Thursday, May 28, 2009

To Have, To Hold, To Love Thee

Sonnet XLIII

from Sonnets from the Portuguese
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men might strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,–I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!–and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

I today awakened to sweet song of baby birds and whispering thoughts of my love. I eased through my early routine and found my morning spot on my sofa, where I read devotionally. My glass of water, placed beside me as usual by my dear husband, was full of ice and cold, just as I like it, so I sipped, and waited.

A soft, dear hand took mine in his. "Happy Anniversary," said he. "I can't believe it's been thirty-two years," said I. "Where has time gone? We're getting older." "No," my dear one replied. "No." Jeff's loving smile reminded me that God's best gifts grow richer in grace with years.

Vintage is such a lovely way to walk with marriage. A godly relationship appreciates with passing time, growing stronger, showing more honor, having greater love, gaining more patience, learning more value, sharing more joy. With Christ as its center, our Master designs, weaves a masterpiece, a work of His art, one wrought on the loom of time, with trials, with trust, with want and need, through peril, through darkness, in sickness, in storms, in health, in light, in line with His word, in plenty, in hard times, in sweet times. All joins together, becoming a beautiful tapestry of graceful truth, full of real faith, real flaws, and real love.

This most precious piece is not ours for gloating, but for using and handling. It is a work of art to be studied by our children and theirs and others around us. A still imperfect, textured fabric, testifying, not of our strengths or talents, but of the humble work of a merciful God, who takes what little thread and fabric we have to yield to Him and graces it with the beauty of Jesus Christ, His Son.

Thank you, dear Lord, for a godly husband and thirty-two years of our sharing Christ together and walking, hands bound as one, with faith in ministry and life. Thank you, dear heavenly Father, for the unity of your Spirit and the bond of peace, for without your work, our home would be empty and cold, our children and grandchildren lost, unconscious of God's sacrifice of love and His cherished handiwork. Please grant us continued grace and strength to honor you and each other. And for as long as we both shall live, may our marriage ever bring you glory.

A Portuguese proverb says that "Time brings roses." A precious anniversary day brought a dozen to my door. Dearest husband, "If I had a rose for every time I thought of you, I'd be picking roses for a lifetime" (a Swedish proverb).

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Last Goodbye

"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O'Donnell, Vietnam Listed as KIA February 7, 1978

He remembered the face peering through the window. A longing, lonely wave said the last goodbye. My dear husband, Jeff, a tall, lanky, fourteen year old boy, returned the glance of his much beloved uncle, almost a boy himself, but aged enough to venture into a tumultuous, erratic war of the 1960's that called many brave young men from their roots to dense, perilous forests and bloody fields filled with hopeless, heartless soldiers, in shock from the trauma of their new home, violence, bloodshed, horror, pain, and grief.

Jeff stared, watching, as Nick drove away, leaving my husband at his Boy Scout meeting. Later that afternoon, Nick would leave his sweet little home on a north Georgia hill and begin an hour's drive to Atlanta, where a plane would signify his journey to the killing fields of Vietnam. In the quiet hours that come after the somber leaving of one so loved, Jeff studied the life of his uncle. He pondered the one he had come to know and grown to love, his mother's loving, stout younger brother, who was more like a brother to Jeff himself than the uncle he was.

Jeff believed Nick invincible. His belief was built on the actualities of Nick's self. He was robust, healthy, scarcely a novice at life, full of courage, and undaunted by anything life swung his way. Jeff remembered playing a game of darts with him. One dart accidentally hit Nick in the leg, penetrating his tough flesh. His uncle immediately pulled it out and threw it down as if nothing had happened. That was Nick. Brave. Immune to fear. Unshaken by shock. Unyielding to pain.

So, Jeff had every reason to believe a safe return home awaited his dear uncle, his friend, his hero in life. How could any less be possible for one so strong and valiant? What else could a fourteen year old boy be expected to believe? Jeff's last conversation with his uncle is now in my husband's mind and heart, forever engraved, letters in stone. He hears Nick's powerful voice as if yesterday they spoke. "You'll be back," with believing heart, he told Nick. Nick's quiet response gave young, teenage Jeff a pause of shock. "Watch out for Mama and Daddy. Their getting older. They don't have much money. They need somebody to take care of them. . . . Because I know I won't be coming back." It was much too much for Jeff's youthful heart. However disturbed, he remained endeared to his hopefulness of seeing Nick again.

Six months later billows of grief surged through the Janes family. A hollow knock on a dear mother's door brought news feared by all whose loved ones live on hostile foreign soil, fighting for freedom and love of country. On a cool morning in the coastal city of Nha Trang, a claymore mine had unexpectedly detonated as Nick attempted to disarm it. Nick was instantly killed. His body was returned to his beloved home in the North Georgia hills, and the family, including my dear husband, was wrought with the sting of death.

On a lovely, warm summer evening in 2003, my husband and I enjoyed a late walk in the stately city of Washington, D. C. Brought there by a church council meeting, the opportunity gave us time to soak in the sights of our country's capital. Our final design at that day's end was to visit the Vietnam Memorial. We feared the darkness might thwart our purpose, yet we
pursued our course, longing for a glimpse of Nick's name on the massive monumental wall.

Thumbing through the voluminous book of those who had died or remained missing for their country in the easternmost part of the Indochina Peninsula, we quickly found his name, Nicklos Byron Janes, along with the listed wall section, where we could witness Nick's personal memorial, carved into the black granite wall. We walked. I wondered at the soon realization of our expectation. Our steps increased with anticipation. I felt my heartbeat rise as we drew near. Finding the proper section, we quickly found Nick's name. We gazed and touched. Felt the smooth, silky stone. Stood, in memorable pause, at the name of a loved one, gathered with what would now be 58,259 others. It was at once humbling and staggering. Pure and tragic. Sobering and thoughtful.

Today we honor Nick and millions of others who served and gave all for love of God and country. And now, in the reminder of loss, I am reminded of the reality of death and the truth of God's word. For Christians and all, the Apostle Paul, appeals through the scriptures that "Death is swallowed up in victory," and he says, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:54,55).

May we all remember. May we all take pause. May we all believe in hope. May we all trust in God's infallible word. For those for whom we mourn, who followed the path of Christ, wait patiently on the other side. With the Lord, they are present, in their heavenly home. May any grief we feel not yield to bondage, but may it rather rise in faith, knowing that we are all in a temporal state, living for an eternal destiny, a sure hope. And may this hope, this blessed promise of Jesus Christ, render us today and always to a life of service for Him, and an always there faith that credits us with righteousness and prepares us for our better place.

Matthew Henry, a devoted theologian of the eighteenth century, spoke eloquently this truth: "Tears are a tribute to our deceased friends. When the body is sown, it must be watered. But we must not sorrow as those that have no hope; for we have a good hope through grace both concerning them and concerning ourselves." May the peace of God go with you today and bring you holy pause and sweet remembrance, giving you special grace and rich thoughts in Christ for the week ahead.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


"Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be; let that grace now like a fetter bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it; seal it for Thy courts above."

From Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessings
By Robert Robinson, 1735 - 1790

I am indebted to you. Now and always. You are due from me a great sum. I cannot escape this charge, nor do I desire to do so. I must fulfill it with utmost diligence. It is a debt acquired from the contract given me by my heavenly Father. Part of His covenant with me. My faith in Jesus Christ requires I fulfill His will, which includes many sacrifices. Part of my sacrifice is to be delivered to you. It is one I must accept and pay for most gladly with a cheerful heart and all sincerity. To deliver to you this appreciation is a privilege. It is nothing less than an honor. To count it otherwise counts me disingenuous, selfish, unworthy, unholy.

And, oh, dear friend, that which I owe you is a forever pledge. It will never be stamped "paid in full," nor will the charges ever be cleared. It is an eternal debt. It is an account that grows in value. It accumulates interest rather rapidly. It seems that as I pay this fund, the obligation grows within me. The begetting of my due multiplies exceedingly over time. And the more I give, the more I desire to give.

And what I give has, contrary to this world's ideals, no monetary value. It is counted rubbish or indifferent by most, and the insistence of such obligation is likely considered a foolish due. One never understood by a godless world. One disdained on all accounts by the practicality of earthly principles. One grasped tightly only by those who revere their relationship with God and see Him in everyone and everything.

What debt could be so costly, yet deemed so foolishly? So complete, yet so unyielding? So misunderstood, yet so required? So eternal, so living? A true gift of life and sacrifice it is. Now and always, dear friend, the forever debt I owe you is love. Nothing more. Nothing less. I owe you love. It matters not who you are. It matters not what I desire. It matters not my feelings. It matters not our pride. It matters not where you are now, where you have been, or your place in Christ. It matters not anything, for in God's word, it is so poignantly stated, "Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).

It is God's will that I love you. To love you is my debt to you and to Christ. It is an inescapable ordinance. Our pleasing God is dependent on our obeying this truth. And our obedience must be done with our hearts, not only our minds. Remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well? Christ told her that the time would come when those who worship would do so in spirit and in truth, for the heavenly Father seeks such as those to worship Him (John 4:23,24). In Spirit and in truth. With all our soul and with His purity in our hearts. Such is worship that pleases God. He searches for such. Longs for such. He is pleased with pure hearts.

And a pure heart loves fervently and honestly. "Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart" (I Peter 1:22). Oh, may we grasp these words! Sincere love for others flows from obedience, honesty, and purity. Thus may we declare the agape love of God for others is His work within us by the Holy Spirit and must be shared and declared openly (Romans 5:5)! It is now and forever a part of our covenant with Jesus Christ, and through this manifest love, our testimony is sure (John 13:35).

It is my privilege to love you with the love of the Holy Spirit today. Now. . . always. . . in this world. . . in the world to come. Love will never fade away or whither, for God Himself is love, and love He will be forever. The love He has placed in our hearts is just a tiny fraction of Himself He has shared with us and commands us to share with others. And this debt of love is not to be esteemed lightly; neither is it meant to be a burden, as true love, the agape love of God, pours from our hearts without restraint because of Christ's grace in our hearts and lives.

Oh, how I long to forever embrace this forever love! I do not want to let it go! Please join me today in seeking God's grace for a pure, obedient heart, so we may find the fulfillment of His love in us and give it willingly to those around us. You may ask today, "What evidence is given for love?" Or, "How do I know that I have the love of God in my heart?" Love, indeeed, is found in humbly doing for others, having a servant's heart. And love is a part of God that begets many other attributes. To know these well, refresh yourself with I Corinthians 13.

To be His disciple is our greatest calling! And others will know Him through our love for Christ and those around us. "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 35). But please remember, it is God's love, wrought in our hearts through His Holy Spirit, that does the work. We are simply His channels. The available ones through whom His river flows. Yes, no glory is ours, only His and His alone! What an awesome challenge and opportunity today! To know Him and have His love glorified in our lives, ministering to the needs of those around us. Dear friend, let us make His love known today.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Twilight's Teaching

"When twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star, remember that you have a friend, though she may wander far."

Lucy Maud Montgomery
The night fell with a beautiful twilight, diffusing soft light through the day old sky, with hues of pink, like tea rose and cherry blossom, blended with red coral and fire brick, touched subtly with thistle, amethyst, and laced with beige, like wheat. The day's end ebbed gently away, yet supremely approached its leaving with elegance, affecting the setting of sun and the coming darkness with relief, remorse, beholden, believing, dreaming, daunting, with regards of past and prospects of future.

I watched her watch that evening sky. Through the wide window she gazed, sat, stilled, as our sweet little made-up home grew dusky, then darkened, then dark. I spoke. She stayed silent. I pursued conversing. She refused to comply. "What are you doing Grandma?" "I'm just thinking about things," she replied. I knew to engage no longer. I left. Returned. Left. Came later. Left, again. Returned, once more. And left, again.

My wonder at her wonder, her agile patience and the depth of her solitude were much to perceive for one fourteen years old, who sought solace and felicity with the hope of a life before her from one who had lived a life of prayer and truth, a walk with God that equaled no other I knew, and whose great love for me had been security in the days, months, and years following the death of my beloved father.

Indeed, the Lord Himself sent my dear grandmother to our lonely little home to comfort our broken hearts and fill our rooms with her sweet savor and cautious sensibility. Her life was life for us, especially for me. I had always been endeared to her. Loved her fiercely. Longed for her with heart-wrenching hope. And her presence in my pain filled a void that only eternity will tell.

At night, in bed, she comforted me, talked to me, told me of her life. Times growing up with her many sisters, their searches through shivery wood on snowy days, their thorny treks to school, their making-do in meagerness, her loving mother, whom she adored, who loved flowers, flourished with kindness, whom she missed so, of whom she dreamed, now saw endowed with a pink robe, and a new greater love.

My dear grandma and I read our Bibles together, prayed together, talked together, counseled together, learned, reasoned, laughed, lived together. For her unreserved love and dedication to me and my best I am forever grateful. Her gift of her giving spirit and her patient, prayerful life heard many days, and nights, behind closed doors, laid a lasting foundation of love, a legacy to be passed on to my children and theirs.

That one twilight etched in my memory like letters in stone. I saw my dear one in heartbreaking pain, unmoving in dusky dark, who with the growing night, became a lone silhouette against a diminutive waning glow. Grandma carried the burdens of us all. Her children, grandchildren, and her own private pain of a less that perfect love for my dear grandfather, whose less than perfect life brought her more than little grief.

Wanting to cheer her lonely heart and longing to have her again as my own, I searched for words to hurry and heal and bring life to my grandma's still self. I think she understood. . . . And she loved me the more, knowing my vast dependence on her as my rock and strength. Realizing my lonely teenage person was yet too young to fully know the joy of the Rock of my salvation.

Days following, Grandma's heart was again stout, her spirit revived, and she was once more herself. And again she was my joy. But deep in my heart a truth took hold. A lesson won. Like clay in a modeler's hand, God took my dear one's pain and shaped it before me, sowed this vision in my spirit, reached my heart through my sore eyes.

Looking back at that twilight, I now hear the Father whisper. "Life is imperfect. Yet must be lived. Can be lived. Will be lived. Not one heart is so sturdy that it cannot break. Not one spirit so pure that it lives without temptation to despair. Even those you love best, whose lives you so cherish, on whose very words and strength you depend, are not without weakness, fear, or confusion; none are immune from trouble, guarded from guilt, protected from private pain. But all who know My Name, who seek My trust, regard My will, will be kept by My grace, delivered from fear, and find My peace."

This May 20, my dear grandma would have been a centenarian. Until her death at age ninety-four, she remained a rock for me, always being my mentor and my friend. Her petite little figure was wrought with tall faith. Through her long life, she taught me the reality of God, for she lived in His truth and walked in His grace. She showed me the path of righteousness, as she walked it before me, with her love, with her faith, in her darkness, in her pain, and through her weakness. I now have, because of God's grace and my grandma's rich life, a still trust and a lasting hope. It is a pearl, pink-white, perfectly round, and will never lose its luster, a priceless gem, to be fully revealed in eternal light.

A song now pours through my heart. A rapturous voice of praise I learned in my teenage years found a forever place in my soul. Lodged there, settling with hope for all times and time, it still rings, triumphs with truth, with its overcoming words of life, at once yielding joy and hope.

Enjoy this precious hymn, written in 1834 by Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury. Please remember to mute the playlist, located at the bottom of the page.

"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

I Corinthians 3:11

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

She Walks In Wisdom: Part II

"Of all human pursuits, the pursuit of wisdom is the most perfect, the most sublime, the most profitable, the most delightful."

St. Thomas Aquinas

She walks in wisdom. She is clothed with righteousness. She wears an ornament of grace. It is fastened tightly, attached to her wardrobe, adorning her with such beauty that she is honored in all her ways. And for this woman of wisdom, her ways have been all but ease. No, her paths have been filled with thorns, thistles, treacherous times, hot sands, sultry seasons, stony roads that sored her bare feet, icy meadows that chilled her bones and longed to freeze her frail heart, high mountains that called for hind's feet, low valleys she called victory.

This wise one wonders how. Yet, she grasps where. Remembers when. Knows Who. Understands what. Never asks, "Why?" For those dreaded paths taught her faith, gave her trust, made her familiar with God's providence. On those rocky roads, high mountains, and in the lonely valleys, He became her defense, comforter, healer, teacher, provider. And, God, the sovereign Lord, in those dark caverns of her life . . . became her friend.
She knows ills brought her to His throne, gave her sweet opportunity to walk with Jesus, suffer with Him, learn of Him, know Him. She ponders the strength He gave her to walk, tread, run, endure, soar, and climb. Why such privilege was given her she will never understand. Why a broken life was hers made no sense to human reason. But this wise woman knows the sweet gift of grace and the mercy of a loving God. And, she praises Him. And yearns to seek Him more. Glories in His work of grace that began so long ago.

In her now wisdom, she recalls the beginning. And it is here we shall begin our walk with her and learn her way, its dawn, noon, and evening in her life. From this wise woman we will find the lovely path we all may take. A humble walk that leads to an extraordinary faith. An extraordinary faith that leads to perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:5). A life of hope that will not disappoint in any circumstance, but brings honor for each occasion with its godly wisdom.

Humility is its beginning. The wise way is first met with a conscious awareness of our own frail, human state of helplessness, a recognition of our finite ability and God's all-ability, His totality of power, His sovereignty in our lives and in this world. Accepting Who God Is, believing His word as God-breathed, and clinging to these truths, creates in us reverence for Him, praise for the name of Jehovah. As we, in awe, wonder at Him and His deeds, we begin our path toward our priceless treasure, for Psalm 111:10 tells us that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." And Proverbs 14:27 calls this fear a "fountain of life." Fear, realizing Who God Is and reverencing His holy name, leads us toward further humility and onward in faith, with unction to pursue Him and gain understanding.

With such longing for God, we yearn to know His word. With humility of heart, honor for Him, and hunger for His word, we read, we hear, we obey His truth. And we find life, for the "knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10), and the keeping of God's word is "life to your soul" (Proverbs 3:22). Nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing in your life can replace the holy scriptures. They are your sustenance. The word of God, which is Jesus Christ Himself, is the sword that pierces through the layers of your heart, peeling them back, one by one, revealing your thoughts and desires, discerning all your motives, and convicting your conscious (Hebrews 4:12). And though the sword is painful to your heart, it is also the balm of Gilead, bringing healing and restoration as you understand yourself, experience brokenness, and receive Christ's forgiveness.

Allowing this process to have its complete work is a critical point on the path to wisdom. And know this: the word of God has no depth. It is fathomless. It truths are fully established. Yet, its ability to search our hearts is unceasing. We can never outgrow it. Never exhaust it. The Bible is now and forever will be your faithful companion that never fails to comfort, convict, change, and conform while on the way. The word of God in you is wisdom, living in your soul, leading you in your life, effectively working in you and through you to bring you close, draw you near, . . . and bring you nearer, . . . and nearer to the cross, to a life of brokenness, to the knowledge of a holy God, to the power of Christ's resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings.

Through these precious pages of holy writ, we are all led to a satisfying well, where the waters are sweet, stirring our desire for Christ. We want to know Him. Seek Him. Run after Him. See Him. Yes, even suffer with Him. And through an intimate relationship with Jesus, we have understanding of Him, "in Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:2-3). This sweet, intimate walk, this holy communion with Jesus, this understanding of Him, satisfies our hearts and lives with wisdom. And with this wisdom, we are guided with understanding each step of our way.

And as we take each step, if we are veiled with meekness, dressed again and again with humility, we will find ourselves strengthened, refreshed, and full of grace (Proverbs 3:7 , I Peter 5:5). Such a simple spirit opens our pathway to blessing and honor, for did not Jesus say, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5)? Yes, those who surrender to Jesus, fully submitting to His will, yielding to Christ's call, will be blessed, even in their earthly lives. The wise are given to God's will. The Father is ever hearing their hearts, meeting their needs, subduing their enemies, bringing them honor, using them greatly. The will of the wise woman and the will of the Father grow to be one, and thus mighty blessings rain on her meek life.

And what more could the will of the Father be than desiring our hearts stay pure? In his eloquent verses of wisdom, Solomon warns of the destructive power of evil. All with the wise woman can be flowing with beauty and elegance. She may have found her walk, making strides through paths of pain, leaping over her high hills, sailing smoothly in stormy waters, when suddenly in front of her lies a lovely forest, enchantingly rich with flora and fauna, bold, stunning, at once, with beauty and mystery.

She knows it is a forbidden way; a fruit of deception; a force of futility; awaiting her is a well-planted snare of Satan. Devised for her defeat. The wise woman stops. Remembers. Her heart pounds. Her hands tremble. Her strength is faint. Her voice proclaims. "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11). And the wood before her, with all its delicacy, she sees clearly, and it does not compare to the high hills, steep cliffs, rocky shores, chilly meadows, hot sands, and the living water and bread of life of her Creator. . . . She moves. Ahead. Pondering. Weeping. Loving the One whose own blood bought her soul. Then, for one moment, she stays. Stills. Rests. Remembers His faithfulness.

And when this wise one moves once more, her spirit rises, and within her heart, she rejoices. She walks. Her hands raise. Praises sing from her lips. Her heart soars with wings of a great eagle, and she runs, without pain, without weakness, with freedom, with faith. New faith. Whole faith. Faith that forgets what is behind. Faith that looks forward. Moves mountains. Tears down. Builds up. Perseveres. Endures. Forever hers.

And faith is forever ours. It guards us on our path to wisdom, and it is the very foundation of a wise life. As Christ lives in us powerfully with faith, we are granted wisdom,being "able to comprehend . . . what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ that passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 18-19). Faith in God is our conduit to wisdom. Through faith, our spiritual eyes are opened to the treasures of the Holy One. With faith, we are "filled" with the "fullness" of God. The Greek word for filled is pleroo, which means to cram, furnish, satisfy, finish, and the Greek term for fullness is pleroma which refers to completion. So with faith, we are completely satisfied to the point of completion. And completion, is all sufficient with wisdom and all else we need in Christ.

Christ is our satisfaction. He is our All in all. The completer of our wisdom. He is himself our path to purity, our road to righteousness, our way to wisdom, for, . . . He is wisdom. "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7).

Oh, dear heavenly Father, please help each one of us seek You today with all our hearts. Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, is our source and our guide. He is your provision for our wisdom. May we ever so humbly pursue a life of wisdom, cry out for it, treasure such life, incline our hearts toward it, apply its truth, and seek it diligently. Lord, have your way with each of us. May we all realize with the Apostle Paul that we have not yet apprehended, and always see our need for more of You. May each one of us lift our voice to you and pray to walk in wisdom.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A Mother's Day Tribute

This heart, my own dear mother, bends, with love's true instinct, back to thee!

Thomas Moore

She Walks in Beauty

by Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

God forbid I let this day pass without tribute to my dear mother, whose grace gave me hope, whose hands healed my hurts, whose body knew no wear, whose heart heard my hopes, whose knees knelt in prayer, whose eyes eyed my tears; whose faith stood strong, in my father's death, in her pain, in lonely nights; whose life she spent striving each day to make our lives better, taking my brother, sister, and me to church, each Sunday; who was faithful to her job at AT&T, forty hours each week, rising early to prepare breakfast, arriving home to cook supper; who never once complained about taking me to the doctor, dentist, orthodontist, shopping, or piano lessons; who never thought of marrying again for the love her children; whose empty nest became a garden of roses; who now knows frail health; whose lips now bring me joy, each day, from miles away, with words . . . Are you ok?. . . How's Jeff?. . . Are you tired? . . . What about Steven? How's he? . . . Have you heard from Chris? . . . Are all the babies ok? . . . What did the doctor say? . . . How's the church? . . . I pray for you every day. . . . I pray for all of you. . . . I love you. . . . I'll talk to you tomorrow.

"She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed . . . Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates" (Proverbs 31:27, 28, 31).

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

She Walks In Wisdom

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

E. M. Forester

Part One of Two

She walks with honor. I wonder at the poise and skill with which it graces her. More than dignity, it is a purification of senses and an ease of kinship with her heavenly Father. Her nature is effortless beauty, within, without, molded by hours of prayer, shaped by study of scripture, come from years in a refiner's fire, a chosen furnace of afflictions, deemed for a vessel to be polished and reserved for her Master's employment.

And this noble vessel, free from splints of wood, shreds of hay, and stalks of stubble, is a sparkling masterpiece of humility, whose words and life speak purity, power, truth, and love for lives destined for their own furnaces, their personal destinies with the heavenly Father, their particular lonely hours in His garden, their own minds clothed with His word.

Have you met one like her? Do you know one who walks her way? A true token of grace, embellished with ribbons of righteousness and a quick word of truth that melts hearts like whipped honey? A woman who carries sensibility and Christian love like dozens of Damask roses, ready at once to give all and receive little? Whose very paths, gilt with hope, pursues what is pure, perseveres in all, holds peace fast, disdains every evil, sees all good, cleaves to the meek, appeals to be strong, with faith seeks, with authority binds riveting seams, with trust rests, with joy believes, with comfort assures? In truth proclaims? Have you seen her? Do you know one like her? Do you seek her? Do you hope to find her?

She is to be treasured. She is to be sought. She is to be found. She is to be kept. "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her and she will promote you. She will bring you honor when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you" (Proverbs 4:7-9).

Many times I have read these words with great desire and affection. Many times I have read these words with longing and frustration, hoping for a portion of such grace, a morsel of this divine gift, for while often in need of it, I have, too, been often in want of wisdom. Reaching for peace in chaos, pining for a word from God in a present trial, grasping to speak comfort to another seeking counsel, hoping for "the" answer to what seems hopeless, searching for faith to withstand fiery darts, striving to scale slippery rocks to find refuge from the enemy, I have been left weary and without, lacking the perfect solution to the imperfectability of life's sweet wonders.

For too long, I was overcome with my own insufficiencies. I prayed for wisdom, looking for the gift, but stood ignorant of the precious map that would lead me to my treasure. While there is a specific gift of wisdom given by the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:8), and while we are commanded to pray for wisdom (James 1:5), there is also a life of wisdom to be had. A route to this holy treasure to be followed. And this glorious, priceless treasure is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and the beautiful walk we have with Him as we seek Him with our entire being. It is an eternal walk in a carnal world. It involves the high price of relinquishment, total surrender.

It carries with it the prize of a life of wisdom, one adorned with grace, purity, faith, hope, honor, and love. It creates a lovely work of art that is wise, not because one has the "right" answers, but because she has the "right" source, and she has followed Jesus and pursued His heart, His values, His word, His love, His life. The woman of wisdom, through giving herself, yields to God in every fiery furnace. She recognizes her own weaknesses and quickly confesses her needs to the Lord. She listens for God's voice in all situations, and still searches and believes and hopes and trusts, even when all is silence, and He does not say a word. Every deed she considers in light of His word. Every decision is important for pleasing the heavenly Father is just what Jesus did and would do.

The woman of wisdom is tall in faith, but humble in spirit; light in burdens, yet heavy with grace. She does not always put herself first, but willingly steps aside and moves for the good of another. Her marks are kindness; her law is love; her heart desires purity; her eyes seek truth. She may or may not be well-known; the wise woman may or may not be successful in this world. She may be rich, or she may be poor. The woman of wisdom may have great talent or possess none; may have friends or be alone. Perhaps she is a gifted teacher, or sings in the choir; maybe blessed in a thriving career, or a stay-at-home mom; perhaps she has the voice of angel, or is tone-deaf. The woman of wisdom may be infirm, healthy, married, single, widowed, divorced, childless, mother of few or many, educated, a high school drop-out, a born leader, the one who cleans the church building each week, or cares for little ones in the nursery every Sunday.

Every woman of wisdom is unique, but every woman of wisdom is beautiful and has much to give and share. Her light is ever glowing, as she waits, watches, day and night, on opportunity to serve, to pray, to wait, to love, to ponder God's word. And every woman who knows the Lord Jesus Christ can be a woman of wisdom. It is not beyond the reach of any, for Christ is always working in us, and He sculpts our lives with increasing purpose, as we, through the process of time, give more and more of ourselves to Him. Indeed, wisdom is a treasure to be won, and we will have a life of wisdom in due season if we continue in His grace and do not faint in our walk with Him (Galatians 6:9).

I pray for God's grace to hold fast this walk toward wisdom. It is not to be achieved as a medallion, but to be desired, searched, found, held with humility, and praised for the glory it brings to Jesus Christ. And God does not favor one of us above another. He is ready to give us as much as we are willing to receive, and He is ready to take as much as we are willing to give. What price will we pay for this treasure? What are we willing to give to apprehend this priceless way that will reward us with the invaluable gift of wisdom? It is the life of the blessed woman. Wisdom is your path to perfect peace. Wisdom will be for you an "ornament of grace."

In my post to follow, I plan to continue this thought, focusing on steps that help us reach the life of wisdom.
All scripture quoted is from NKJV.

Friday, May 01, 2009

What Do You Want of Me?

If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!

Elisabeth Elliot

What do You want of me, Lord? What can I do to hear you, know you, show you? Am I left to suffer, agonize in wonder? Longing to behold Your sweet beauty, grace receive to melt my heart until it is one with You, while I strive to please, to see?

And, oh, dear Father, what do You long for me? In my own longing, I need to envision, to see You, to hear you, and to know you. To have my heart pure, my motives clean. Not things. Not dreams. Not what the world deems. What do You long for me?

What do you want of me? What shall I hear, see, do? How can I find You? Where can I go? Where can I wait? How can I please You? Serve You? What do You want of me?

Dare we ask these questions? Ask, with urgent pleas? Ask, with no regard for selfish pride? Ask, with only sense to please? Ask, with single hearts and minds? Ask, with no regret, only felicity?

For those who yearn, who ache to know Him, the asking often increases in the dark, billowy shadows of life, and in those hot, dry places where there is no cooling stream. The searching heart, desiring His presence, His hope, His voice, His will, His truth, that in willing and doing, wants to please Him and know He is satisfied with all it is and does.

And in the struggle to know God and please Him, the longing ones find the process is as important as the Prize itself. for the search for Him brings searching of self; and it leads to further God-seeking, a passionate longing to know Him; it brings the soul to desperation, with such thirst that only attaining Him and His best will deliver that one from parched, dry hollow, lifeless ground and calm the raging storms or reach through rising waters.

Perhaps this longing is what the Psalmist experienced when He said, "As the deer pants for the water brook, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say, 'Where is your God?'" (42:1). And, likewise, the Apostle Paul shouts from the scriptures, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death" (Philippians 3:10).

Such cries are ones so intense, wells in the soul so deep, hearts so heavy that only the One Who created us can fill them. For God created all. And He not only created the answer to our need, but also created the need itself. Yes, dear friend, we have been created to be empty, thirsty, hungry, seeking vessels, and our only hope of strength, our only fountain of truth, our only bread of satisfaction is found in Jesus Christ. . . . In asking the question, "What do You want of me?"

And the more we know Him, the more we desire to do so. The deeper our love for Him, the greater our cry. For He is the well of salvation that never runs dry. Christ is the unfathomable truth. The only course to eternal life and earthly joy. He is the only All in All. His is the only River of Life. True peace can only be found in Jesus.

To call upon Him and fall at His feet is our greatest opportunity. No other god will answer. No other bread fully satisfies. No other vine bears the fruit of real peace. He created us for Himself. To desire Him. To cry to Him. To hear His voice! And that voice beckons us now, "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).

Do not be afraid to ask of Him, "What do You want of Me?"


byTeresa of Avila

I am Yours and born of You,
What do You want of me?

Majestic Sovereign,Unending wisdom,
Kindness pleasing to my soul;
God sublime, one Being Good,
Behold this one so vile.
Singing of her love to you:
What do You want of me?

Yours, you made me,
Yours,you saved me,
Yours, you endured me,
Yours, you called me,
Yours, you awaited me,
Yours, I did not stray.
What do You want of me?

Good Lord, what do you want of me,
What is this wretch to do?
What work is this,
This sinful slave, to do?
Look at me, Sweet Love,
Sweet Love, look at me,
What do You want of me?

In Your hand
I place my heart,
Body, life and soul,
Deep feelings and affections mine,
Spouse -- Redeemer sweet,
Myself offered now to you,
What do You want of me?

Give me death, give me life,
Health or sickness,
Honor or shame,
War or swelling peace,
Weakness or full strength,
Yes, to these I say,
What do You want of me?

Give me wealth or want,
Delight or distress,
Happiness or gloominess,
Heaven or hell,
Sweet life, sun unveiled,
To you I give all.
What do You want of me?

Give me, if You will,prayer;
Or let me know dryness,
And abundance of devotion,
Or if not, then barrenness.
In you alone, Sovereign Majesty,
I find my peace,
What do You want of me?

Give me then wisdom.
Or for love, ignorance,
Years of abundance,
Or hunger and famine.
Darkness or sunlight,
Move me here or there:
What do You want of me?

If You want me to rest,
I desire it for love;
If to labor,I will die working:
Sweet Love say
Where, how and when.
What do You want of me?

Calvary or Tabor give me,
Desert or fruitful land;
As Job in suffering
Or John at Your breast;
Barren or fruited vine,
Whatever be Your will:
What do You want of me?

Be I Joseph chained
Or as Egypt's governor,
Avid pained
Or exalted high,
Jonas drowned, Or Jonas freed:
What do You want of me?

Silent or speaking,
Fruitbearing or barren,
My wounds shown by the Law,
Rejoicing in the tender Gospel;
Sorrowing or exulting,
You alone live in me:
What do You want of me?

Yours I am, for You I was born:
What do You want of me?

Scripture is from NKJV