Two of Six

IIOh, come, our Wisdom from on high, Who ordered all things mightily; To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!

When only half the candles are lit, we see men as trees walking. We see partway and yet think we see the whole of it.

We've been begging God for direction these weeks and made a feeble decision—not a bargaining chip and not a giving up or giving over—but toward the path of knowledge as best as we can see it. Sometimes God gives peace without understanding, peace that passes understanding. Sometimes He gives peace but barely, and no understanding. We are in the latter.

It is strange, this season of learning to make decisions as two become one, yet no longer just one. It is a dance, not like the Sugar Plum Fairy or Swan Lake, though, choreographed and in time. It is a dance of submission to one another, hearing, learning to see, understand. To look in his eyes when he speaks in a broken, halting voice of the deep sadness. To lift my eyes when they are tear-filled and weary. To really see one another, past the veil of autonomy, beneath the cloud of independence, to lean into one another and lean together into Christ.

At the end of it, I take his hands or he gathers me to his chest and we repeat the same variation of words every day, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are on Him."

I think of the blind man in John 9. The disciples asking, "Whose sin put him here? His own? His parents?" And Jesus, sweet Jesus, reminding them it was no one's sin, but for the glory of God alone.

Sometimes the only reason we need a miracle is for God's glory.

But, God, we still need a miracle.

. . .

What path are you on this Advent? What things do you wish to understand? Where has God given you blindness or lameness simply as an opportunity to worship Him? Where do you seek wisdom?

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The Nearness of God was Enoch's Good

This morning in staff prayer we read Psalm 73 which ends with the words, “But as for me it is good to be near to God.” Another translation, which I love, reads, “The nearness of God is my good.” I always remember Enoch when I read this verse, Enoch who “walked with God and then was no more for God took him.” What must it be like to walk with God, and walk so near to him that God did not have an earthly end for him, but simply took him? How God took him, we don’t know but historians have their hypotheses. What is important, though, is that the nearness of God was Enoch’s good and so he walked with Him.

I want that kind of walk. I get caught up in to-dos and “wearisome tasks.” I take my eyes off Christ for ten seconds and suddenly I’ve imagined all sorts of scenarios in which the world needs me and forgets Him. My flesh fails me and my spirit is weak. My feet stumble and my steps slip. I forget how to simply walk, one foot in front of another beside the God who is my only good.

If you’re feeling heavy with wearisome tasks and slippery steps, if you feel far from God today, remember it is His nearness to you that is your good. The onus to be near is on Him and if you are His child, He is near. He promises to never leave, be in step with him, walk simply, forget the race. Walk with God, He is already walking with you.

For the Days When He Gives Above and Beyond What We Ask

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 2.01.10 PM Father,

I stood in your house the other day, the mid-morning light streaming through the windows, and worshipped. I am no stranger to worship, I frequent the halls and rows and offices where we talk about worship and extolling your name. But this worship was different. Usually when I come to you, I come for what you can give me, or, if it is a good day, what I can give you. This day was different: I was worshipping you for what you might not give me and how you offer it all the same.

Not like a bad parent who lends peeks to their kids at Christmastime, tricking them into believing they'll get certain gifts, all the while knowing they mean something else for them entirely, but like a good parent who holds out a pony and playhouse and asks their child to pick. "Me?" I ask, because I am unaccustomed to getting what I want, let alone getting the choice of what I want, "Do you maybe mean this for me?"

I wrote this in December, not to you, because I was struggling to believe you meant good for me that day, but I wrote it just the same. I knew the fault was in me, for not asking, for not believing you could possibly dispose yourself in my direction. But I also think I believed the fault was in you for pretending to not know my desires anyway.

I see now you want me to ask

Today I talked to my friend across the table and told him thank you for pastoring me in December. He sat on my couch for three hours four months ago and talked and listened and asked and didn't advise much and it was the best. It was as if I was a wayward arrow and he stepped in to blow a welcome breeze in the right direction, a degree off, maybe two, now righted. Joy, he said, pursue joy.

I know you've said this to me again and again, and again and again. And I don't know why I run the opposite direction so often, certain you must mean crumbs for me when if I would just lift up my head I'd see the feast you've prepared for me.

Joy, you've said, pursue joy.

Father, I play with mud-pies and sandcastles, you offer me kingdoms and plenty, and I can't stop thanking you for the choicest pleasures and even the choice at all. It's only through your Son's willing choice to sacrifice Himself on my behalf, so it's in His name I pray, amen.

A Prayer for the Water Diggers Among Us

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 3.38.06 PM God,

I did it again. I dug my own cistern and it broke. I sought solace in the arms of a whore, a cheap imitation of the real thing, a creature instead you, the Creator. I long for the comfort of independence, making my own fortune, building my own kingdom, because I long for respite today instead of someday.

I'm hungry for heaven and for the bread of life, but today I just want to be full, to stop feeling the pangs of hunger in my heart. I ache with all the somedays of our faith. The tomorrows and better days ahead.

Jesus, you said You gave us water that would make us never thirst again, but the only water I know is the kind I need every day, again and again. I don't understand a quench ever being filled and my heart ever being full. I have no concept of fullness, only hunger or the gluttony that makes us fat on the feast of earthly sweets. I starve myself or I indulge myself—fearful of living in the tension of what you have already done and what you have not yet done.

I do not trust you.

And I do trust you.

And I don't know how to live in that ever expanding, ever closing gap.

The more I know you, the more I trust you, but the more I trust you, the more you give me to trust you with and the more I have to know and trust you. It is an endless cycle, this hunger. I eat of your words, they taste sweet and fill me, but I am oh so hungry again and the temptation to eat a lesser feast is always before me.

Fill me to full, Lord, to overflowing, and empty me of me in that process. Empty me, train my palate and my hunger so the only one for whom I thirst is you. Give me a taste for you.

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.

John Piper

Mini-Me-Making and Disciple-Making

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 6.02.24 PM I added up the meetings this week and they valued in the too many for any introvert. They happened in prayer rooms and offices, across coffee tables and over coffee, on our couch late at night and on my bed early in the morning. Listening, talking, walking.

We are in the work of long-suffering, of listening when it seems better to speak, of obeying when the odds suggest we not. We are submitting and silencing, seeking counsel from the wiser and counseling the weaker. It is a lasting joy, but a long-suffering one too. It is hard fought for, but sweet when it comes. It is not popular.

It is easy to create copycats. To say to say as I say and do as I do. To teach to follow me as I follow Christ. But I am not an Apostle or Christ and I quake to tell anyone to follow me. I cannot even trust me, please do not trust me. We ask for the Holy Spirit and we keep on asking, more and more, a helper and comforter, a keeper.

. . .

Today is the two-year anniversary of a little girl on my doorstep. She had a few suitcases, some guitars, no money, no car.

I have known her since she was 14, but really I have known her my whole life. We are different in many ways, but the same questions wrest our souls and tempt our hearts. Two years is not a very long time, but it can feel like an eternity when you are walking with someone who hates God and sometimes hates you too.

Then one day she was crafting a wooden baby Jesus for a nativity scene present and the God she'd crafted in her own image all her life became real. We joke about her blood on the lamb, but four hours in an emergency room on Christmas Eve was no joke. God became flesh and dwelt among her, in her, and through her. And she was changed.

I won't deny I have been holding my breath for weeks, afraid to let it out. But today is the two-year anniversary of her coming to Texas and the two month anniversary of the day that everything changed for her.

God saved her. I got to watch the change, but I was powerless to save.

She is so much like me in so many ways, and so much like others in so many ways, but she is more and more like Jesus and the Spirit inside of her than anyone else.

I tell someone the other day that she is my letter, like Paul said of the Corinthians, "You are our letter, written on our hearts, known by all." But not my letter, written by me for others, but "a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts."

Her disciple-making is from and by Christ alone, I merely, as my pastor says, "got to play."

Mini-me making is a passing fancy. Disciple making is a long-suffering joy.