Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Happy Birthday Dearest...

To the woman who ceaselessly traces every beautiful thing back to it's Sovereign Giver, 
the woman who showed me the peace and gracefulness of a life of order, 
the woman who quietly taught me the beauty of biblical femininity,
to my unspeakably dear Lindsey, Happy Birthday!!

You've stood by me through my darkest hours with both grace and truth,
and shown me how a firm belief in the goodness of God truly evidences itself in a life of practical, expectant hope. You've lived this out, not as a fluffy idealistic dreamer but as a stalwart pilgrim, confident in the sturdiness of the eternal realities you seek to image here in daily life.  You've shown me the fruits of a faithful drenching of the soul in truth and the value of surrounding yourself with God given beauty.  

By your example of willing availability (even when inconvenient), you've quietly changed my view on what biblical community can look like. Christ always, ever at the center, the church merely his willing vessels, prepared to quickly open heart and home to facilitate whatever way he is working among us. You've embodied that with stunning consistency. 

Thank you for being my best friend (even when it's hard) and my second sister. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for the hundreds of hours of life changing conversations. Thank you for feeding my library with books that continue to expand and delight my mind and imagination. Thank you for waking up my heart to the wonder of poetry. Thank you for every long walk and snowy afternoon at Grahams 318 and for hot summer walks to the pier in Jacksonville. Thank you for so confidently and gracefully being who God has called you to be in the midst of a world headed the other direction. You are an oasis for the soul, my dear. Here's to 6 years of friendship and many many more, by the grace of God!! 

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Of Vines and Oceans

This week was one of those good, hard weeks. Good - very good, and hard - very hard. Good because God mercifully showed me so much of my own pride and selfishness. Hard because seeing it meant admitting that I was full of faults and utterly incapable of earning any righteous credit on my own. Good because in the midst of this, God sovereignly had a Romans study literally in my lap every day, hammering in full Justification by Faith alone, through Christ alone. Hard because I was seeing so little of offering my body as a living sacrifice to my glorious Savior. Good because chapter 5 comes first: when we were still without strength, Christ died for the ungodly. Hard because I was seeing how often I choose death (sin) instead of life (righteousness in, through and for Christ). Good because I also saw how the Word of God results in worship and worship results in Faith and faith results in visible obedience...which facilitates more worship which results in faith which...

In other words, this week I once again stared down, far down, into the dark pit that is my heart. And there - despite the wretchedness and the despairing unbelief - there, even thereI found the Love of God. 

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, Vast, Unmeasured,  Boundless, Free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches, o'er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o'er them from the throne! 

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 'tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

(Samuel Trevor Francis, "O the Deep Deep Love of Jesus")

There, even there, I was held, guided and helped by the Spirit: 

Where can I go from your Spirit? 
Or where can I flee from Your presence? 
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn, 
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 
Even there Your hand will lead me, 
And your right hand will lay hold of me. 
If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, 
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You, 
And the night is as bright as the day. 
Darkness and light are alike to You. 

(Psalm 139: 7-12)

There, even there, (perhaps I should say by now, especially thereI found Christ himself.

The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer's art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam's curse, 
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

( T.S. Eliot, "East Coker")

Not only was God there. He - in faithfulness to his promise - drew me closer to himself. He drew me one step farther away from death and one step closer towards life. He led me "Further up and further in!"

All this week, John 15, Romans 14: 6-8 and a few chapters of a biography of Hudson Taylor we read as a family about 15 years ago kept jogging about in my brain. These lines from a book titled Christ is All, and quoted in Volume II of Taylor's biography, express it all so beautifully: 

"The Lord Jesus received is holiness begun; the Lord Jesus cherished is holiness advancing; the Lord Jesus counted upon as never absent would be holiness complete. This (grace of faith) is the chain which binds the soul to Christ, and makes the Saviour and the sinner one.... A channel is now formed by which Christ's fulness plenteously flows down. The barren branch become sa portion of the fruitful stem.... One life reigns through the whole." 

"Believer, you mourn your shortcomings; you find the hated monster, sin, still striving for the mastery. Evil is present when you would do good. Help is laid up for you in Christ. Seek clearer interest in Him....He is most holy who has most of Christ within, and joys most fully in the finished work. It is defective faith which clogs the feet and causes many a fall."

In reference to this passage, a dear friend of Hudson Taylor wrote the following lines in 1869:

"This last sentence I think I now fully endorse. To let my loving Saviour work in me His will, my sanctification is what I would live for by His grace. Abiding, not striving nor struggling; looking off unto Him; trusting Him for present power; trusting Him to subdue all inward corruption; resting in the love of an almighty Saviour, in the conscious joy of a complete salvation, a salvation 'from all sin' (this is His Word); willing that His will should truly be supreme - this is not new, and yet 'tis new to me. I feel as though the first dining of a glorious day had risen upon me. I hail it with trembling, yet with trust. I seem to have got to the edge only, but of a sea which is boundless; to have sipped only, but of that which fully satisfied. Christ literally all seems to me now the power, the only power for service; the only ground for unchanging joy. May he lead us into the realization of His unfathomable fulness." 

On August 21st he continues: 

"How then to have our faith increased? Only by thinking of all that Jesus is, and all He is for us: His life, His death, His work, he Himself as revealed to us in the Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts. Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need; a resting in the Loved One entirely, for time and for eternity." 


On Wednesday, I got to teach my first lesson since moving back. It was such a wonderful hour :) :) 

Friday I had the opportunity to work the full 8:00 - 5:30 day. Yes that's 8 am.  

Saturday mornings at home <3

"...and the cotton is high..."

Cooking the most quintessential summer dinner in America :) 

Goodwill finds helping to give books, letters and my afternoon tea things a ready place in my bedroom.

Saturday night FaceTime bible study.

One of the highlights of the week: getting to see Pastor Daniel again!!

In my happiest of happy places...