husband and I have sifted through countless reams of paper in her home and made numerous decisions on her behalf. We’ve approached it with a One-Thing-at-a-Time mentality. And, when that One Thing became too daunting, I allowed myself to say, “That’s enough for now” and went outside to plant some perennials.

My mother always loved her yard. However, in recent years, the areas not visible from her windows had declined. So now there were several beds that required a “sprucing up” of sorts. And it was to one of those flower beds that I went.

The first order of work was to remove the weeds that had crept into the empty flower bed. I shoveled and shoveled, turning the soil and drawing out each weed along with its snarled roots. Then I selected a spot, watered the plant, dug a hole, and lifted the plant from the plastic container. There were its young roots, eager and waiting to nimbly stretch and grow. I placed the plant in the hole, moved the soil around it and gently patted the surface around the stems.

And then I stood up and OUCH! All that shovel activity (mainly from removing the weeds) used some muscles I’d forgotten about and–unlike those young plant roots–these muscles were neither nimble or eager!

An apt scripture came into my mind:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Yes, for certain, this outer man is wasting away! It’s not the cancer that was riddling my mother’s body, but I am subject to sore muscles, weak eyes, and sunburn. Even so, that’s not the part of me that really matters. All that pain and soreness is not The Real Me. I agree we need to be physically fit, to eat healthy food, and such–after all, our bodies are to be living sacrifices and are members of Christ. (Romans 12:1, 1 Corinthians 6:15) But The Real Me is the second half of 2 Corinthians 4:16–“our inner self”.

Going even farther down that road, the GREATEST need of our lives is NOT in the outer area of our lives; it’s that we are strengthened, rooted, and grounded and that we are able to comprehend the love of Christ and thereby be filled with the fullness of God. Paul puts it perfectly in Ephesians 3:14-19, saying

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Now let’s dig into that verse. First, just what is Paul doing? Well, he’s praying–he’s bowing his knees “before the Father”. Wouldn’t we all love for someone to pray that prayer over us? What if we prayed that prayer over someone else?!

And what confidence does he have that he’ll be answered or even heard? Well, he makes this prayer, he asks for this granting, because he’s confident he can depend upon the riches of God’s glory–God’s vast, eternal, unending, infinite glory. That is a solid, foundational thing to depend upon!

And what does he pray?

Paul’s prayer is that we be strengthened.

Strengthening is good, right? Like strength-training maybe? We’ll be strengthened physically and all our physical ailments will disappear and we’ll have optimal health and never get sore doing yard work or even running triathlons…

Well, it’s not that kind of strengthening at all. It’s not about the outside self. Let’s consider the how, where, and why:

How are we strengthened: with power through His Spirit

Where are we strengthened: in our inner being

Why are we strengthened: SO THAT CHRIST MAY DWELL IN OUR HEARTS through faith

And that faith is evident in the “being rooted and grounded in love” and having “strength to comprehend…what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ”…and being “filled with all the fullness of God.”

WOW!

That’s not the strength of self that crows, “I can do it!” or even “I did it!” It’s a deeper, truer strength. It’s the strength I need to keep myself steady whether sadness or blessings come: the on-going strengthening and enabling power of the Holy Spirit leading me to an ever-deepening response to God.

Let’s let Paul finish out his prayer in verses 20 and 21:

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Amen!

Let’s crave renewal.

Let’s crave strengthening.

Let’s crave Jesus.

And let’s pray to keep that focus on our journey Home.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I like chocolate chip cookies. (In fact, I tried to add a photo for you, but–enjoy a laugh–the computer somehow “ate” it!) I also like chocolate chip cookie dough. I even like chocolate chips straight out of the bag! Funny thing, though–after eating too many (or too much of the dough or too many warm just-out-of-the-oven cookies), I don’t feel too good.

Sound familiar?

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing–at least, when we’re talking about cookies and sugar.

But too much prayer?

Too much time in scripture?

Too much Bible study?

Too much Jesus?

Oh, that’s even sweeter, and I don’t think a day full of all that would be too much! Which makes me wonder…

…How might that look–to want more God, more Jesus, more Holy Spirit?

Well, for starters we could begin our morning with prayer–just open those eyes and praise God for His wonderful creations–our eyes, that sunbeam or raindrop, this day! “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it!” (Psalm 118:24)

Then we could shower with a sense of the flood of forgiveness secured in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Are others in your day as in mine? We can greet family members and co-workers with the joy of the Lord and an appreciation for the gifts that they are in our lives. “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20)

Hungry for more than cookies? We could eat our meals with the simple yet profound grace of “Thanks be to the LORD God who brings forth grain from the earth and living bread from heaven.” “Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes out of the mouth of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 8:3b)

You get the idea, don’t you? It’s a 24-hour opportunity! Hear the birds sing His praises. Watch the clouds paint the sky for His glory. Connect the stars he has numbered. All day, “taste and see that the LORD is good.” (Psalm 34:8) What a bountiful, full day.

Here’s how this all played out recently at our house…

Appreciating and desiring “more Jesus,” I mulled over an idea in my mind and started looking into pursuing a master’s degree in Biblical Theology.

Ouch!

As AWESOME as that would be, it had an understandably HIGH price tag! My husband and I talked it over and agreed that our walls had enough diplomas and that any money allotted for education would be better spent going toward our son, who’s currently working toward his first diploma.

That said, there was still that hunger to know more, to go deeper in God’s Word. So…

(here’s where the wanna-be-student gets creative…)

I looked at several seminaries online and wrote down the class topics included in their Biblical Theology degrees. Then, I assigned each of the top 12 topics to a month on my calendar and added an accompanying list of books, (a.k.a. ‘MUST READS”).

The result?

My husband (such a sport–and a voracious reader to boot!) and I have started a year long study in scripture and theological books to dive deeper into the wonder and glory of God! I know we won’t come close to the depth and breadth of a full seminary degree by miles, but won’t we have a bountiful year all the same, exploring scripture and drawing closer to God?!

And so, in late January, we made a gentle start with a number of definitions, fleshing out 15 or so words like “justification,” “sanctification,”, “Trinity,” “fellowship,” etc. In my head, I allocated it all to 20-30 minutes, but I didn’t take into account another person’s input–especially if that person is a deep Christian thinker and a lawyer!

AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER,

we finished ~

and we both were blessed with a really good beginning understanding.

Now it’s on to February and a month contemplating and reading about God! That’s what I’ll be doing a lot of this month, and that should be amazing!

(If you want to join along, I’m reading Knowing God by J. I. Packer right now! You may not want to take on a year long plan, but let me encourage you to read more scripture this year. Maybe read a Psalm at the day’s beginning and then read it again at the day’s end. Or consider reading those “little books”–1st and 2nd Peter; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John; Jude; Titus–and really come to know each one. Do you like action? Try Acts! Whatever you decide, I do thank you for reading ChristBesideMe and pray it points you to Christ.)

Now let’s grab a couple chocolate chip cookies (two–not too many!) and get reading and get to know our God even better!

January: A Renewed Beginning

Here we are once again in January! Today, I’m snuggled up in flannel and wool, sipping cup after cup of hot tea (Earl Grey Supreme, my personal favorite). Be it a gray day with temperatures dropping hourly, I’m cozy inside, at rest, and with time to ponder Ephesians and my Savior.

My faithful companion snoozes on his little rug beside my desk. Sometimes his steps are not as quick as they once were. Sometimes his hearing and eye sight isn’t as sharp as it once was (unless a “cookie” treat slides across the floor). Still, he always loves his walks, and after this morning ‘s adventure, he is glad to be inside again, too. His gentle breathing reveals a heart at rest.

Is your heart at rest, too, beloved one? (more…)

Could Do-It-Yourself HGTV Be Good For Me, Too?

Now, to be as honest as I aim to be, let me begin by saying that I started this post several weeks ago and, lo in this Christmas season, it got buried on my desk and in my mind by a hundred little tasks (and some big ones, too). But now, with renewed focus (as I hope you’ll read about in the paragraphs below), I will finish it! Come and sit in the library with me ~

As I sit in our library, my kind husband is in the adjacent room and has just finished watching two hours straight of do-it-yourself house flipping, house renovation shows! The overwhelming ideas always seem to be

“We’ll Take Out This Wall” and

“That Will Open Things Up”.

There’s no chance we’re removing any lath and plaster walls in our old house, but it made me think:

What would a re-do look like in my life and inside my heart?

What can I take out to open things up for more of God?

Hmmm… let’s think…

  • That used-to-be time spent exploring online could become typing out a letter that (hopefully) will encourage someone (like I pray this will be).
  • Grumpy, heavy sighs at red lights could become a “go” to admiration of God’s handiwork around me and praise.
  • Rather than wiping up the latest kitchen spill with exasperation, it could be done with thanksgiving for that floor, that counter, that stove, the food that made the spill.
  • The dreaded expression, “I have to wash the sap off the car,” could translate into, “I’m thankful for running water to wash the car that I’m blessed to have sitting beneath God’s beautiful handiwork of a maple tree in our back yard.”
  • Letting our dog, Teddy, outside yet again could remind me of his desire to do what is right as I applaud that and am encouraged.
  • And sorting and folding laundry or wrapping those Christmas gifts? Quiet moments for prayer for the owners and recipients.

It’s pretty humbling really. For two weeks (no, it’s three now!) I’ve intended to write a letter, but still it’s only a good intention. For two-become-three weeks I’ve been meaning to invite a couple over for dinner, but still haven’t picked up the telephone. How I am so apt to squander God’s generous gift of moments and time, days and nights? I have let the frantic pace of working in the holiday season become the ruling order rather than elevating the minutes open to praise and service and joy.

In Psalm 139, David sings a beautiful song of total submission to God.  In verse 16, he says,

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written,

every one of them, the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.”

HE KNEW THSE DAYS! (Every one of them!)

HE WROTE AND PLANNED THESE DAYS! (This day!)

And now that I’ve recognized that, I’ve no call but to submit to His will and go with prudence and faith through this day, however it falls.

So, here’s a letter of encouragement (I hope) finally completed and I’m off to make that telephone call (and will let our dog out again) before heading into work. Ahhh…life and lessons through the lens of serving Christ and glorifying God: a kaleidoscope of praise, service, perseverance, sanctification, and joy.

Enjoy the gift of this day ~ “in joy!”

Waking Up and Awakening to Listening

Early this morning in our tree-shaded, ivy-covered, peacefully nestled home, I awoke to —

HAMMERING!

BANGING!

SA-A-A-WWWING!

It sounded like it was right in our backyard! I got out of bed, stared with my blurry, nearsighted eyes into the back yard from our upstairs window, and deemed nothing out of place.

Once dressed and downstairs, our dog and I explored the neighborhood. Sure, there were sounds, but they weren’t coming from our backyard at all. In fact, they were coming from a house that was being renovated down the street from the FRONT of our house! Activity hammered, banged, and sawed on every side of that house!

Sound is a funny thing, isn’t it? It can echo seamlessly around corners, under branches, up hillsides and behind bushes. Sometimes it takes a time to reach our ears. Determining exactly where it originates is sometimes a mystery.

Listening to the voice of God can be like that, I think. Sometimes I hear Him loud and clear and there is no question in my mind of his heart-piercing message. Other times, I’m not so sure, not so certain…

I was once in a wonderful class on prayer and the Psalms taught by a minister-friend of ours. Among the points I remember from that class is one insight he shared:

Sometimes awakening in the night isn’t just awakening in the night; it’s a time to meet with God.

What if we looked at all interruptions, all detours,

all misdirections like that?

If God is with us all the time, which–in Christ–He is, according to Matthew 28:20,

And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,

and if He plans our way, orders our days, determines our steps, as He does according to Psalm 37:23,

The steps of a man are ordered by the LORD, when he delights in His way

as well as in Psalm 31:14 and 15:

You are my God; my times are in your hand

and in Psalm 23:4:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,

Then He does seek communion with us at all times.

So, let’s see that red light during our commute as a call to stop whatever keeps us from peaceful trust in His sovereignty in our lives. Let’s just lay it down like the painted lane divider right on the asphalt. May we answer the baby’s midnight cry as a time to comfort that little one and be comforted over our deepest fears by our heavenly Father. Let’s watch the clear water in the sink pour over sudsy, dirty dishes or in the driveway over a sudsy, dirty car and may it remind us of God’s full washing away of our sins in Christ. Let’s thank Him and praise Him as that water runs clear.

Remember our Savior has a purpose for us, and He even has a purpose for the pauses of our day:

May our days and nights be communion with Christ.

 

3 Ways to Not Miss Out

This photo of our trusty dog and an open Bible shows the usual way my morning starts. A walk up and around our street together follows. But sometimes it’s raining  (like today) and we don’t go on a walk. Even more disruptive to my outlook and thinking is the reality that sometimes my morning doesn’t start that way at all. It’s like I jumpstart the day–diving right into the whitewater rush of activities. I let other details and pressing To-Do’s crowd out that most important time.

It seems we all have long lists of To-Do’s that clamor for our attention and time. Grocery shopping, doctors’ appointments, meals to prepare, opportunities to volunteer, car pool lines to wait in, bills to pay, dogs to wash, bathrooms to clean, unending piles of laundry… Whew! It’s exhausting to even think about sometimes, isn’t it–or at least it seems that way to me!

I’m a dedicated list maker and have succumbed some times to even putting the most mundane item–like “Get Mail”–on the list so I’ll be able to cross at least something out. That’s pretty pitiful, isn’t it?!

Many years ago, I read a little pamphlet entitled “Tyranny of the Urgent.” I don’t know who wrote it, but its wisdom has stayed with me. The pamphlet spoke about how we pay attention to the urgent things in life and sorrowfully neglect the important things in life. That’s a personal challenge to this list-maker. I’m usually reminded of that on my way up the driveway with the mail! I really miss uninterrupted time with God, reading His Word, and prayer.

In the mornings this month(or at least on most mornings), I’m reading through the Psalms in groups of 4 or 5 day in a book that brings them together with thoughts to ponder at the close of each group. (It’s Psalms by the Day by Alec Motyer and available at Christianbook.com.) Yesterday I had that time. The Psalms were wonderful and the thoughts were challenging, but what kept coming into my mind was our older neighbor next door, and I determined to go see her that morning.

And I did. And without our dog, so I could actually go in and visit a while.

I knocked on her door and she quickly answered. She was smiling and was dressed in cleaning clothes all spotted with paint.  She welcomed me inside and we sat in her living room. The vacuum sat still, tied up by its cord under the dining table behind us. She said she had just completed vacuuming and was expecting company the next day. As it turned out, a dear friend of hers from college days had unexpectedly died, and she had opened her home to several mutual friends to come and stay and all attend the funeral together. We remarked on the blessings of hospitality and friendship. Then she admitted that, as her friend had died suddenly, there were things she never had the opportunity to say to her. That was the true source of her sadness and the underlying reason for her hospitality. She wanted to tell those friends how much she treasured them and even how much more Jesus treasured them.

That is an important To-Do.

Suddenly, a beep went off in the hall. She laughed and confessed that the beeping had been going on all morning–and was at a loss to stop it. I determined it was a smoke detector in the hall whose battery was depleted. She produced a step stool and a new battery–and borrowing her reading glasses–I climbed up, replaced the battery, and the beeping stopped. She was so appreciative and remarked how I must have come for that very reason. Only God knows.

The funny thing is that I was given so much more than I gave. It caused me to ask myself what have I left unsaid, undone, or unheeded?

That brings me back to the faithful friend at the top of the page. We are in his last days now. Our long walks have become short but sweet ones. Playtime has become more infrequent. But he still loves to rest beside me as I read the Bible and pray and write at my desk (where he currently is, as in the photo below), at the kitchen table, or outside on the deck.

So that will be an important To-Do. Not a grand thing in the scale of things, but a comfort to him. And it will also spur me on to a consistent and beautiful time with God.

Likewise, and even more so, remembering to check on my neighbors will be an important To-Do: building community and looking for ways to serve, weeds to pull, and lives to impact for Christ.

So here is the list I’ve made: the “3 Ways to Not Miss Out” on the important things in life:

  1. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
  2. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
  3. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:38

And that sums up everything.

 

 

Spell Check or Challenge?

Hello all fellow computer users! Today is rainy here. It’s a good day to settle in with a cup of hot tea and get some of those necessary computer tasks completed.

Sounds like a gratifying prospect, right?

Well, truth be told, it’s been a challenge. I’m not too savvy with computers, but I’ve learned some perseverance from the trial today! James had it right, even in the tech world:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you meet trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Now my problem today wasn’t a testing of faith as much as a testing of patience with a temptation to exasperation. All the same, what kind of witness to being “in Christ” would failing that test be?

Today the trial was with Spell Check. Spell Check is a wonderful program that helps catch most of our spelling errors. It’s a blessing really. My spelling is generally good. I get a little off when I type too quickly. But as I typed along today, I watched red lines appear under almost every single word that I typed.

Words like IS and MAKE.

The computer suggested IST and MACHEN.

The blessing had turned into a trial!

Blindly, I clicked on various categories in the tool bar and finally landed on the correct category to see Spell Check.

Bravely, I clicked on the Options button and would you know it?

My Spell Check had somehow switched to GERMAN!

I really don’t have a clue how this happened. Did the computer know that I’ve been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer lately? Had it searched my brain for any lingering, thin remnants of college German, (now limited to translations of “Open the door please” and “Where is the bathroom?”) Who knows? Computers! I had to laugh and, happily, I was able to change my Spell Check back to English.

Hmmm…that wasn’t really a James-worthy trial, was it? It was just a small hiccup, a pause and a smile. But even in that, fellow rainy day computer friends, we see the call to persevering in faith by maintaining a Godly attitude and perspective in our Christian walk.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” (Titus 2:1–13 ESV)

We are persevering, waiting for our blessed hope. The soft rain perseveres, composing a peaceful background song. My tea perseveres–my mug, full and steaming with a second brew from a bag of my favorite Earl Grey Supreme. And it’s back to persevering on the task at hand…

~ But I am overwhelmed with the faithfulness of God as we persevere:

Thank you, God, for this GOOD day.

Thank you for unexpected trials that give us pause and opportunities

to persevere and realign our definition of trials.

Thank you for rain.

Thank you for tea.

Thank you for computers and Spell Check.

Thank you for developing perseverance in each of us.

Thank you for our blessed hope–for Christ.

Dear friend, I pray your time today goes more smoothly than mine. Yet, if you are beset with a trial, may you persevere, knowing God is refining your spirit, and that we

“…count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV)

 

The Weather, Reality, and Life

How’s your weather today? It’s bright and sunny here. Birds chirp. Bees buzz. Sounds like a warm day, right? It is now, but early this morning it called for long pants, long sleeves, and a light jacket!

Appearance isn’t always reality.

Aren’t we like that sometimes? We smile and laugh–all blue skies and golden sunshine. But our reality? It’s a downpour of fear, worry, and anger that only washes away our trust and peace.

Hmmm… Should that really be our reality as followers of Christ?

Let’s consider Paul’s reality as given in his 2nd Corinthians 11:23-28 “resume”:


PAUL

~ Servant of Christ Jesus ~

Experience:

  • Imprisoned repeatedly
  • Shipwrecked 3 times
  • Adrift in the sea 1 day/night
  • Flogged numerous times
  • Lashed 39 times on 5 occassions
  • Beaten with rods 3 times
  • Stoned 1 time
  • In danger from robbers, countrymen, and unfaithful friends

Characteristics:

  • Exhausted
  • In pain and without sleep
  • Hungry and thirsty
  • Cold and in rags
  • Given a “thorn in the flesh” to foster humility

Aim:

  • Concern for the church
  • Concern for the sake of Christ

As close as I come to Paul’s trials is being seasick once on a cruise ship. Lord, have mercy! My trials are nothing compared to Paul’s, so you’d think it would be easy for me to maintain his aim. Yet, am I continually concerned about the spiritual health of the church and my fellow Christians? Am I content in my circumstances and more concerned about others and the glory of Christ?

Paul wanted something, too. He wanted that thorn in the flesh, thought an eye problem, to be removed. He asked God for its removal three times and all three times God said no. In 2nd Corinthians 12, Paul records God’s words as,

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

Paul submits to God, saying,

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul’s trust in Christ gave him a perspective that focused beyond his present circumstances. He realized when he had nothing, he had everything–he had Christ.

As we face our trials, may we also trust in Christ and be strong in Him. That will bring real peace, and–in the midst of storms–a bright, sunny day in our souls.

Smoke and Fire in the Smoky Mountains

No photo needs to adorn this loss. It’s been in the news so frequently:

Out of Control fires in the Smoky Mountains and Surrounding Areas and Towns

And it raged on for days. While a good breeze and strong winds are sometimes a good and welcome turn in the weather, their timing in this area ended up having a disastrous influence on the fires. The winds exacerbated the flames and destruction spread with reckless speed.

Sadly, many of the homes in the areas were fully consumed down to their foundations, leaving only a lonely fireplace/chimney standing amidst the smoking dust. My cousin’s beloved green cabin was one of the casualties. In it mementoes and treasures were also consumed.

Then at last rains came. What a welcome they were, helping turn the tide of the remaining fires.

The fires have taken such a toll–both physically and mentally. When I first heard of the fires, my heart went out to all who were in the affected areas–the homeowners, the native animals, the firefighters. My prayers went up like the smoke with a request for rain and peace.

Then I remembered a favorite poem from years ago. I’ll share it here in hope that the perspective of this wise and historic Puritan poet might be a comfort to those who have suffered such a loss.

The poem is entitled “Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666.” Its author is Anne Bradstreet, one of the first female poets on what would years later become American soil. She was born in England in 1612 and immigrated with her husband and parents to the American colonies with the Winthrop Puritan group, settling in Massachusetts. There, she and her husband raised eight children and moved four times finally making a home in North Andover, Massachusetts. By then, many of her relatives (both older and younger than she) had passed and Anne herself was suffering from failing health, most probably tuberculosis.

It is this fourth house that burned to the ground. In the poem, she speaks of her loss and her memories, and she honestly recounts her regret. Even so, at the poem’s close, her pain and loss are overwhelmed by her faith in God and reliance on Christ. May God strengthen us to face loss with a similar perspective.

Be encouraged (and kindly be understanding of the 17th century speech and spelling):

“Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666”
 
“Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning
of Our house, July 10th. 1666. Copied Out of
a Loose Paper.
In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate [sat] and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin [again] my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf [money], farewell, my store [possessions].
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.
Source: The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry (Columbia University Press, 1995)