this is my father’s world

We are in a class called the Brooklyn Fellows and it meets on Mondays. Last winter, when we were applying to be a part of it, the whole “Mondays” thing was a big deal. It meant we could only host Pancake Mondays once/month. Cutting back on the “thing” that is making me love New York felt like a weird step forward, but we thought meeting with a group of folks who also voluntarily applied to something with a required reading list and syllabus was a good enough idea.

This past weekend, we gathered with this group around a long table and before we started our discussion on a very thick Church History book (that neither Patrick nor I finished) we sang this song.

This group of strangers and friends, this city, this body, this mountain, this sea, this grief, this joy, this song, this day, this sorrow, this job, this sunshine, and this. 

This. All of this.

I know the sound of His sweet song of praise – the melody of rocks and trees and skies and seas. I can recognize the joyful tune that creation sings and I have often sung along. These are words believers sing – strong words that proclaim a funny paradox. None of this is mine. There is not a particle I can claim, of the beauty I see. Even my own body is not my own because it was bought with a price.

Still, I rush all my particles up against the gravity pushing me down to say, “Not my this. Please let this alone so I can hold it close!” That is when I feel the funny paradox the most. None of this is mine, not even the thoughts I hoard like jewels. But all of this He shares with me. That’s a lot of this. And it just expanded more than the weight of the world in the last two and a half months.


That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet. 

This is my Father’s world,
why should my heart be sad? 

The lord is King—let the heavens ring.
God reigns—let the earth be glad. 

This is my Father’s world.
I walk a desert lone. 

In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze
God makes His glory known. 

This is my Father’s world,
a wanderer I may roam 

Whate’er my lot, it matters not, 
My heart is still at home. 

This is my Father’s world:
the battle is not done: 

Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and Heav’n be one.

When this includes deserts and wrongs and sadness and battles on battles, the last lines of “My Father’s World” become especially important. Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heav’n be one. The depth of this is infinitely deeper now because He includes us in His inheritance. Everything I can grasp and hold and hoard in this world pales to that union of earth and heaven becoming one.

But, what I am grappling with today is much more tangible, much more temporary and tactile. There is joy here, in all of this. God did not stop keeping promises when my world got full of grief. He did not stop being abundant life. God did not stop authoring laughter or dancing or sunshine or autumn breezes. He still authors all those things.

This world – all the beauty and all the ugly – is His and He will hear our groans until earth and Heav’n are one. Until then, I will sing, “God is the ruler yet.”


Find all our grief notes at this link and join with my family as we mourn in hope.

when the skies wear out

The sky was beautiful today, but it is not forever.

The pale blue will not always look so perfect; the clouds will not always stretch across it like orphaned feathers. There is nothing permanent about the beauty we see around us. Like the thick ribbons of snow from yesterday getting trampled into brown slush underfoot today, there is nothing permanent about the beauty on this earth. At least not now.

And I have a hunger for the beauty, for the kingdom come, for the eternal. I have a hunger for a beauty that will last forever. We are in the middle of the dead of winter and sometimes it feels like our stone hearts are as dead as the dirty brown earth the snow is covering. It feels like our hearts are too dead to be revived by beauty.

Here is a bouquet of sorts. This song sounds to me like a beautiful flower delivery today – beauty and life in the dead of winter’s grim. Open it and listen and sing and rejoice because Christ makes beauty possible and Christ makes beauty secure.

As I celebrate the presence and beauty of Christ in Epiphany, I am also looking ahead (as Christ’s followers must have). I am looking ahead because, as Christ forgave sins and healed sinners, He was looking ahead to the cross.

Being present does not mean forgetting future glory. Being present does not mean avoiding future pain. Being present does not mean poor planning.

As Christ planted His presence in the soil of this earth, He also looked ahead to the ultimate sacrifice and endured it “for the joy set before Him.” He looked forward to the day He would satisfy justice and restore His children.

Rock of Ages, you have brought me near
You have poured out your life-blood, your love, your tears
To make this stone heart come alive again
Rock of Ages, forgive my sin.

Christ is the beauty that is forever, when the skies wear out.
Christ is the beauty that makes stone hearts come alive again.
Christ is the beauty that is hope secure.

’tis so sweet

If my theme for 2014 is to trust Jesus in the flatlands, my prayer is for grace to trust Him more. 

One moment won in the flatlands rolls over into another moment in danger of being defeated. But we trust and we savor and we hope with eyes fixed above the moments, on the author and perfector of our faith who holds the world together – the King who upholds us with his righteous right hand. And so we can walk in the flatlands while our hearts are upheld to the heavens.

Yesterday, I tornadoed into the apartment after work to arrange my new griddle and make pancake batter from scratch. I used to think Pancake Mondays had to fit inside pinched pennies, but then my pastor funded my first week of maple syrup and I won’t go back. Hosting a weekly pancake party is now a priority and Hungry Jack/Bisquick is just not good enough for friends and neighbors. Pancakes from scratch with blueberries, marshmallows, honey, syrup, and fruit jams straight from my Gram’s kitchen for toppings.

pancakes
Pancakes getting golden while the apartment door stays open!

In the middle of the mix, I made plans with my neighbor Yeun to host a terrarium party in January. She walked through the open door in her slippers because she lives down the hall and I made sure to have the bacon ready (her fave). We talked about the flower shop where she works and about plans to develop plots in our apartment courtyard and about a potential secret roof party.

The apartment wasn’t full or crowded, but there were people and pancakes and assurances that Pancake Mondays is not going away. Because it is so sweet to trust in Jesus and I am praying this year for grace to trust Him more in the flatlands.

This is it – the everyday Mondays that everyone dreads and the inconsistencies of this city that keep anything from being regular. I will trust when it is awkward and when I am scared and when I would rather be inconsistent and illusive. And I’ll pray for grace to trust Him more.

photo

When the Rummikub game settled down and only a few people were left, we got stuck in conversation by the door. And when I finally closed the door to do the dishes, I remembered it is so sweet to trust in Jesus. It is so wonderful to take Him at His Word and rest upon His promises.

It is so sweet to be upheld by the word of the One whose words never fail. And so I’m praying for grace to trust Him more – with the little things like subways and the big things like my heart and the in between things like Pancake Mondays.

I’m praying for grace to believe that trusting Him will taste the sweetest even if everything else tastes sour.

Sing this song for the new year with me? Pray for grace to trust Him more so that we can live more extravagantly for His glory?

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Refrain

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest, and joy and peace.

Refrain

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Refrain

my best thought

I have too many thoughts.

The past couple months, I have been trying to figure out what it means to have a best thought. It feels like a commitment and a precarious one. Thoughts can get going like locomotives – they are hard to control when they gain speed. How would I find just one and elevate to “best” status?

The hymn Be Thou My Vision is one of my favorites because it is so unashamed about making an impossible commitment.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

I always sing it like a prayer – believing God can make these words true – but it is also a declaration. These stanzas are like steady footsteps when all the other thoughts crowd in on us and the locomotive derails, spilling our jumbled mental cargo all over the tracks. These words are declarations that God is worthy of best thoughts, capable of best wisdom, and a right receiver of praise.

I’m praying I can sing these declarations honestly, but I think best thoughts come about a different way. I think best thoughts are always what you treasure most, what you would sell everything to possess.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

cast your deadly “doing” down

Complete has a faster footspeed than my best race pace. I’ve chased it enough to know it’s always just beyond my reach. A quiet morning is sometimes the best backdrop to be still and let truth sink in. That’s where I am this morning – sitting while white hot Truth is sinking in deep.

And the word complete makes sense at this speed.

Some days, I chase wholeness with diet soda and frenzied activity. Other days I chase it curled up with books and blankets. All the chasing and the doing feels like the fastest way to accomplish completeness. It feels productive and shrewd and mature to be busy with all the right things.

But complete has a faster footspeed than my best race pace, and the only way I’ve ever caught up to feel the fullness of it is to just be still. This stanza from the hymn “It is Finished” by James Proctor captures the beauty of completeness in just the way this morning needs.

Cast your deadly “doing” down—
Down at Jesus’ feet;
Stand in Him, in Him alone,
Gloriously complete.

Yes, often my “doing” is deadly and must be cast at Jesus’ feet. It’s strange how tightly I can hold something that kills me – how firmly I can grip something that eats away completeness from the inside. How foolish I am to cling to the very thing that prevents wholeness (in an effort to make myself whole). It sounds dreadful.

I praise God for Truth in the stillness on Wednesday mornings, when the birds and the neighbors and the buzz of traffic accompany my reverie. I praise God for inviting me to cast my deadly “doing” down at His feet (time and time again). I praise God for His sufficiency that makes me whole. I praise God for the work of Christ, where I am complete.

There is nothing I can do that will get me closer to what’s been done.

I am complete – gloriously complete and that is sealed by the finished work of Christ on the cross. No amount of doing or chasing or wishing or wasting can come close to accomplishing what Christ did. So, the best thing to do in the stillness of a Wednesday morning is praise. I will praise today with my feet planted firmly in Him alone.

wooed many times into love

I have been reading the Hymn Stories from Challies blog and (this will come as no surprise) the words are often deeper and richer and fuller than what we choose to sing throughout our days.

As I read the bit of history on the hymn, “How Firm A Foundation,” I thought of something I heard recently in a sermon. The pastor said, “…the Bible is aware of the complexity of sin.” It didn’t sit well with me and as I thought over these words I realized why. Is a foundation merely “aware” of all that’s built on its top or does it inform and support and uphold every piece in place?

The Bible is more than aware of sin’s complexity because the Bible is the Living Word of God and our only guide against sin, a firm foundation and as steady as 4/4 time.

We are wooed many times into love with Truth.

There is the first initial drawing and calling and wooing that opens our eyes to the Love that grace helps us receive in Christ. And then there is the falling in love – the delighting in being betrothed and chosen. And then there is the wooing that comes round after we’ve chased other loves and forgotten how to stand.

This wooing again into love with Truth comes through the firm foundation of the Word. We are reminded that, by grace, God keeps us secure in His promises. He has claimed us as His own and offers the inspired words of Scripture as a constant love song to draw us out of fear and into strength.

We forget, I do anyway, the deep love and affection of the resurrection. I forget my place “while still a sinner” when Christ reached into the depths and sang his love song to my dead bones. I forget what I once was (1 Corinthians 6:11) and what I would be, if not for Christ. I forget the first few redeeming notes of the salvation song.

But Truth has many pages and the salvation song plays when we open the Word! God’s promises are not shifting shadows. His faithful song remains unchanged and when we have ears to hear, we will be wooed once again by His melody.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)

The Word reminds me what God called us out of – that we were once sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, practicing homosexuals, thieves and the greedy, the drunkards and revilers, and swindlers.

God graciously interrupts the barrage of sinful labels to remind us that we are washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit.

We are wooed many times into love and it is by the reading of the Word. God has given us the treasure of His divinely inspired words to uphold and inform and support everything else that is built in our lives. This is the kind of transformational building the resurrection empowers.

I am awake, today at least, to the way the Word woos me into greater love for the salvation song. Do you hear the melody or have you forgotten? Have you ever heard it?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

still

Heart of my own heart
Whatever befall,
Still be my vision
O Ruler of all

Still.

God is so good because He already knows whatever will befall. He knows that when we say “still be my vision” we are asking for His grace to make it so. He knows all the ways we will avert our eyes and look to others. He knows we will be ruled by other rulers in weak moments.

He knows, but still He keeps.
He guards us and He keeps us and He leads us.
And in His keeping, He is our peace.

We can sing “still be my vision” because His grace is what empowers us to see at all. 

We lift up proclamations only possible by His grace.The Spanish word for still is todavía or aún and both to me roll more steady into the future than stillThey seem to be words that point to another word coming after, hanging on for meaning.

“Still be my vision” is my promise that hangs on my belief that God will keep me and guard me and lead me. And He does.

Still.