Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When I awake, Lord...I am still with you!

Oh Lord, 

                  You have searched me and known me! 
You know when I sit down 
                when I rise up
             You discern my thoughts from afar
   You search out my path and
                                my lying down
                 You are acquainted with all my ways

Even before a word is on my tongue
You know it altogether!
                 You hem me in behind and before
        You lay your hand upon me

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.
It is high!
I cannot attain it!

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Where shall I flee from your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven...
                                                              You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol...  
                                                               You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea...
Even there
Your hand shall lead me!
Your right hand shall hold me.

If I say: 
"Surely the darkness shall cover me and
      the light about me be night"
  Even the darkness is not dark to You. 
     the night is bright as the day
             the darkness is as light with You. 

For You formed my inward parts
                                   You knitted me together in my mother's womb. 
                      I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!
Wonderful are your works!
My soul knows it very well!

My frame was not hidden from You
When I was being made in secret,
                                                                           intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed substance
in your book were written every one of them: 
the days that were formed for me, 
when as yet there were none of them. 

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! 
How vast  is the sum of them! 
            If I would count them,
they are more than the sand. 
I awake...
And I am still with you. 

                                                                   Oh that You would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me
They speak against You
with malicious intent
                                               Your enemies 
                                                take Your name in vain 
Do I not hate those
                    who hate You? 
Do I not loathe those 
    who rise up against You?
I hate them with complete hatred.
I count them my enemies. 

              Search me, O God
          Know my heart.
   Try me and 
                  Know my thoughts!
                                              See if there be any grievous way in m
                                    Lead me in the way everlasting

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Perils of Dressing - Part II

Starlight and candlelight are by far my favorite types of illumination. I know: the most impractical would be my preference. But once again, I find myself sitting outside, surrounded by a semicircle of tea lights and picking out the first few stars of the evening overheard. The gentle flicker of the candles all around me seems perfectly complimented by the steady but far away gleam of those celestial bonfires. At least, they generally compliment each other well. Right at the moment, though, the candles don't seem to be taking too well to the breezes which are otherwise making tonight a perfect summer evening. Instead of providing a gentle ambiance, they flame up wildly, then seem to pout by retreating into a baby blue haze and then flame up again before suddenly disappearing into a wisp of residual smoke.  In other words, they require constant tending. As someone who loves playing with fire, this is not a particular trial. But the constant attention it requires and the never ending need for rekindling reminds me of how I feel about Paul's call in Ephesians to renew our minds. 

I believe it is, in fact, this unending nature of the struggle against sin, guided primarily by the fight to steer my mind back to the truth against the riptide of the flesh, that most often makes me feel weary of life. I often feel as though I’d rather be crushed by some sudden calamity and recover than battle the small grit in the wind of daily sanctification. And, if you will bear with the analogy, I grow equally tired of the constant bathing necessary to remove the collecting grime. But then I don’t enjoy literal showering much either. The event itself (or at least the results) are quite pleasurable, but only after the botheration of the interruption has been gotten over. I believe that this is also part of what I don’t like about renewing my mind with truth: I tend to view it as a necessary but somewhat dull engagement that interrupts more stimulating activities. This sounds horrid to say, in light of who Truth is. But it is accurate.

In the midst of this, however, another facet of what it means to renew the mind has begun to emerge with greater clarity in my mind. As I studied in Oxford this summer, the fullness of Christianity has repeatedly presented itself as something to be reckoned with. Whether I was studying 1 Corinthians in a Summit session or going for a long solitary walk in the hills or pondering my way through some work of C.S. Lewis in the grand upper reading room of the Radcliffe Camera, this idea of the richness of the Christian life could be counted on to surface. It flies in the face of this business about renewing the mind being dull. While the implications of these thoughts belong mostly in the next post (Part III), there is one element that I'm finding helpful here: 

Experience is as important to a renewed mind as contemplation. 

First of all, this statement assumes that careful, habitual and substantial study (contemplation) of the scriptures (and thereby the character of God) is already occurring. But I am afraid that such study has generally felt to be somewhat disconnected from the rest of life. I have worked and worked to haul truth out of my cozy little study into "real" life. So often, the flame seems to die at the door. But what if study is not meant to produce a flame but rather to provide fuel, great forests of available resources, to be lit by the innumerable sparks of experience present in everyday life? So many brilliant authors have written on this over the centuries that to rehash it must be a yawn to some of you. But allow me a few lines more to make one last distinction. 

I do not just mean that simple pleasures should direct our hearts to God in thankfulness. To reduce the power of Christianity to something that trite is becoming more and more shameful in my mind. To think that the most poignant stabs of wonder and longing and pleasure are not inextricable from the core of Christianity is to rob it on a grand scale. This is NOT to indicate that all things are lawful to us. Of course there are illicit pleasures which we must not think of engaging in. What I am challenging myself to learn, however, is that the work of renewing my mind is dull only as chopping wood for an evening's fireside romance would be dull. Is there not pleasure even in labor that anticipates the result? But that result will only occur if we realize that Christianity affects our whole life not just because we strive to make it so, but because we see that all of life finds its answer, its final end and its consummation in the Beautiful, Wondrous Holy One of Christianity. May we become skilled at presenting life with its eternal Fuel.