Christian talk should sound different

I caught a glimpse of my face in the glass of the subway last week. I picture my subway face as expressionless, but my furrowed eyebrows and set jaw were full of an expression that made me jump inside my skin. I didn’t recognize the round winter silence or the way my eyes determined not to look at anyone.

But, last night after the pancake guests left, the apartment living room was the city on a hill and I imagine my face looked much different. We talked about the city darkness and we talked about the light inside us. We shared Scripture and spoke encouragement and prayed with intention.

We were not at home group or Bible study or church or a special prayer gathering. We were just regular believers, huddled around the common experience of big city commotion trying to understand what it means to take a genuine interest in the welfare of others.

Because talk is not Christian simply because Christians are talking. No, what makes the fellowship of believers different is the content – the words on top of words that uplift and encourage and inspire because Christ is central. This difference is what draws outsiders in, nearer to the abundance that has set us apart.

We talk a lot and the city talks back and it all sounds like noise. Chatter about the closest trains and apartment sizes and the weather. Chatter about prayer requests and work schedules and stressful roommates. Chatter about chatter and it all sounds like noise.

But Christian talk should sound different. 

And the sound of it last night refreshed my soul. Praying out loud and hearing prayers out loud affirms the power and presence of our Savior and I am aware that I have neglected this conversation.

We prayed to be filled with an abundance that could be poured out into the lives of others and the energy to seek out those lives needing to be filled.

humility is a sly fox

I am very aware of the difference between true humility and humiliation. The former, a heart chooses in secret before the watchful eye of my persistent inner boast. The latter, is not so subtle and usually comes about because of unfortunate circumstances (see yesterday’s post) a heart tries to avoid.

We are never really humble, or at least we would never know it. Our boasting nature would not let that knowledge sit long enough for it to remain true. Even as I was reading about humility in the Lent devotional this morning, I was thinking about publishing this post.

Then I got to the end and read this closing prayer out loud.

Humble my heart before thee, and replenish it with thy choicest gifts. As water rests not on barren hill summits, but flows down to fertilize lowest vales, So make me the lowest of the lowly, that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound. When I leave duties undone, may condemning thought strip me of pride, deepen in me devotion to thy service, and quicken me to more watchful care. When I am tempted to think highly of myself, grant me to see the wily power of my spiritual enemy; Help me to stand with wary eye on the watch-tower of faith, and to cling with determined grasp to my humble Lord; If I fall let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness, and when I escape, may I ascribe all deliverance to thy grace. Keep me humble, meek, lowly.

The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.
The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, UK. 2003.

I almost didn’t make it through to the end because I started to feel dishonest. I prayed for grace to finish the prayer as I tripped over the words. Make me the lowest of the lowly? So that my spiritual riches may exceedingly abound. And the lines I will repeat to the rest of this Saturday:

If I fall let me hide myself in my Redeemer’s righteousness, and when I escape, may I ascribe all deliverance to thy grace.

Humility is a sly fox and I won’t try to scare him out from hiding. I will just keep praying for grace to pray these prayers, believing that God is always faithful.

although we are weeping

Mouths filled with laughter and tongues loosed with joy, that would be ideal. It’s the kind of delight your lungs can’t handle.

But, that kind of delight is not a constant state of emotion and maybe that’s why I liked singing this song so much on Sunday during communion. It is a peaceful prayer that believes God is faithful. It is a prayer that believes God will keep His promises. It is a prayer that trudges through death and sorrow and ugliness, believing God can and will restore.

Psalm 126 (Our Mouths They Were Filled)

Our mouths they were filled, filled with laughter
Our tongues they were loosed, loosed with joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your Kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

The nations will say, “He has done great things!”
The nations will sing songs of joy
Restore us, O Lord
Restore us, O Lord

This is a familiar heartbeat of mine that is hard to explain. It is the messy sadness I feel even while I am rooted in joy. It is hoping and believing when days are weighty and when words are flat. It is the joy of an eternal God who has promised restoration and will be faithful to deliver.

Although we are weeping
Lord, help us keep sowing
The seeds of Your kingdom
For the day You will reap them
Your sheaves we will carry
Lord, please do not tarry
All those who sow weeping will go out with songs of joy

And this is the good, hard work of believing Him for who He is. When we are weeping, He is the help to sow the seeds of His kingdom. When we are weak and afraid and tired and lazy and distracted, He is the strength we need to live outwardly and love unselfishly.

He is building a kingdom and He is using the weepers. He is populating heaven and He has not just asked the bubbly ones to be recruiters.

I love that He is the strength and the help for those who obey through tears. This is a hard fought believing. This is a daily grind believing and future grace is the rhythm.

I believe He is able to restore and I believe He is able to redeem.
And I believe He will.

’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

find us faithful and find us ready

Simple prayers are the best because my words get in the way.

No one has ever accused me of being a woman of few words, though I have tried to be a woman of less. Maybe sometimes – no definitely sometimes – I complicate prayers  with too much vocabulary. I get flustered and the words fumble out sounding impressive or hollow or planned.

This advent season, my shoulders have a humble slump and it is making me appreciate simple prayers and spelled out liturgies. Because my words aren’t anything special, nothing revolutionary or new is streaming from my cyber pen. I am one in a million breaking winter silence with thoughts from my fickle, foolish heart. I join a history as old as the sun – a history of people who speak and explain and write and ponder. And we have many, many words to evidence our legitimacy… as word lovers.

I always wonder if we can come about true humility by way of humiliation. Can a person be truly humble as a result of feeling truly humiliated? No one loves humiliation. I try to stay away from it and all the rosy cheeked aftermath, but it still sneaks up on me with regular rhythm. I am always saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing and both at all the wrong times. I know being awkward is all the hipster craze these days, but (let’s be honest) no one enjoys being humiliated.

And so my slumped shoulders find me meditating on the Messiah, knowing I am a little drummer boy with a pen and paper – standing at the entrance to the stable of my King.

I don’t have much to bring and even my words are weightless and wilty sometimes. What I do have to offer is sometimes the very thing that humiliates me. I am walking with those ancient wise men, following the miracle star to meet my Messiah, so that the Messiah can meet all my messes.

I lit the third advent candle today with slumped shoulders and a thankful heart, because I am not impressive and I do not have to be. The Lord was gracious to send a Savior, One who could handle all the words in the world – all the things we think we have to offer. I am thankful today to pray a simple prayer, believing God is the something special about advent and Christmas and salvation and redemption.

Christ is what makes this season glorious.

And my words cannot make more or less of that. So, I pray a simple prayer with slumped shoulders knowing the Lord cares tenderly for His children. He is gracious to invite me to worship at the stable and at the cross with my slumped shoulders, with my pen and paper.

Lord, find us faithful and find us ready. Amen.

if, then

If the prayers of a righteous man accomplish much (James 5:16), then what are we to think of the prayers of Jesus on our behalf (Luke 22:31-32, John 17)?

Jesus prayed for Simon, as Simon was on the brink of denying Him three times: “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

It wasn’t instantaneous – Simon’s faith victory. No, it came only after Simon appeared to have completely deserted. But Jesus didn’t pray for Simon to instantly overcome his unbelief, He prayed that Simon’s faith would not fail. And it didn’t.

It should be no surprise, but when Jesus prays on our behalf things happen. Always. If the prayers of a righteous man accomplish much, how much more the prayers of a perfect Savior and King?

I’m just sitting here a little blown away this morning that Jesus prays for me. He is praying against my unbelief when Satan demands to have me. He is praying that I may continue on believing that what He has promised will come to pass – that there will be victory in this moment and the next.

If Jesus is praying my faith may not fail, then what delight I must find in persevering. Christ has prayed for my delight and hope and joy and treasure to be found in Him!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

“…but, she’s an addict”

I get it.

I was sheltered, blah blah blah. I haven’t ever spiraled into worldly darkness at the mercy of a bottle nor have I ever hung out with people who have.

Maybe that’s what keeps a steady hope hanging out under my eyelids. Maybe that’s why I’m pushing against the callouses people wear around like fashion in this line of work.

“Go to rehab? She’s not going to rehab – 100 bucks says she used this morning and she’ll use tonight.”

“He used once? No, he’s an addict. Addicts don’t just use once.”

“They’ve been clean for 10 years, they said? Still addicts.”

The conversations are circular because I want so desperately to believe that people can change, that they can tell the truth, that they can love their kids more than they love their addictions. But people in this line of work have watched people never change, never tell the truth, and always choose their addictions over their children.

So, experience says I’m foolish and green and too wide-eyed.

I get that.

And I don’t want to be foolish about my hope. But, there is one thing I wish was more culturally acceptable to introduce into conversations about addicts.

“…but, she’s an addict.”
“But, have you met my Jesus?”

And so I pray. I pray that things work out differently – for softened hearts and humble spirits. I pray for the addicts who are helpless against their vices. And in them I see me. I see the human condition. I see that we need Jesus. And so I pray.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy