Monday, October 31, 2005

The healing of Calvary love

Amy Carmichael, in a night of prayer for a person she loved, heard the whisper in her ear, “If…my daughter!” -- a gentle ‘if,’ followed by phrases of love-soaked wisdom. In such Spirit dialogue, God revealed her heart and her prayers in light of eternity. That night she took a pencil, and recorded these lessons of spirit. In her preface words, “There are times when something comes into our lives which is charged with love in such a way that it seems to open up the Eternal to us for a moment, or at least some of the Eternal Things: and the greatest of these is love…” And the greatest of these is love, indeed…and love shows us eternity, our true home, and true state of heart. Alleluia! I’ve been deeply convicted by Amy’s words, and her beautiful, discomfiting, yet healing analysis of true love: Calvary love. My prayer is to be granted Calvary love, for those I love. May these words bless you, too…

What do I know of Calvary love?

by Amy Carmichael

if…I have not compassion on my
Fellow servant
Even as my Lord had pity on me,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I belittle those I am called to
Talk of their weak points
In contrast perhaps with what I
Think of as my strong points.
If I adopt a superior attitude,
Forgetting “who made thee to
Differ? And what hast thou that
Thou hast not received?”
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I can easily discuss the shortcomings
And sins of any;
If I can speak in a casual way even
Of a child’s misdoings,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I find myself carelessly taking
Lapses for granted,
“Oh, that’s what they always do,”
“Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that,”
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I can enjoy a joke at the expense of
If I can in any way slight another in conversation,
Or even in thought,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I can write an unkind letter,
Speak an unkind word,
Think an unkind thought without
Grief and shame,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I do not feel far more for the grieved
Savior than for my worried self
When troublesome things occur,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I know little of His pitifulness
(the Lord turned and looked upon
If I know little of His courage of
Hopefulness for the truly humble
And penitent
(He saith unto him, ‘Feed My
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I deal with wrong for any other
Reason than implied in the words,
“From His right hand went a fiery
Law for them. Yea, He loved
The people:”
If I can rebuke without a pang,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…in dealing with the one who does not
I weary of the strain, and slip
From under the burden
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I am perturbed by the reproach and
Misunderstanding that may
Follow action for the good
Of souls for whom I must give
If I cannot commit the matter and go
On in peace and silence,
Remembering Gethsemane and the
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I cannot catch “the sound of noise
Of rain” long before the rain falls,
And, going to some hilltop of the spirit,
As near to my God as I can,
Have not faith to wait there with
My face between my knees,
Though six times or sixty times I
Am told, “there is nothing,”
Till at last “there arise a little
Cloud out of the sea,”
Then I know nothing of Calvary love!

if…my attitude be one of fear, not faith
About one who has disappointed
If I say, “Just what I expected,” if a
Fall occurs,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I do not look with eyes of hope on
All in whom there is even a faint
As our Lord did, when,
Just after His disciples had
Wrangled about which one of them
Should be accounted the greatest,
He softened His rebuke with those
Heart-melting words, “Ye are
They which have continued with
Me in My temptations,”
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I cast up a confessed, repented, and
Forsaken sin against another,
And allow my remembrance of that
Sin to color my thinking and
Feed my suspicions,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I have not the patience of my
Savior with souls who grow
If I know little of travail (a sharp
And painful thing) till Christ be
Fully formed in them,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I sympathize weakly with weakness,
And say to the one who is turning back
From the cross, “Pity thyself;”
If I refuse such a one the sympathy
That braces
And the brave and heartening word
Of comradeship,
then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I cannot keep silence over a
Disappointing soul
(unless for the sake of that soul’s
Good or for the good of others it
Be necessary to speak),
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I can hurt another by speaking
Faithfully without much
Preparation of spirit,
And without hurting myself far
More than I hurt that other,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I
Lose affection,
Or lest the one concerned should
Say, “You do not understand,”
Or because I fear to lose my
Reputation for kindness;
If I put my own good name before
The other’s highest good,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I am content to heal a hurt slightly,
Saying “Peace, peace,” where there is
No peace;
If I forget the poignant word “Let
Love be without dissimulation”
And blunt the edge of truth,
Speaking not right things but
Smooth things,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I fear to hold another to the highest
Goal because it is so much easier
To avoid doing so,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I hold on to choices of any kind,
Just because they are my choice;
If I give any room to my private likes
And dislikes,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I put my own happiness before the
Well-being of the work entrusted
To me;
If, though I have this ministry and
Have received much mercy, I
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I am soft to myself and slide
Comfortably into the vice of
Self-pity and self-sympathy;
If I do not by the grace of God
Practice fortitude,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I dominate myself,
If my thoughts revolve around
If I am so occupied with myself I
Rarely have “a heart at leisure
From itself,”
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…the moment I am conscious of the
Shadow of self crossing
My threshold,
I do not shut the door,
And in the power of Him who
Works in us to will and to do,
Keep that door shut,
Then I know nothing of Calvary love.

if…I cannot in honest happiness take the
Second place
(or the twentieth);
If I cannot take the first without
Making a fuss about my
Then I know nothing of Calvary love!

Prayer for love:

Love through me, Love of God...
Powers of the love of God,
Depths of the heart Divine,
O Love that faileth not, break forth,
And flood this world of Thine!


For this hurting word, dear Abba, heal me to Calvary love.
For the healing of your little ones, in the name of Your Son,



Amy Carmichael, “If,” (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2004), part one: 13-31.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kierkegaard: Thoughts of love

The reality of love

The more superior
one person is to another whom he loves, the more he will feel tempted, humanly speaking, to draw the other up to himself. Divinely speaking, however, the more he will feel moved to come down to him. This is the logic of love. Strange that people have not seen this in Christianity.

By this we can see that love has overcome the world – that it repays evil with good.

It is still the greatest, the roomiest part of the world, although spatially the smallest, this kingdom of love in which we can all be landholders without the need of one person’s property crowding another’s. Yes, rather it extends another’s holdings. On the other hand, in the kingdom of anger and hate – how small it is in its egotistic isolation and how great the space it demands – the whole world is not spacious enough; this kingdom has no room for others.

You talk about wanting to find comfort in Christ. All right, then try this: at the very moment you yourself are suffering most of all, simply think about comforting others, for this is what he did. The task is not to seek consolation – but to be consolation.

People despair about being lonely and therefore get married. But is this love? I should say it is self-love.

“He who sees his brother in need, yet shuts his heart” – yes, at the same time he shuts God out. Love to God and love to neighbor are like two doors that open simultaneously. It is impossible to open the one without opening the other, and impossible to shut the one without also shutting the other.

The distinguishing characteristic of Christian love is that it contains this apparent contradiction – that to love is duty. And yet it is only this kind of love that discovers the neighbor.

The love that has undergone the transformation of the eternal by becoming duty has won continuity; it is sterling silver.

To be busy, to be divided and scattered, to occupy yourself is far from love. Christian love is whole and collected in its every expression, and yet it is sheer action. Consequently it is just as far from inaction as it is from busyness. It never becomes engrossed in anything beforehand and never gives a promise in place of action. It never draws satisfaction from imagining that it has finished, nor does it ever loiter delighting in itself. It is no secret, private mysterious feeling…nor a soul-mood which fondly knows no laws, wants to know none, or wants to have its own law and hearkens only to singing. It is pure action and its every deed is holy, for it is the fulfilling of the law.

Justice avenges itself – love is avenged.

When a fisherman has caught a fish in his net and wishes to keep it alive, what must he do? He must immediately put it in water; otherwise it becomes exhausted and dies after a time. And why must he put it in water? Because water is the fish’s element, and everything that is kept alive must be kept in its element. And what about love? Love’s element is infinitude, inexhaustibility, immeasurability. If you wish to keep your love, you must take care that it remains in its element. Otherwise, it droops and dies – not after a time, but at once, which itself is a sign of its perfection, that it can live only in its element – the infinite.

When sin in a person is encompassed by love, sin is out of its element. It is like a besieged city with all communications cut off. True, sin may use love as an occasion (for what can’t a corrupt person use for corruption!). The sinner can become embittered by love, and rage against it. Yet, in the long run sin cannot hold out against love.

What can take love out of its element? As soon as love concentrates upon itself, as soon as it is an object for itself. Imagine an arrow flying. Imagine that for a second it got a notion of wanting to concentrate on itself, perhaps to see how far it had come, or how high over the earth it skimmed, or how its course was related to that of another arrow. In that very moment the arrow would fall to the earth.

Love is a revolution, the most profound of all but the most blessed! With love, too, there comes confusion. But in this life-giving confusion there is no distinction between mine and yours. Remarkable! There are a you and an I and yet no mine and yours! For without you and I there is no love, and with mine and yours there is no love. This is why love is the fundamental revolution. The deeper the revolution, the more the distinction between mine and yours disappears, and the more perfect is the love. Love’s perfection consists essentially in the depth of the revolution.

Love is perhaps best described as an infinite debt: when a person is gripped by love, he feels like he is in infinite debt. Usually one says that the person who receives love comes into debt by being loved. Similarly we say that children are in love’s debt to their parents, because their parents have loved them first and the children’s love is only a part-payment on the debt or a repayment. This is true, to be sure. Nevertheless, such talk is all too reminiscent of a bookkeeping relationship – a bill is submitted and it must be paid; love is shown to us, and it must be repaid with love.

We should not, then, speak about one’s coming into debt by receiving love. No, it is the one who loves who is in debt. Because he is aware of being gripped by love, he perceives this as being in infinite debt. Remarkable! To be sure, by giving money one does not come into debt; it is rather the recipient who becomes indebted. But when love gives, the one who loves comes into infinite debt. What a beautiful, holy modesty love takes along as a companion!

Consider creation for a moment. With what infinite love God surrounds the great variety which has life and being! Remember the beauty of the fields! There is no, not any, discrimination in love – yet what a variety among the flowers! Even the slightest, most insignificant, the most plain-looking, the poor little flower overlooked even by its closest neighbors, the one you can hardly find without looking carefully, it is as if this, too, had said to love: let me be something with its own distinctive, individual characteristic, but far more beautiful than what the poor little flower had ever dared hope for. What love! First of all, love makes no distinction. Second, which is like the first, it makes infinite distinctions in loving the differences. Wondrous love!

Perfect love is to love the one who made you unhappy.

Unhappiness is not to love without being loved, but to be loved when one does not love.

Suppose that the victim, whom the merciful Samaritan took care of, died in his hands. Then suppose the Samaritan had to report it to the police, and the police had said: Of course we must keep you under arrest for the time being. What then? His contemporaries would have laughed at him for being so stupid as to let himself get into such a scrape. They would think he was crazy. Behold, these are the wages of mercy.

The true consoler is one who suffers and for whom it becomes a consolation to comfort another who is suffering.

Oh our Loving Father, help us remember that it is not where we breathe, but where we love, that we live!

If we were honest, many of us would want to upbraid Christ for putting a man like Judas in charge of the bag. Was it not “irresponsible” of him, seeing Judas had a tendency to pilfering? But we should rather say, “What faith and love on Christ’s part!” For the best means of saving such a man as Judas is to show unconditional confidence in him. If that does not help him, then what will?

What is it that makes a person unwavering, more unwavering than a rock; what is it that makes him soft, softer than wax? It is love.
What is it that cannot be taken but itself takes all? It is love.
What is it that cannot be given but itself gives all? It is love.
What is it that remains when everything falls away? It is love.
What is it that does not cease when the vision ends? It is love.
What is it that sheds light when the dark saying ends? It is love.
What is it that gives blessing to the abundance of the gift? It is love.
What is it that makes the widow’s gift an abundance? It is love.
What is it that turns the words of the simple person into wisdom? It is love.
What is it that is never changed even though everything is changed? It is love;
And that alone is love, that which never becomes something else.



Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore. Reprinted from Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A prayer for raped mothers and babies

Suad Abdalaziz, 28, who was raped and became pregnant
during a attack by the janjaweed in the village of Tawila,
holds her 3-day-old baby girl.

David P. Gilkey, Detroit Free Press

Sudan girls victimized
“If she doesn't marry she may become a prostitute…”

One of the most devastating aspects of the Darfur genocide is the fact that janjaweed gangsters and their Arab backers are using rape as a weapon of ethnic cleansing. The defenseless Sudan men are killed and their young women are raped, left to bear children – children forever branded, raised by stigmatized mothers.

It is a shame/honor culture in which rape devalues the girls’ worth. Not only must they now carry a forced child, but do so in a society that then devalues both child and mother. It is heartbreaking, on all levels.

Sudarsan Raghavan, a Detroit Free Press correspondent, gives an on-site account…from Abu Shouk, Sudan.

ABU SHOUK, Sudan - There were no smiles, no blessings at the birth of the light-skinned girl with the ebony eyes and curly black hair. Not a glimpse of joy. For a family still bleeding from war, the baby was like salt on their wounds.

"My father didn't speak for the entire day," recalled her mother, Suad Abdalaziz, 28, her voice cracking and her face streaming with tears. "He was not angry at me. He was angry at the janjaweed and the government for giving me this baby."

In the troubled province of Darfur, pro-government Arab militias called the janjaweed have raped countless black African women in a campaign that the Bush administration has called genocide.

Now, their babies are emerging across this tableau of human suffering. They are outcasts in a war-scarred society where rape is a source of shame and a father's identity defines the child.

Relatives shun them, seeing in their tiny faces the atrocities committed by their enemies. Mothers struggle to accept them, torn between loyalty to their tribe and their instincts to love and care. Many are resigned to a life of isolation, where marriage is unlikely and where their children will forever carry a stigma.

"These are the babies of the janjaweed," said Hassan Abdallah Bakhur, a tribal elder from the town of Tawilla, 40 miles south of here. “I don't know how we can solve this problem. They and their mothers face a bad future.”

Read Sudarsan's article here.

It is heartbreaking. Adding to the genocide, with hundreds of thousands dead, is this story of mothers and children, still living, yes...but feeling dead inside. It is a story of mass rape, ethnic cleansing, and its grossly destructive aftermath for babies and mothers. As people of faith, can we hold them in our prayers and in our hearts?

A prayer for these mothers and children

A prayer for janjaweed rape babies

O God, we confess that You are Sovereign over the affairs of humankind.
Even when we cannot see your hand, O Lord, we trust your heart, and confess You as Good.
Countless times, Almighty God, You witness to us that You are well able to bring good from evil.
Now, O God, dear Abba of the nations, please hear our prayers for these newborn babies, babies born not of the will of the mother, not of the will of the family, but by cruel acts forced upon defenseless women. O God! Can any good come of such evil?
And now, Lord, you see these dear children, born of no will of their own, into families that see them as lesser beings, reminders of pain. O God! Can any good come of such evil?
We confess You, our Lord, above all these human affairs, God who transcends the most evil acts and our deepest, layered pain.
Hear our hearts, O God, for these babies, and for their mothers.
Raise up among these babies O God, that Moses, born in hated times, who would set his people free!
Raise up among these babies O God, that Esther, who loved her calling more than life!
Raise up among these babies an all consuming love, Love that will perish the deeds of darkness, and that darkest night, a Light to lead the way, into freedom and truth!
O Abba! Good God, our Father in Heaven, hear our prayers! Receive these babies as Your dear children. Receive these single mothers as your dear daughters, Abba! Be to them the husband they may not have, the respect, counsel, wisdom and defense for which they long!
O, dear Father, provide for babies and mothers as only You can! 'Father to the fatherless, Husband to the widow,' that is who You claim to be: now provide, dear Abba --
Provide life and love for them through your Holy Spirit; in the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

One article from the Common Dreams Center says that the world has turned away, but the Darfur misery goes on. People of faith, is it said of us that we have turned away also?

Let us to our prayers and other actions of love...



Note: I wrote this prayer 11-26-04 and published it on the Parkview blog. I repost it here, by request.

Also see:

Emily Wax, “‘We Want to Make a Light Baby’: Arab Militiamen in Sudan Said to Use Rape as Weapon of Ethnic Cleansing,” Washington Post.

Refugees International, “Stop the Genocide in Sudan.”

Common Dreams Center, “The World Has Turned Away, but Darfur Misery Goes On.”

Where cross the crowded ways

Class, how many of you are orphans? Please raise your hand.

Where cross the crowded ways of life

Frank Mason North, 1903

Where cross the crowded ways of life,
Where sound the cries of race and clan,
Above the noise of selfish strife,
We hear Thy voice, O Son of Man.

In haunts of wretchedness and need,
On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed,
We catch the vision of thy tears.

From tender childhoods helplessness,
From woman's grief, and burdened toil,
From famished souls, from sorrow's stress,
Thy heart has never known recoil.

The cup of water given for Thee
Still holds the freshness of Thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see
The sweet compassion of Thy face.

O Master, from the mountain side,
Make haste to heal these hearts of pain;
Among these restless throngs abide,
O tread the city's streets again!

Till all the world shall learn Thy love,
And follow where Thy feet have trod;
Till glorious from thy heaven above,
Shall come the City of our God!

Consider the cost
Steve Camp

Consider the cost of building a tower
It's a narrow way that you must come
To do the will of the Father
Is to follow the Son
To love Him more than father or mother
To love Him more than your own flesh
To give all that you are, for all that He is
This is the gospel according to Jesus

Whom shall I send?

Isaiah's vision

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Ah, Lord God!

Come near, please make my hands and feet Yours...break my heart to reflect Your beautiful, healing heart...shape my life to share You, dear Savior.

In your name, I pray.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A sign for the heart

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising

A song for the heart

Pelennor Fields

I deem that she yet lives

Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, rode up and drew rein before them.

‘What burden do you bear, men of Rohan?’ he cried.

‘Theoden King,’ they answered. ‘He is dead. But Eomer King now rides in the battle: he is with the white crest in the wind.’

Then the prince went from his horse, and knelt by the bier in honor of the king…and he wept. And rising, he looked then on Eowyn and was amazed. ‘Surely, here is a woman?’ he said. ‘Have even the women of the Rohirrim come to war in our time of need?’

‘Nay! One only,’ they answered. ‘The Lady Eowyn is she, sister of Eomer; and we knew naught of her riding until this hour, and greatly we rue it.’

Then the prince, seeing her beauty, though her face was pale and cold, touched her hand as he bent to look more closely on her. ‘Men of Rohan!’ he cried. ‘Are there no leeches among you? She is hurt, to the death maybe, but I deem that she yet lives.’ And he held the bright-burnished vambrace that was upon his arm before her cold lips, and behold! a little mist was laid on it, hardly to be seen…

Out of dark to the day's rising

Stern now was Eomer’s mood, and his mind was clear again. He let blow the horns to rally all men to his banner that could come thither; for he thought to make a great shield-wall at the last, and stand, and fight there on foot until all fell, and do deeds of song on the fields of Pelennor, though no man be left in the West to remember the King of the Mark. So he rode to a green hillock and there set his banner, and the White Horse ran rippling in the wind.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

These staves he spoke, yet he laughed as he said them. For once more lust of battle was upon him; and he was still unscathed, and he was young, and he was king: the lord of a fell people. And lo! even as he laughed at despair he looked out again on the black ships, and he lifted up his sword to defy them.

And then wonder took him, and great joy; and he cast his sword up in the sunlight and sang as he caught it. And all eyes followed his gaze, and behold! upon the foremost ship a great standard broke, and the wind displayed it as she turned toward the Harlond. There flowered a White Tree, and that was for Gondor; but Seven Stars were about it, and a high crown above it, the signs of Elendil that no lord had borne for years beyond count. And the stars flamed in the sunlight, for they were wrought with gems by Arwen, daughter of Elrond; and the crown was bright in the morning, for it was wrought of mithril and gold. The king!

Out of the paths of the dead

Thus came Aragorn son of Arathorn, Elessar, Isilur’s heir, out of the Paths of the Dead, borne upon a wind from the Sea to the kingdom of Gondor; and the mirth of the Rohirrim was a torrent of laughter and a flashing of swords, and the joy and wonder of the City was a music of trumpets and the ringing of bells. But the hosts of Mordor were seized with bewilderment, and a great wizardry it seemed to them that their own ships should be filled with their foes; and a black dread fell upon them, knowing that the tides of fate had turned against them and their doom was at hand.

Let us avenge it, ere we speak of it

And so at length Eomer and Aragorn met in the midst of the battle, and they leaned on their swords and looked at one another and were glad.

‘Thus we meet again, though all the host of Mordor lay between us,’ said Aragorn. ‘Did I not say so at the Hornburg?’

‘So you spoke,’ said Eomer, ‘but hope oft deceives, and I knew not then that you were a man foresighted. Yet twice blessed is help unlooked for, and never was a meeting of friends more joyful.’ And they clasped hand in hand. ‘Nor indeed more timely,’ said Eomer. ‘You come none too soon, my friend. Much loss and sorrow has befallen us.’

‘Then let us avenge it, ere we speak of it!’ said Aragorn, and they rode back to battle together.

The Houses of Healing

She lies within and is not dead

Eomer said, ‘Where is the Lady Eowyn, my sister; for surely she should be lying beside the king, and in no less honor? Where have they bestowed her?

And Imrahil said, ‘But the Lady Eowyn was still living when they bore her hither. Did you not know?’

Then hope unlooked-for came so suddenly to Eomer’s heart, and with it the bite of fear and care renewed, that he said no more, but turned and went swiftly from the hall; and the Prince followed him. And when they came forth evening had fallen and many stars were in the sky. And there came Gandalf on foot and with him one cloaked in grey; and they met before the doors of the Houses of Healing. And they greeted Gandalf and said: ‘We seek the Steward, and men say that he is in this House. Has any hurt befallen him? And the Lady Eowyn, where is she?’

And Gandalf answered, ‘She lies within and is not dead, but is near death…’ And they were filled with fear and wonder at the tale that he told.

But Imrahil said, ‘So victory is shorn of gladness, and it is bitter bought…’ ‘Shall we not send now for the Lord Aragorn?’

And the cloaked man spoke and said, ‘He is come.’ And they saw that as he stepped into the light of the lantern by the door that it was Aragorn, wrapped in the grey cloak of the Lorien above his mail, and bearing no other token than the green stone of Galadriel…

Then Gandalf said, ‘Let us not stay at the door, for the time is urgent. Let us enter! For it is only in the coming of Aragorn that any hope remains for the sick that lie in the House. Thus spake Ioreth, wise-woman of Gondor: The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known.’

The hands of the king

Aragorn came to Eowyn and said: ‘Here is a grievous hurt and a heavy blow. The arm that was broken has been tended with due skill, and it will mend in time, if she has the strength to live; but the chief evil comes through the sword-arm. In that there now seems no life, although it is unbroken.

‘Alas! For she was pitted against a foe beyond the strength of her mind or body. And those who take a weapon to such enemy must be sterner than steel, if the very shock shall not destroy them. It was…doom that set her in his path. For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens…

Then Aragorn stooped and looked in her face, and it was indeed white as a lily, cold as frost, and hard as graven stone. But he bent and kissed her on the brow, and called her softly, saying:

‘Eowyn Eomund’s daughter, awake! For your enemy has passed away!’

She did not stir, but now she began again to breathe deeply, so that her breast rose and fell beneath the white linen of the sheet. Once more Aragorn bruised two leaves of athelas and cast them into steaming water; and he laved her brow with it, and her right arm lying cold and nerveless on the coverlet.

Then, whether Aragorn had indeed some forgotten power of the Westernesse, or whether it was but his words of the Lady Eowyn that wrought on them, as the sweet influence of the herb stole about the chamber it seemed to those who stood by that a keen wind blew through the window, and it bore no scent, but was an air wholly fresh and clean and young, as if it had not been before breathed by any living thing and came new-made from snowy mountains high beneath a dome of stars, or from shores of silver far away washed by seas of foam.

‘Awake, Eowyn, Lady of Rohan!’ said Aragorn again, and he took her right hand in his and felt it warm with life returning. ‘Awake! The shadow is gone and all darkness is washed clean!’

Your watch hath not been in vain

Sing now, ye people of the Tower of Anor,
for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,
and the Dark Tower is thrown down.

Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,
for your watch hath not been in vain,
and the Black Gate is broken,
and your King hath passed through,
and he is victorious.

Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,
for your King shall come again,
and he shall dwell among you
all the days of your life.

And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,
and he shall plant it in the high places,
and the City shall be blessed.

Sing all ye people!

Sing, all ye people!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Autumn sunrise

And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again

A mystical autumn walk

The mystical light of God

After an autumn forest walk, my mind is on the majesty of God.

I’ve drunk deeply of the mystical sunlight of God, and am still full from the draught. How wonderful is God, the creation He has made? How unworthy am I to enjoy it, and yet…and yet...was it not made for me, and I for it?
I sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad and built the lofty skies.
I sing the goodness that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command and all the stars obey!

Since childhood I’ve had a recurring dream, where I walk to the back portion of my yard, or property, and there discover a vast forest, opening from my home and bounded only by my imagination…yet somehow safe, and blessed and filled with the goodness of God.

And, I experienced something like that, on this walk. Holy mystery!

A spacious place, free from restriction

I walked a soft forest trail until it opened to a field, stands of red and white oaks, maples and cherries and scrubs giving way to waving prairie grass. And then I found an old, grown-over gravel road on the edge of the field, which led then to a vista of mingled fields and grass and trees, panorama which followed this road for miles…pure beauty and creation dancing in autumn sunlight.

I was alone with the animals and scenery, ‘walking with God in the cool of the day.’

I walked and worshipped, tracing the flight of dove and hawk, and myriads of songbirds and squirrels. Several deer danced in front of me, surprised to see me…one young doe ran a few yards away, turned around and looked at me as if to say, “And what are you doing in my kingdom?” It was, if I may be so bold as to say it…a very female look! And I just laughed, and bowed and walked around her area with care.

A friend, wild at heart

As I retraced my steps, measuring the miles back to my truck, I noticed an animal several hundred yards across a field…along the woodline. At first I thought it was a deer, and then as I grew closer, I realized it was a large dog. It was hunting in the edge of the wood and field, moving and stalking with ease. It noticed me, and a game of hide and seek began. It ducked into the woods, and then popped back out to see me…looking for all the world like an overgrown puppy, ears alert and eyes questioning…sort of cross between a German Shepherd and some other dog. I whistled, and it ducked back into the woods…only to re-emerge several yards closer. Each step brought us closer…and I whistled again. This time, s/he seemed tempted to run toward me. Perhaps half-wild and mistreated…I could have made a friend of it, if I would have had the time. We played this little game of respect, and finally I saluted it and continued my return, and it continued its hunt.

Two deer and a silent companion

I walked back along the road, with the sun dipping close to the trees, and hills spotted in shadow and sun. And there, in the sloping autumn sun, the magic of the walk continued: Two buck deer walked out ahead of me, gradually feeding out of the forest and unto the road…heading for the clover of the field. I slowed my steps, wind in my face, and walked up behind them – every drop of latent Native American blood in my veins now surging, on call! And there, God must have smiled looking down on us. The three of us walked along the same road for awhile: both of them casually following the road instead of crossing it directly, and me stalking silently behind them, wondering just how long before they scented me…a little, unlikely parade of God’s creatures! They both were beautiful animals, one a young six point and the other an older eight point. I moved in time with them…when they would step, so would I; if they swung their heads to the side, I would halt, and melt into the scenery. And so the parade-dance persisted…until they decided to leave the road for the field.

They finally walked into the field, turning sideways to the road. Now I knew the game was up, as they would surely spot me – in my blue jeans and black t-shirt, and forest green hooded shirt slung across my back, but not on me. And sure enough, as they moved a few yards into the field, they saw me. Talk about surprise! They thought themselves all alone, and then wow! What was this behind them? Animals can register the funniest expressions, sometimes! I almost laughed out loud…but now the game was at a new level. I was on their turf, and did not want to frighten them. And yet, I had to walk their direction, past them, if I would make my truck before nightfall. So, I continued my slow pace, keeping my head down as if I had not seen them. I knew that if I made eye contact they would be gone…so walked slowly and steadily toward them on the road. Both of them were frozen: the young buck standing alert and tall, every muscle tense; the older buck crouching down in the tall grass, making himself ‘invisible.’ And so I walked…watching them with peripheral vision, taking care not to break my soft stride…

And it worked! I walked past them, only a few feet away…and they let me pass without taking one step away or jumping up in fright. What a dance! It was exhilarating, a brief touch of man and animal in the autumn mists…

I walked about 70 yards past them, and could no longer resist – I turned, and made full eye contact with the younger buck. He quivered as if he’d been shot! I laughed, silently and gladly. He remained still and we measured one another in respect. He sensed that I meant him no harm, and calmed. I smiled then, laughing gladly and turned back to the road…feeling the ancient, lost call of Adam.

Worship under an oak tree

I walked into the sun, and then turned back into the forest edge, where the trail met the first field. There, I lay down under a majestic oak, and watched the sun paint the leaves in varied hues: what glory! Have you ever noticed the watercolor pastels that the autumn sun paints on autumn leaves, shining in muted, yet glorious display?

There, I looked up, beyond oak leaves, into the sky…a deepening blue, and gave thanks. For a moment, I was one…with God and His good order, receiving and casting myself to the dance as a child on the waves. The sunlight played upon me, as squirrels vied for the acorns…and a gentle dove rested in the heights. And I gave thanks.

For a moment, such a brief moment, I felt the order of Adam…to care and enjoy creation under God, and so serve God in the act, fully…a glory to God in the highest!
Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise!

Silver moon and silent song

With only the barest light to see, I made it back to my truck. And I started out…only to be stunned into silence by a harvest moon, rising full, just above the trees, painting the scene with silver brush of evening hues…

Ah, the beauty and majesty of God! Did ever Artist paint with more majestic brush? Does He not know what He is about? Is He not painting our lives with the same care, and brilliance? “Jesus is the Master painter, and the Holy Spirit is the Master’s brush…to be dipped in the colors that portray the Father’s love…”
And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter's shop
And every house must have it's builder
And I awoke in the house of God
Where the windows are mornings and evenings
Stretched from the sun
Across the sky north to south
And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

And the wrens have returned and they're nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again
And the streams are all swollen with winter
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now
And I'm amazed when I remember
Who it was that built this house
And with the rocks I cry out!

Be praised, Abba! Son! Spirit!



Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Moses and the Lobster

Moses and the Lobster

Discomfort, growth and joy

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski highlights a spiritual principle from the life of Moses…with a lobster! Commenting on Deuteronomy 31:2, Twerski references the Rebbe of Gur, who said that Moses lived for only one reason: to fulfill his mitzvos [religious duties] and grow spiritually.
Moses pleaded to be allowed to enter the Holy Land so that he could do these mitzvos. When his pleas were turned down and he saw that there was no way he could further grow spiritually anymore, he accepted death. For Moses, a life that was without spiritual growth was not worth living.

Moses believed in spiritual growth, and in relation with joy. Moses taught that simchah [joy] was an ‘essential component of the Divine service.’ In Deuteronomy 28:47, he warned the Israelites of ‘dire consequences that would befall the person, “Because you did not serve G-d with joy.”

Twerski notes that the Hebrew word same'ach [happy] is related to and perhaps derived from the same source as tzome'ach [growth]. He concludes: “True happiness can come only from growth, especially spiritual growth. A life devoid of spiritual growth is devoid of simchah.” And here Twerski illustrates inner life with a lobster.
There is an important message in the relationship of Some’ach to tzome’ach. Elsewhere I have cited the Talmud that we should learn some things from observation of nature (Eruvin 100b). We might learn from nature by observing how lobsters grow.

Lobsters are confined within a rigid shell. As the lobster grows, the shell becomes too confining and oppressive. It then sheds its shell and grows a more spacious one. As the lobster continues to grow, each new shell eventually becomes oppressive, leading to the formation of a larger one. The stimulus that enables the lobster to grow is the discomfort it feels when its shell becomes oppressive. If the lobster would not feel discomfort, it would remain forever tiny.

Growth is often accompanied by discomfort. “For with much wisdom comes much suffering” (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Yet, tzome'ach is related to same'ach. Hence, there can be simchah even when one experiences discomfort. This is why we find that our great tzaddikim (the truly righteous) welcomed suffering. The spiritual growth that was stimulated by the discomfort more than compensated for the suffering.

This lesson of spiritual growth related to discomfort [path to mystical joy] is all the more important because it is often lost on our generation. Our world relates happiness with comfort, and so flees from real joy…the simchah contained in spiritual growth.
We live in an era where scientific advances have given us unprecedented comfort in living. Western civilization has become essentially hedonistic. Whereas it is perfectly normal to seek relief from pain, we are at risk of rejecting all types of discomfort, including those that are the stimuli for spiritual growth. If we eschew spiritual growth because of the discomfort that may accompany it, we may also be lessening the amount of true simchah that we can achieve.

Rabbi Twerski closes the lesson with this moral:
On the day of his death, Vayeilech Moshe, Moses progressed. Moses had one last opportunity for growth, to fulfill the mitzvah of giving reproof and blessing.

Moshe Rabbeinu, Moses our teacher. He taught us and continues to teach us that growing…is the source of true simchah.

It is ours to receive this reproof of Moses, and in the reproof find mysterious blessing!

Moses’ lobster as judge of Christendom

This lesson of Moses and the lobster stands in stark reproval of modern Christianity. Frankly, many Christians [and churches] have reduced faith to what is reasonable, and reduced calling to what comes easy, through ‘open doors.’

I say this in confession: I speak from the inside, as a product of my time, as one who subconsciously bought into this easy formula of Christendom…on several levels. It is only through a painful, long prayer journey that I have come to see the lie in this comfortable package. We’ve reduced divine calling to platitudes of communal and family expectation…and called it ‘wisdom.’ We’ve reduced the terrible, vital joy – true awefulness of God – into fun, and codified it into such doctrine that comfort is our new creed. We’ve taken Aslan – who is not a tame Lion – and de-clawed Him to fit our hedonistic Christianity. In this theme, Kierkegaard asks a searching question: “Will God put up with this?”
In talking with a pupil, a teacher sometimes expresses himself in lower terms while meaning something higher, but he does so in such a way that the pupil understands it. He says, for example, “Tomorrow will be a fun day” and means by this that it will be a rigorous day with much to do, which in a certain higher sense can also be fun. But suppose that a pupil takes the liberty of pretending he did not understand and loafs all day long. When the teacher rebukes him he answers, “Didn’t you say that tomorrow should be a fun day?” Would the teacher put up with this?

So it is with Christianity. In His majestic language God has proclaimed a great joy to us – a great joy. Yes, God cannot speak in any other way about the high goal He has for us.

And what is Christendom? Christendom is a tricky boy who pretends he does not understand what God meant but thinks that since it is a great joy the task must be to enjoy life thoroughly. Does God put up with this?

According to Kierkegaard, the Christianity that uses [utilizes] eternity to give flavor to this life, without consistently ordering this life in eternity, has already sold out to the world.
The world does not want to eliminate Christianity, it is not that straightforward, nor does it have that much character. No, it wants it proclaimed falsely, using eternity to give a flavor to the enjoyment of life.

That is where we find ourselves in Christendom. We’ve created a system to guard ourselves against calling…and the divine joy it brings.

What purports to give greater satisfaction, namely, the reduction of Christianity to comfort, and reduction of God’s will to ease and ‘open doors,’ is actually the means by which the highest joy is postponed. How? Because it is the means by which growth is denied. It denies the Christian her highest rooms intended by grace, by telling her in very reasonable terms that God never intended that struggle for her…nor called her to it because it is hard! Thus Kierkegaard says, “Christianity is proclaimed in Christendom in such a way that obedience is taken away and reasoning put in its place.”

It is here that a holy lobster becomes a spiritual guide.

True joy comes in growth and growth in discomfort…the discomfort of divine calling.

And…the next time you sit down for lobster, let this lesson echo in your heart. And obey.

For here is your joy!



. Abraham J. Twerski, "Moses and the Lobster: True Happines Can Only Come through Growth," Jewish World Review.
Cf. Soren Kierkegaard, "Christendom and Counterfeit Christianity," Provocations: the Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, edited by Charles E. Moore.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Kierkegaard: Thoughts of repentance


The fire of repentance and of the accusing conscience is like that Grecian fire which could not be put out with water – so, too, this one can be extinguished only with tears.

Repentance means to lament the sins one has committed and not to commit any more the sins one has lamented.

There is a Savior, not merely so that we can resort to him when we have sinned, receiving forgiveness, but precisely for the purpose of saving us from sinning.

That a person wants to sit and brood and stare at his sin and is unwilling to have faith that it is forgiven is itself a further guilt. It simply ignores what Christ has done.

That Christ makes something big out of something small, as at the feeding of the five thousand, is usually referred to as a miracle. But Christ also works a miracle inversely – makes something big (everything that wants to be something) into something little. He makes it infinitely nothing in humility.

God creates everything out of nothing – and all God is to use He first turns to nothing.

God in heaven, let me rightly feel my nothingness, not to despair over it, but all the more intensely to feel the greatness of your goodness.

God chooses and is closest to the despised, the castoffs of the race, the one single sorry abandoned wretch. He hates this business of the pyramid.

Our hearts often pay far greater toll to sin than do our words or deeds. They invite us to self-excusing. Thoughts invite us, more than words and deeds, to continue in sin; for thought can be concealed, while words and deeds cannot.

It is precisely our consciousness of sin that can lead us nearer to God. For there is hope of conquering the evil, if only, every time sin attacks us, it leads us nearer to God.

How shall God be able in heaven to dry up your tears when you have not yet wept?

To grumble about the world and its unhappiness is always easier than to beat one’s breast and groan over oneself.

The all-knowing One does not get to know something about the one who needs confession, rather the one who confesses gets to know something about himself.

Be not afraid of the penitential preacher, who perhaps has terror in his appearance and wrath in his voice, who chides and rebukes and thunders. No, in the inmost depths of every man’s heart there dwells his own preacher of repentance. When he has a chance to speak, he does not preach to others. He preaches before you alone. He does not preach in any church before an assembled multitude, he preaches in the secret chamber of the heart. He has nothing else whatever to attend to but to attend to you, and he takes good care to be heard when all around you is silence, when the stillness makes you lonely.

The remedy seems infinitely worse than the sickness. “But if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.”

Whoever is intent upon confession is as solitary as one who is dying.

Teach me, oh God, not to torture myself and not to make a martyr of myself in suffocating introspection, but to take deep and wholesome breaths of faith!

Oh infinite love, I do desire to be involved with you! If I make a mistake, oh, you who are love, strike me so that I get on the right path again.

Father in heaven, open the fountains of our eyes, let a torrent of tears like a flood obliterate all that which has not found favor in your eyes. But also give us a sign as of old, when you set the rainbow as a gateway of grace in the heavens, that you will no more wipe us out with a flood.

Father in heaven, let your face shine upon me, that I may walk in your ways and not stray more distantly from you, where your voice can no longer reach me. Oh, let your voice inspire faith and let me hear it, even if it overtakes me with its terrors upon my erring paths, where I live as one sick and tainted in spirit, apart and lonely, far from fellowship with you and with neighbor!
Lord Jesus Christ, you who came into the world to save the lost – you who left the ninety and nine sheep to seek that one which was lost – seek me, lost as I am upon my erring paths.
Good Shepherd, let me hear your voice, let me know it, let me follow it! Holy Spirit, come to me with groanings that cannot be uttered. Pray for me as Abraham did for Sodom, that if there be but one pure thought, one better feeling in me, the time of probation may be prolonged for the barren fig tree. And Holy Spirit, you who give birth to the dead and youth to the aged, renew me also; create in me a new heart.

I seek you alone, you the Omniscient. If I am guilty, enlighten my understanding that I may see my error and my depravity. I do not wish to escape suffering – that is not my prayer – but let me learn never to argue with you. I must conquer, even though the manner of it is infinitely different from what I can imagine.

So grant it, Lord Jesus Christ!



Soren Kierkegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, Compiled and Edited by Charles E. Moore. Reprinted from Copyright 2002 by The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc. Used with permission.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The heavenly warrior

The immortal Lamb

HYMN: 'Twas by Thy Blood, Immortal Lamb
Words: Isaac Watts, 1709
Tune: Breslau

'Twas by Thy blood, immortal Lamb,
Thine armies trod the tempter down;
'Twas by Thy word and powerful Name
They gained the battle and renown.

Rejoice, ye heavens! let every star
Shine with new glories round the sky;
Saints, while ye sing the heavenly war,
Raise your Deliverer's Name on high!

The day of vengence and redemption

Isaiah 63:1-4

Who is this coming from Edom,
from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson?
Who is this, robed in splendor,
striding forward in the greatness of his strength?
It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.

Why are your garments red,
like those of one treading the winepress?
I have trodden the winepress alone;
from the nations no one was with me.

I trampled them in my anger
and trod them down in my wrath;
their blood spattered my garments,
and I stained all my clothing."

For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and the year of my redemption has come!

Gird your sword, mighty warrior
Psalm 45:3-6

Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one;
Clothe yourself with splendor and majesty.
In your majesty ride forth victoriously
In behalf of truth, humility and righteousness;
Let your right hand display awesome deeds.
Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king's enemies;
Let the nations fall beneath your feet.

Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
A scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom!


Sunday, October 09, 2005

The miracle of the lost lens

A story of mystery and grace

Would you like to hear a story tinged with mystery -- mystery of hope and faith?

The story begins with a February trip of my brother, Gerald. He traveled to Chicago from PA, for his birthday, to hang out and golf a bit. Yes, golf! :-) Hardy Mershimer souls see nothing wrong with golfing [or hunting, sometimes not much difference in the two, lol] in inclement weather. Nothing like a little chilling wind to sharpen the golf game and strengthen the character!

So, we planned it rather well. I met him on his way into town, at one of my favorite courses south of Chicago -- a great course, conveniently open for winter golf. The day actually wasn’t that bad and we had the course to ourselves, to laugh and talk smack: brotherly fellowship under an open sky, bracing canopy of nature.

Snow at the turn

Everything went rather normal until the turn. Weather blew in off the lake, and out of nowhere the skies started spitting snow. I looked at him, and said, “You think we should keep going for the back nine?” He scoffed in his best Marine bluster, “Sure, what’s a little bit of snow?” “I can handle it if you can!” I laughed and said, “Ok!” So we made the turn.

Holes 10 and 11 weren’t bad, but by number 12 it was a comedy of golf. The snow increased, and now blanketed the ground. Ever try finding your white golf ball in snow? lol, all I’ll say is don’t use your Titleist Pro V1’s in these conditions! It was truly funny… we left a few balls for the course, needless to say.

But we didn’t fret. It was a magical time, snow coming down and the world shut out, just us. We just went with the flow, laughing and having a good time. We'd clear enough snow to putt out on the greens… which were not ‘green’ anymore. And, as the ball would roll toward the hole, it would become a snowball, like a great rolled snowball from childhood, rolled sideways. The longer the putt the bigger the "snowball." Quite comical!

We frolicked in the snow until the 16th hole, where we teed off on a par 3. Now we were dealing with the thickening snow and early approaching darkness of a winter evening. I hit my shot somewhere to the left of the green; he hit his somewhere to the right, and we started out to find them, if we could.

The snowy plot thickens

I searched for awhile, and sure enough, found my ball. I readied to play it up on the whited-out 'green,' and looked out through the falling snow, to see Gerald stumbling around on the other side of the fairway, looking lost. “Can’t you find your ball?” I asked. “No,” he said. “But I’m worried about my lens.” “My right lens popped out of my glasses.” ‘What?” I said. “Do you know where?” “No,” he replied. “But I think somewhere over here…”

Come to find out, as he was walking, bent over, looking intently in the snow for his ball, falling snow pelting and melting on his face and hair and glasses, suddenly one lens was gone -- into the snow. And he didn’t even know the approximate place.

And, to make matters even worse, he had been walking around in circles so much, trying to find the ball, and now the lens, that his tracks went everywhere. If there had been a one percent chance of finding by backtracking slowly, now that chance was gone.

The impossible call

But he called out to me, “Come and help me find it.” “We just have to find it!”

I was shocked. “Gerald!” “Are you thinking clearly?” “That’s impossible!” “You don’t know where you dropped it, your tracks are everywhere.” “It could be anywhere, and even if you knew where, you still couldn’t find it, since it’s been snowing on top of it now for minutes!”

I reasoned with him, “Let’s just finish up the next two holes and then we can find a lens place somewhere, and get a new pair of glasses or new lens.” But he said, “No, you don’t understand!” He said something about lacking lens insurance and funds. “We just have to find this!” There was pleading in his voice, and I knew we weren’t moving on until I at least made some kind of effort.

So, kind of irritated about being forced on a fool’s errand, I walked over to his side of the fairway, taking great care to walk only in his footprints.

But it was impossible. His footprints seemed to go everywhere, and every minute gone by just added to the falling snow. “Gerald, this is impossible!” I said. “I know,” he said. “We have to pray.” “Come over here and let’s pray,” he said, calling me up near the green where he was looking.

“NO!” I replied. “I’m not coming over there to pray.” Honestly, I was a little bit aggravated at him for insisting we look for it. And now he was insisting that we pray, not apart, but together -- wasting even more time, in my mind. So I got stubborn. “I’m not coming over there to pray.” “You can pray, and I’ll look.”

So, he dropped to his knees, right there on the green.

True guidance and false

And I turned to face the wind and snow, looking out over the vast whiteness, and sorting through my emotions. I knew it would take a miracle to find this, and so I began just letting go and seeking guidance. “Lord, please guide me to this lens.” “There’s no way to find this in all this snow.” “Please tell me where to walk, and where to look.”

The thought ran through my mind that Gerald was half-blind, missing one lens and the other lens pelted with snow. So, it was on me to find it. And I felt that, and just breathed… a prayer, deeply. “Show me, Lord, please, in your will.”

Immediately a thought rushed in, strongly: “Not here… walk over to the left, and down the hill.” I started to move, but stopped. Where did that thought come from? I closed my eyes this time, and prayed, “Lord, I hear a lot of clamor in my own mind. Please lead me by your mind.” It was only seconds, but it seemed forever.

I stood still, not moving at all. No steps to the left or right, just listening in spirit. Calmness came over me, and I opened my eyes. That other clamor was gone.

The return of the lens

“Lord, this is a fool’s errand, but please watch over your fools,” I thought. I knelt down, right where I was… put my hand in the snow, and closed my fingers.

I felt something, and looked down… the most stunned person in seven states.

There, in my hand, lay the lens.

I had seen nothing with my conscious eyes, and only reached once into the snow, on a whim. And yet my fingers closed exactly on the lens. I stood, silently, holding a mystery.

Somewhat in a daze, I walked up to the green. Gerald was still on his knees, asking God’s intervention. “Is this your lens?” I asked, holding out my hand. He stared at me as if he were seeing a ghost. “You’re kidding, right?” “Are you joking?” he said.

I shook my head, and handed him the lens.

He was speechless. He stammered, stuttered, “W..wwh..what, how did you find this?” “I really don’t know,” I said. “I just put my hand in the snow and there it was.”

“Do you realize what this means?” he said. “Loy, you don’t know the prayers I was praying before I got here, and what this means to me!” “You have no idea,” he said. “This is a powerful sign to me, and an answer to prayer.”

“God is good,” I said, still in awe myself.

The treasures of the snow

We finished out the round, with a strong sense of grace all around us. I treasured up several thoughts, silently… considering the mystery of it all. What if I had listened to that first ‘guidance,’ that clamorous voice? And what were the chances of this happening by ‘chance?’

It was miraculous, if not a miracle.

Now, I know it was not a miracle in the classic sense, but a miracle of grace, an answer to prayer. And as far as the chances of that happening – reaching down once into that expanse of snow, several hundred square yards of fairway and rough, and coming away with the lens – a million to one, or greater.

But in God’s economy, the hopeless chance is the choice of grace.

A light from the shadows

What is lost to us is found to God. A good theme of grace ran through my soul, and a verse from the Return of the King echoed in my spirit…
From ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

God is good at finding lost things. What is lost to us is merely moved out of time for Him, out of the stream of common events, stored up for the sacred day: found again in good time. “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son…” "I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by name."

Those of you who read these words: a word to you. Is there a lost ring, a lost lens in your life?

Maybe you feel as if you’ve lost your innocence, your joy, your trust -- your belief that God has a good plan for your life. Maybe you’ve lost your ability to dream, to live and dance in that vision of higher things… pulled down by life and stuff and earthly ‘wisdom.’

Maybe you've lost hope in the 'spacious place, free from restriction' -- that abundant life trusted in younger years...

Trust the blade to be re-forged, the love awoken, the ring renewed, the crown restored.

Here is a story from human time, to renew you in divine timing…

God bless these words to you!


Friday, October 07, 2005

Autumn river

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The angel of the Lord

All will be well

I’ve been thinking recently of the goodness of God, His providence and incredible care. Even amid storms and disasters around the world, and challenging prayers in my world, I still must confess His utter goodness…His loving sovereignty and holy grace.

Several words have touched me in the last few days: a song, a verse, a poem and prose. I’ll share them here in reverse order:


The prose is by Eberhard Arnold, in a meditation entitled, “Surrender.
Difficulties should not depress or divert us. The cause that has gripped us is so great that the small weaknesses of individuals cannot destroy it. Therefore I ask you only one thing: do not be so worried about yourself. Free yourself from all your plans and aims. They occupy you far too much. Surrender yourself to the sun, the rain, and the wind, as do the flowers and the birds. Surrender yourself to God. Wish for nothing but one thing: that His will be done, that His kingdom come, and that His nature be revealed. Then all will be well.

“That His nature be revealed…” -- here is the key to the kingdom!

The comfortable word

The poem is by Amy Carmichael, from her little book, Toward Jerusalem.
Lover of souls, Thee have I heard,
Thee will I sing, for sing I must;
Thy good and comfortable word
Hath raised my spirit from the dust.

In dusty ways my feet had strayed,
And foolish fears laid hold on me,
Until what time I was afraid,
I suddenly remembered Thee.

Remembering Thee, I straight forgot
What otherwise had troubled me;
It was as if it all were not;
I only was aware of Thee.

Of thee, of Thee alone, aware,
I rested me, I held me still;
The blessed thought of Thee, most Fair,
Dispelled the brooding sense of ill.

The quietness around me fell,
And Thou didst speak, my spirit heard.
I worshiped and rejoiced, for well
I knew Thy comfortable word.

Whoso hath known that comforting,
The inward touch that maketh whole,
How can he ever choose but sing
To Thee, O Lover of his soul?

The angel of His presence

The verse is from Isaiah 63:7ff.
I will sing of the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He hath bestowed on them according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.

For He said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so He was their Saviour.

In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old!

The angel of the Lord is around me

The song is called “Angel of the Lord,” by Hillsong. It is a powerful musical interpretation of Psalm 23, 91 and 118, with overtures to the Magnificat, Ephesians 6 and 2 Timothy 1:7.
The Lord’s my Shepherd, I have everything I need.
Mercy and love follow me.
Though I walk through the dark valley of death, I will
Not be afraid for He’s here.

The Lord’s my refuge, no evil can come near me,
Dwelling in His secret place.
I put my trust in Him, He is my shield, I will
Let His peace rule in my heart.

Surely, the Angel of the Lord is around me.
I have no cause to fear, my God will not forsake me.
I am my Father's child, no enemy can touch me.
I will not die but live, to tell what He has done.

He has ransomed me, He gave me all authority,
Power, love and a sound mind.
Strong in the Lord and the power of His might, I will
Put on His armor and stand.

Surely, the Angel of the Lord is around me.
I have no cause to fear, my God will not forsake me.
I am my Father's child, no enemy can touch me.
I will not die but live, to tell what He has done.

Peace to you! Do not fear -- all will be well.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Autumn dawn

Autumn gold

Life’s autumn
by Amy Carmichael

Great Giver of my lovely green in spring
A dancing, singing green upon my tree
The green has passed: I have no song to sing;
What will my autumn be?

Must it be, though alive, as all but dead?
A heavy-footed and a silent thing?
Effectless, sapless, tedious, limited --
A withered vanishing?

Thus I; but He to me: “Have I not shown
In autumn woodland and on mountain fell
The splendor of My purpose for Mine own?
Fear not, for all is well.

“And thou shalt see, My child, what I will do --
For as thy lingering autumn days unfold…
The lovely singing green of hitherto,
Will come to thee in gold.”


When my leaves fall, wilt Thou encompass them?
The gold of autumn flown, the bare branch brown,
The brittle twig and temp,
The tired leaves drooping down –
Wilt Thou encompass that which men call dead?
I see the rain, the coldly smothering snow…
My leaves dispirited,
Lie very low.

So the heart questioned, white winter near;
Till, jocund as the glorious voice of spring,
Cometh His: “Do not fear,
But sing, rejoice and sing…
For sheltered by the cover of snow
Are secrets of delight, and there shall be
Uprising that shall show
All that through winter I prepared for thee!”

“And in the night His song shall be with me, even a prayer unto the God of my life.”

If it were not so

I thought I heard my Savior say to me:
“My love will never weary, child, of thee.”
Then, in me, whispering doubtfully and low:
How can that be?
He answered me,
“But if it were not so,
I would have told thee.”

I thought I heard my Savior say to me:
“My strength encamps on weakness – so on thee.”
And when a wind of fear did through me blow –
How can that be?
He answered me,
“But if it were not so,
I would have told thee.”

O most fine Gold
That naught in me can dim,
Eternal Love
That hath her home in Him
Whom, seeing not, I love,
I worship Thee!

Silent desire

As the misty bluebell wood,
Very still and shadowy,
Does not seek, far less compel
Several word from several bell,
But lifts up her quiet blue –
So all my desire is before Thee.

For the prayer of human hearts
In the shadow of the Tree,
Various as the various flowers,
Blown by wind and wet by showers,
Rests at last in silent love –
Lord, all my desire is before Thee.




cf. Amy Carmichael, Toward Jerusalem (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 2003), 64-70.