Christianity, poetry

compline

Emmanuel — behold Him
the Meek and Mighty, child
the universe’s Maker come
to what we have defiled

Emmanuel — o praise Him
the righteous Warrior wise
He comes the fettered heart to free
and none will He despise

Emmanuel — adore Him
the Shepherd tender, true
He comes the broken to restore
and make all old things new

Emmanuel — hosanna
o, God-With-Us, save!
come sing Your song of triumph
from the manger past the grave

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Christianity, poetry

vespers

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i thank Thee, uncreated Son
that Thou didst deign to shine
within the darkness of my soul
and warm my heart with Thine

i thank Thee, ever-endless One
Who left Thy holy throne
to take my evanescent frame
and wear it as Thine own

i thank Thee, Living Water sweet
Whose life Thou freely gave
that Thou didst stoop to wash my feet
and me from death didst save

i thank Thee, shatterer of night
Thou art eternal Day
when new life rises with the morn
the old shall flee away

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Christianity, poetry

hours

field

go seek Him in the country
go find Him by the way
go see that in your night has dawned
the light of endless day

go seek Him in the village
go praise Him in the town
go tell the true and wild tale
of God to earth come down

go seek Him in the city
go paint Him on the streets
go sing the song of zion
and of triumph through defeat

go seek Him in the quiet
go dance amid the storm
go worship in the chaos
unto us a Child is born

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Christianity, poetry

matins

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wake up, the sun is risen
wake up, the night is done
wake up, for sorrow’s ended
wake up, for joy is won

wake up, in love He suffered
wake up, in love He bled
wake up, the Hero conquered
wake up, the dragon’s dead

wake up, the sea is gleaming
wake up, the sky’s on fire
wake up and end your dreaming
wake up, He’ll never tire

wake up, you souls in prison
wake up, you hearts of stone
wake up, the Son is risen
wake up, the night is gone

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Christianity, life, photography

the way things are

leaf

 

today marks one month until my birthday, which will mark one year from entering a new decade. last year, during a rambling late-evening discussion after my murder mystery birthday celebration had wound down, a friend asked me what i hoped would happen or what i would like to do in the next year. after gathering my wits and sorting through what i could share with an audience of two men, i came up with the following:

  1. share the gospel with someone, and
  2. submit some of my writing for publication.

in many ways, these have been an amazing 11 months. and in many ways, it’s been a tough old year.

i have had so much fun these past 11 months, dreaming things, planning things, trying things, creating things, being a small part of big exciting new things, seeing hope planted and watered and new life slowly unfurling its leaves. there are moments of pure joy when the light hits just right and reminds me God is big and He’s beautiful and amazing! and so, so very good.

i have felt so tired and so old this past year. i spent the first three or so months of the year battling sleeplessness and despondency, and finding myself not wanting to fight very hard, because every morning when i woke up, there was this cloud that wouldn’t budge and this feeling i couldn’t get rid of that i’d already failed and ruined the day. if i said i was constantly depressed that would be a lie, fortunately. but still, things weren’t right. it took a short sunday morning audio sermon on justification and grace to break me down (and set me crying for the next three hours, at church, on the front row, on st. valentine’s day, of all days) and eventually send me to the doctor to learn i had seasonal affective disorder and very low vitamin d.

two years ago i received some kind of tiny cypress tree in a Christmas gift exchange. it didn’t come with any identifiers or care instructions, so, having the brown thumb i do, i eventually killed it. last december i was tired of looking at a sad little crispy tree, so i bought a maidenhair fern to replace it. i like my plants to be signs and reminders of things (like isaiah’s children), so i named it hope. keeping hope alive has come to be the theme of this year for me — i have very nearly killed this needy finicky fern several times and have had to mist it every morning and trim all the brown leaves off as soon as they appear. sometimes i let things go too long and have to lop off an entire branch. such, i feel, has been the case with the past year.

with spring (and vitamins and supplements) came misty new leaves on trees, warm breezes, sunshine, longer days … and hope … and dreams that i never thought could be possibilities were taking shape in my soul. again and again i found myself standing on a cliff, toes hanging over the edge, dreading or anticipating what was going to happen next. i have long feared heights and falling from them —and much of the time, it’s because i’ve feared i’ll jump.

i have been weary this year to the point of not caring (and the Lord God gave the man low blood sugar to remind him he was not invincible). i have learned to walk past the point of fear and explain what is inside my mind or heart, as best i can. i have walked and walked and learned and forgotten and learned and forgotten and learned again how to pray. i have tried to be an escapist and have rammed my nose into reality time and again (thank God Who hems me in behind and before). i have worked and worked and worked and wondered what it’s all for before being reminded that anything done for Jesus counts for eternity.

“give up yourself,” c.s. lewis says, “and you will find your real self. lose your life and you will save it. submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorites wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. keep back nothing. nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. but look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

“take up your cross and follow Me,” Jesus says. “whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will find it.” 

every time i’ve had to face a fear or a frustration or have wrestled for control over something, i’ve thought i’ve learned what losing my life is, what letting go of my ambitions and favorite wishes looks like. what dying is. and every time i get to feeling worn down to a little wooden knot of a person and think, what, God, is this what You’ve called me to? He says and if it is, every day for the rest of your life, am I not enough in all of that? Who do you think I am?

i’ve learned (amid all the innumerable things i’ve learned this year) that i associate value with performance. if i’ve done well — if i’ve done what i was supposed to, when i was supposed to, and done it right — if i’ve lived up to my perception of others’ expectations for me as well as my own, then i have succeeded. then i have value.

i walked slowly down the steps of my empty office building this afternoon, past the darkened doors closed for the holiday weekend, trying to pull myself together and not cry from frustration and weariness (and lack of a proper lunch). i am a failure, i thought. i set lofty goals and never fulfill any of them. i haven’t gotten anywhere. and i complain about all of this and feel sorry for myself while widows in laos are being persecuted for their faith because Christianity is not convenient  for their relatives or their culture’s traditional religion. and here i am, with a good job and a great life, complaining and feeling sorry for myself because i’m tired.

when i have low blood sugar i get depressed. when i get depressed i can spiral down, down, down without realizing it because my will to care is so low at that point that i don’t want to make an effort to look up. but, i did. i remembered, God delights in you. He said, you are altogether beautiful, My darling. He completely approves of you, and it has nothing to do with what you’ve done. it’s because of what He’s done. you can’t earn His approval — and you don’t have to. that’s just the way things are.

the poems i submitted for publication earlier this year weren’t accepted. i haven’t shared the gospel with anyone, face to face, who didn’t already know it. if i look at my year, i have fallen back, back, back down this hill i’ve been climbing. but you know what? it’s going to be okay. and it’s going to be more than okay, because God doesn’t want my picking-myself-up-by-the-bootstraps approach to “success” or my wriggling self-loathing response to “failure.”

He wants me to hold His hand and walk with Him, trusting that He’s big enough to pick up the trees across the path and dig out the boulders in the way, and that He’s patient enough to match His strides to mine and pick me up and dust me off each time i fall down, even if it’s every other step.

and that’s just the way things are.

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Christianity

note to self

1

Jesus is patient.
Jesus is kind.
Jesus is not envious.
Jesus is not a braggart.
Jesus does not think more of Himself than He ought to.
Jesus is never rude no matter the circumstances.
Jesus does not demand things must be done His way (“not My will, but Thy will be done”).
Jesus does not get irritated.
Jesus does not resent people or circumstances.
Jesus never applauds or condones evil of any kind.
Jesus delights in the truth — truth-seeking, truth-telling, truth-doing, truth-living.
Jesus carries everything.
Jesus believes the best in every situation.
Jesus has an unquenchable hope.
Jesus endures everything.
Jesus never fails.

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Christianity, life

assigned and called

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i have a confession to make. i have glamour envy.

(“what’s glamour envy?”)

i talked a little bit about it here. you might have noticed that post is from two and a half years ago. i’m slow at learning this lesson.

what i mean by “glamour envy” is that, some days, i look at my life — what i’m doing right then or what i’m doing in general — then look at, or mentally compare it to, someone else’s life, and think, “man, what am i doing?” or “why is her life so glamorous and gorgeous and mine is so … mundane?” or “why does she get to have all the amazing adventures?”

even a little bit of envy is an ugly thing. the new testament letter writers don’t mince words about envy:

“they were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. they are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness …” — romans 1:29

“for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” — titus 3:3

“so put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” — 1 peter 2:1

buuuuuuuuuuuuut — i start to think.

no.

but —

no. there’s no “little bit of harmless envy.” it all must go. (notice how envy and malice are coupled or near each other in all three of those examples.)

but … okay. that can sound kind of negative, which isn’t necessarily an impetus to change our (my) behavior and treat the root of this problem. merely telling yourself not to be dissatisfied with your life will not solve the problem of your dissatisfaction (hear that, self?).

i’m reading through the new testament again and one verse that i am always comforted by, every time i re-read it, is 1 corinthians 7:17:

“only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. this is my rule in all the churches.”

the greater context here is that of being a bondservant or slave versus a free person, being married versus being single, or being circumcised or uncircumcised. paul is saying, to my understanding, “don’t fret about your circumstances, and don’t compare them or yourselves to others. God called you, and He called you in this particular state of being or point in life, so don’t think you can’t serve God or be fully alive because your circumstances or person don’t match your (or someone else’s) ideal.” i like the way eugene peterson paraphrases it in the message:

“and don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. where you are right now is God’s place for you. live and obey and love and believe right there. …”

the fact that God assigned me a particular life and called me to it for His own glorious reasons is no end of encouraging, if i take the time to humbly remember the fact. it reminds me of what Jesus says to peter after He’s called him to take care of His church.

and after saying this He said to him, “follow Me.”

peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against Him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray You?” when peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “if it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? you follow Me!” — john 21:19b-22

so, what about that man and his heroic life? what about that woman and the way that seemingly everything she does oozes glamour? be who you are, where you are, with all you have. (and, as jim elliot said, “wherever you are, be all there.” that’s important to remember, too.)

of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with glamour, and there’s nothing wrong with being heroic. the problem comes when we idolize the qualities themselves or the people we think exhibit them.

they are people, just like you and me — yes, despite all appearances to the contrary. sometimes they have halitosis or stinky feet or pimples; sometimes they don’t go anywhere interesting (or anywhere at all) on friday nights; sometimes they eat too many cookies; sometimes they get scared or lonely or frustrated or bored or blue or headachey or just plain hoppin’ mad.

also, along with the unique lives God gives each of us, He gives us unique perspectives and unique ways of delighting in Him and His creation. i’ve lived in the kansas city suburbs all my life, for instance, but because of who my family is and where they live (or have lived), i’m steeped in prairie sunsets and can find beauty in the muted golds and silvers and bronzes of the cold-kissed grasses and dying wildflowers in my grandparents’ “back 40.”

and at the same time, maybe our (my) perspective on what is and what isn’t “glamorous” is warped.

is glamour all red lipstick and pearls (both of which i’m wearing in the photo that tops this post, as i try to look both heroic and glamorous in the dying november light)? or is it glamorous to crawl around the foyer on your hands and knees picking up stray twigs and pine needles because, oh my goodness, you have an entire tree in your house?! is it glamorous to play duck, duck, snow tiger with a gaggle of little girls and be adopted as the new best friend of the little girl sitting on your lap, who is wearing a pink sparkly kitty hat? is it glamorous to tell your nephew bedtime stories about submarines and aircraft carriers that make you realize how little you know of the navy and hope to goodness you haven’t told him anything that isn’t true? is it glamorous to find yourself wedged behind a door wearing an easter bonnet made for a two-year-old and trying to balance a “tea tray” in one hand at your “airplane seat” while your niece cheerfully empties the contents of her bookshelf into your other arm so you’ll have plenty to read during your “flight”?

yes, i think maybe it is.

this is my reminder to rejoice in the life i’ve been given and expand my definition of concepts like glamour, adventure and beauty.

and it’s a reminder for you, too, friend, wherever God has you.

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