stumbling through life blindfolded

IMG_5933You don’t have to stumble along in darkness. You really don’t.

God, by His word, gives light: He wants to guide your steps. His teaching, enabled by His Spirit, is understandable to us even when we’re at our simplest. He means that we’d not be overcome by evil desires, and that we’d not feel alone in darkness. He means that we’d understand His ways — His best for us — and that we’d be prepared to meditate on His care.

God looks upon you with love: He saved more than 800,000 words for you! Words meant to explain your surroundings and the God who created and runs your world; words that speak of Jesus, from the first to the last.

We choose to stumble along in darkness — like someone blindfolded — when we ignore His words, when we ignore His commandments and guidance and teaching. We choose directionlessness.

We’re actually cruel to ourselves:

“We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God who created it and runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God…When we disregard the study of God, we sentence ourselves to stumble through life blindfolded, with no sense of direction and no understanding of our surroundings…if you believe you can secure a knowledge of God without the Bible, you’re making a very grievous mistake. God doesn’t mean for you to. God does mean for you to focus on the Scriptures and learn from Him through the Scriptures. That’s His appointed way.” (J. I. Packer)

The teaching of your word gives light,
so even the simple can understand…

Guide my steps by your word,
so I will not be overcome by evil…

Look upon me with love;
teach me your decrees.

Help me understand the meaning of your commandments, and I will meditate on your  wonderful deeds.

(Psalm 119:130-135, 127)

Choose life, dear friends. Choose His word. Ask Him to look upon you with love, then open your Bible and read. Read to know. Read to meditate. Read to learn and obey.

Read to fall in love.

With Jesus. The lover of your soul.

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Related: How to turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God.

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stand close

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“Once more heed the exhortation — stand close to the cross of Jesus! It is the most accessible and precious spot this side of heaven — the most solemn and awesome on this side of eternity. It is the focus of divine love, sympathy, and power. Stand by it in suffering, in persecution, in temptation. Stand by it in the brightness of prosperity and in the gloom of adversity. Shrink not from its offence, humiliation, and woe. Defend it when scorned, despised, and denied. Stand up for Jesus and the gospel of Jesus. Oh, whatever you do, or whatever you endure, be loyal to Christ’s cross. Go to it in trouble, repair to it in weakness, cling to it in danger, hide beneath it when the wintry storm rushes fiercely over you. Near to the cross, you are near a Father’s heart, a Savior’s side.” Octavius Winslow (1808-1878)

Painting: What Our Lord Saw from the Cross by James Tissot (1836-1902)

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so we may sing

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“Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.”

Psalm 90:14

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the “intolerable compliment”

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“We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character. Here again we come up against what I have called the ‘intolerable compliment’. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life — the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child — he will take endless trouble — and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.” (The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis)

Painting: Painter in his Studio by Francois Boucher (1703-1770)

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they lose their grip on your soul only when

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“How sweet did it suddenly seem to me to shrug off those sweet frivolities, and how glad I now was to get rid of them – I who had been loath to let them go! For it was you who cast them out from me, you, our real and all-surpassing sweetness. You cast them out and entered yourself to take their place, you who are lovelier than any pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, more lustrous than any light, yet more inward than is any secret intimacy, loftier than all honor, yet not to those who look for loftiness in themselves” (Maria Boulding’s translation of The Confessions, Saint Augustine, p. 170. Augustine, in this translated excerpt, is describing what happened in his conversion experience.)

“Fruitless joys”…or “sweet frivolities” are what we turn to when life is boring and gray and lonely and we know that tomorrow nothing will have changed. They aren’t necessarily scandalous sins. They may be little more than harmless hobbies in which we invest countless hours to make life a little less dull. They may be the newest gadgets we work so hard to own and worry about losing. They may be the fantasies and daydreams that swirl around in our heads that we know will never come true but somehow strangely bring a measure of excitement to an otherwise dreary life…

They are fruitless and inane because no matter how effective they seem right now, in the long term they can’t satisfy…They lack the capacity to go beyond surface impact. They fail to reach deep into the soul and make a difference where it counts. They leave us empty…No matter how well they work in the immediate present, we know God made us for something bigger and better and more satisfying…

Fruitless joys don’t just magically disappear. They don’t go away of their own accord. If their power to please begins to wane, the human soul will soon find adequate replacements…They will lose their grip on your soul only when they are displaced by greater joys, more pleasing joys, joys that satisfy not for the moment but forever…Augustine didn’t cease his sinful indulgence because he had given up on pleasure. He simply found a more pleasing pleasure, a longer-lasting joy, a fullness of joy and pleasures that never end (Psalm 16:11). By grace, his soul turned from reliance on fruitless joys to reliance on God’s promise of a superior delight in his Son, Jesus Christ.

This is the true meaning of grace. Grace does not demonize our desires nor destroy them nor lead us to deny them. Grace is the work of the Holy Spirit in transforming our desires so that knowing Jesus becomes sweeter…than every fruitless joy. Grace is God satisfying our souls with his Son so that we’re ruined for anything else!” (Taken from One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God by Sam Storms. Read a more thorough excerpt here.)

Related: Even more beautiful and Better than a thousand substitutes.

St. Augustine in His Study by Vittore Carpaccio, 1502

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Savior, like a shepherd lead us

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Savior, like a shepherd lead us,
much we need thy tender care;
in thy pleasant pastures feed us,
for our use thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

We are thine, thou dost befriend us,
be the guardian of our way;
keep thy flock, from sin defend us,
seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Thou hast promised to receive us,
poor and sinful though we be;
thou hast mercy to relieve us,
grace to cleanse and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Early let us turn to thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Early let us turn to thee.

Early let us seek thy favor,
early let us do thy will;
blessed Lord and only Savior,
with thy love our bosoms fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!
Thou hast loved us, love us still.

              (Dorothy Thrupp, 1779-1847)

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Will I give up the right?

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“…many people want to negotiate the cost rather than count it. That is, they are willing to give up things, but they won’t give up the right to determine what those things are.”(Tim Keller)

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:15-16)

Jesus really is God come to earth. He really is the way to the Father; to the relationship for which you were created; to the life, full and free, for which you yearn. He knows best. He is best.

You may think you want to negotiate the cost of belonging to Him. Or you may think you’re willing to give up things to follow Him, but want to hold onto the right to determine what those things are.

But you don’t.

You really don’t want to be in charge. You don’t want to negotiate either the cost of being His disciple, or the prospect of giving up your hold on certain parts of your earthly kingdom. You really want Him to determine all things for you.

You really do.

Father, today, on the path you have for me, I want to count the cost, with joy, of being your disciple. I want to count, not negotiate.  I want to move throughout this day aware of your great love for me; amazed that I get to know you; confident that, on this day, whatever the cost, you have the right to determine what I should give up; confident that you know my beginning from my end, and that you don’t plan frivolously. You plan only good. I want what you want for me.

I really do.

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leave to the Lord Jesus

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“How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning-knife which the great Husbandman employs in order to make us fruitful in good works. The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only. It must go through its days of wind, rain, and storm. If you desire to serve Christ and be saved, I entreat you to take the Lord on His own terms. Make up your mind to meet with your share of crosses and sorrows, and then you will not be surprised. For want of understanding this, many seem to run well for a season, and then turn back in disgust, and are cast away.

If you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way. Rest satisfied that He never makes any mistakes. Be sure that He does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and the waters swell, but fear not:

“He is leading you by the right way, that He may bring you to a city of habitation.” (Psalm 107:7)

(J.C. Ryle, Holiness, p. 198-99)

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Painting by Albert Bierstadt, A Storm in the Rocky Mountains (1866)

(Originally posted as Winds may howl around you, January 8, 2014.)

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one lonely car

IMG_5657One lonely car in the driveway — where there were five. Two empty bedrooms. One mama’s heart breaking. Again.

Will I ever get better at this? Will that first empty morning after they move out ever seem less lonely? Less packed full of deep sadness?

The house, filled all summer with DIY projects,  lies quiet in its straightness. I craved straightness when the crafting supplies covered the tables. Now, I crave the piles of busy creations. I craved less to do when the days were overrun with lists. Now I crave non-stop conversation and errands together and futures to be discussed.

My girls have returned to college. And it’s not only the car in the driveway who finds itself lonely.

(I’m sorry if you wished I’d not write — again — about this year-after-year flood of missing-them emotions. I tried to. But then I remembered you. My friend who’s feeling the same. And if writing helps me process my sadness, maybe reading will help you in some way?)

Sending them out, elementary – adulthood

Our hearts break when our children fly from the nest. Straight as wobbly arrows they soar, navigating unknown waters, venturing into newness all around — without us. We’re no longer there. We’re no longer at their side as they struggle to ride their first bike; no longer cheering within their hearing, “You can do it! I’m so proud of you!”

Instead, they go out — on their own.

So. We weep in the missing. For the crying somehow helps us.

And we pray. For our prayers, miraculously, help them.

For even as we, perched in our emptying nest, cry with sad hearts, we also remember and believe and know this precious answer: They aren’t alone. The Lord God goes before them. He fights for them. He loves the children we love, and unlike us, He can be there with them.

So, mingled with an aching heart’s tears this morning, I pray the same prayer I prayed when they left for first grade and fourth and eleventh. I, from deep within, cry to my good Father, who listens and always plans their good.

Pray with me? For your own children, and for those you know who have no one to pray for them:

O kindest of Fathers, Lord God, I ask you to keep my precious children as they live their day in places where I’m not. Care for them and carry them. Remind them of your love! Do for them what they can’t do for themselves — turn their hearts to you as they move through this day. Protect and keep them. Grow their faith in you alone. Comfort them. Encourage them when they feel fear. Convict them when they feel pride. Please, work today to grow in them a passion for you and your ways, creating within them a soft heart that loves you deeply, follows you closely, and affects their generation for you in profound ways. Thank for the honor of knowing and being in their lives! Do for them what you’ve been doing for them all along: please be their protector and guide. Please be the lover of their soul! Please be their God.

Related: Growing kids, not grass.; the tearing of a mother’s heart; A mother’s wingsthe Arm which encircles the globe.

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when money (and what it buys) becomes your scorecard

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“How do you know that money isn’t just money to you? Here are some of the signs. You can’t give large amounts of it away. You get scared if you might have less than you’re accustomed to having. You see people who are doing better than you, even though you might have worked harder or might be a better person, and it gets under your skin. And when that happens, you have one foot in the trap. Because then it’s no longer just a tool; it’s the scorecard. It’s your essence, your identity. No matter how much money you have, though it’s not intrinsically evil, it has incredible power to keep you from God.” (Tim Keller)

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.

…people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:6-10)

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somewhere else there must be more of it

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It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills . . . with the wind and the sunshine . . . Do you remember? The colour and the smell . . . And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it.”  (Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold, by C.S. Lewis)

…it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it.

Other posts on the place you’re really longing for: a longing for another place; Made for another worldlocks and gloves and the place made for you.

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the calling of every Christian parent

IMG_5484In the corner of the world where I live this week begins a new school year for most children. Kids are nervous and excited. Parents are nervous and excited. And kids (and therefore parents) are about to find themselves inundated with choices: new classes, new friends, new sports and arts and offerings of all sorts. It can all end up overwhelming.

Parents, how do you guide your growing child’s school-year choices? What will reign as most important in your family, and in your own heart, as you lead them? As you sort through all the choices, what’s the calling that overarches (and therefore simplifies) the decisions you make for them this year ahead?

“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.””(Matthew 28:18-20)

“I cannot think of any directive from the mouth of Jesus that is a more appropriate call to every Christian parent than this one…Your job is to do everything within your power, as an instrument in the hands of the Redeemer who has employed you, to woo, encourage, call, and train your children to willingly and joyfully live as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is more important than how they do in school, or how positively they contribute to the reputation of your family, or how well they set themselves up for a future career, or how well they do in sports and the arts, or how well they are liked by adults and peers.

These things aren’t unimportant, but we must not let them rise to the importance of this one thing. Your children must come to learn early that their lives don’t belong to them…that they have been given life and breath for the purpose of serving the glory of another…that they do not have the right to follow their own rules…that their lives are meant to be shaped, not by what they want, but by what God has chosen…”

So I do want Paul Tripp’s words to be the rule for my approach to parenting. But how do I practically apply Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 to my daily decisions for my school-age children? In this way — I run all decisions through the filter of:

Does this activity, chosen for or by my child, woo, encourage, call or train my child to find joy in their life being lived for Jesus?

As I filter through the myriad of choices for my child in this way,  I also remember this:

“If you are going to raise willing disciples of Jesus, you need to patiently communicate the story of his amazing grace to your children again and again…you have no power to transform your children from what they are to what they should be…You cannot make your children love, believe, surrender, respect, confess, forgive, serve, speak the truth, be pure of heart, and worship God. Only God can do these things…he simply calls you to be faithful, to do good toward your children day after day after day, knowing that the results are in his infinitely powerful hands…Fight the feeling that you are all alone. Meditate upon and celebrate his power and presence and go do what you’ve been chosen to do with courage and hope.” (Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, by Paul Tripp)

Painting: Benedicite by Franze von Defregger (1835-1921)

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Parenting dyed with the most powerful force

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“If you allow yourself to forget the daily mercies you receive from your Father’s hands, mercies you could never earn, it will become easier for you not to parent your children with mercy.

Mercy is tenderness and compassion toward someone in need. Our children are just that — needy.

…Parenting is about the willingness to live a life of long-term, intentional repetition. God has called you to a life of patient perseverance. He has called you to be willing to do the same thing over and over again. He’s called you to slow down, settle in, and let him progressively do through you what only he can do. He’s called you to believe that his plan and his timing are always right. He’s called you to be willing to live with what is incomplete and to be thankful for each step that is taken. And he’s called you to look for opportunities every day to be part of his process of grace in the lives of your children. Here’s the bottom line: he has called you not only to parent your children but to lay down your life for them. He has called you to expend the major effort, time, and energy of  your life for your children’s welfare. He’s called you to be his tool of grace again and again and again. Parenting really is a life of holy repetition.

…you are blessed with his grace so that every day your parenting would be dyed with the most powerful force of change in the universe: mercy.”

(Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp)

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walking through something difficult

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“One of the main metaphors the Bible gives us for facing affliction is walking – walking through something difficult, perilous and potentially fatal.

The walking metaphor points to the idea of progress. Many ancients saw adversity as merely something to withstand and endure without flinching, or even feeling, until it goes away. Modern Western people see suffering as something like adverse weather, something you avoid or insulate yourself from until it passes by.

The unusual balance of the Christian faith is seen in the metaphor of walking – through darkness, swirling waters or fire. We are not to lose our footing and just let the suffering have its way with us. But we are also not to think we can somehow avoid it or be completely impervious to it either. We are to meet and move through suffering without shock and surprise, without denial of our sorrow and weakness, without resentment or paralyzing fear, yet also without acquiescence or capitulation, without surrender or despair.” (Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, by Tim Keller)

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.”

“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” 

“I am going to prepare a place for you…I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

(Isaiah 43:1-2, Hebrews 13:5, John 14:2-3)

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no pit so deep

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“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”

(Betsie ten Boom’s words, recorded for us by her sister, Corrie, in The Hiding Place. Betsie speaks of the evil seen and experienced in her WWII concentration camp, where 96,000 women were murdered in the gas chambers.)

Those are Betsie’s words. Here are your Lord’s:

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? … I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)

Follower of Jesus, remember always, no matter your trouble or danger or fear:

No pit is so deep that He is not deeper still.

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