Jan 28, 2009

A light layer of white, frosty snow covered everything this morning, so that the world was diffused and quiet. It seemed like it continued right into the sky, making the sunrise's colors into cool pastels of blue, pink, and yellow. But the space in between was in perfectly sharp relief - every bare, lacy tree limb, bush, and even the white truck in front of me on the road. We drove into the sun, and I just hoped that truck wouldn't make any sudden moves, because I couldn't see a thing in the piercing orange light.

It reminded me of the painting "The Song of the Lark", one of my favorites back home at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I want so much. Is it perhaps too much? So many women have worked their whole lives -- in the field, in the cottage, bearing children, raising children. Lives pass in simplicity, full...but full of work that on the surface does not seem momentous or directly related to the coming of the Kingdom or the exercise of one's deepest giftings. And yet, the value in these lives of peace and contentment surpasses, in the unseen and eternal, those lives of high achievement and visible effectivness. Am I right? And should I so fight within my own soul to place and find myself always within the sphere of overt usefulness and Kingdom-bringing? Perhaps what is overt and seen would asuage my flesh, but what is humble and unseen would propell my spirit into a maturity that will follow me into the years after these, those years that are most important...when I'm face to face with God, ruling and judging in agreement with Him, enjoying His presence, living the real life of real life.

Jan 25, 2009

Have Mercy

I've been singing Tim Reimherr's song since I woke up:

Jesus, I plead your blood over my sins,
And the sins of my nation,
End abortion, and send revival.

We're standing in the gap,
Between this nation and Your wrath,
We're guilty, have mercy.

The blood upon our hands,
Is the blood of innocents,
We're guilty, have mercy.

Listen by clicking on the text above and choosing "Standing In The Gap".

So I wasn't surprised when at church this morning Tim was not only leading, but played this song. So many things are converging in our country to point out, blatantly, our deep, deep sin. In my little pile of circumstances this tragedy has been glaring stronger and stronger.

The new president, Obama, has quickly and quietly decreed that our country will fund abortions internationally -- that under the guise of "aid" and "compassion" my tax dollars will be used to kill the poorest and most disadvantaged in the world. When the Democrats are able, the FOCA bill will be introduced and the President will sign it, declaring abortion an inalienable right and thereby nullifying every law that states and the federal government have ever instituted to regulate, reduce, or outlaw it. Non-physicians will be able to perform this medical procedure; young girls will be able to obtain one without their parents' knowledge or consent.

My sister Suz just discovered, to all our horror, that the Chicken Pox and MMR vaccines given to all children (hers, yours, your friends') were developed from the bodies of aborted babies. See the links and read her outraged blog about it here.

I had a dream recently in which I was given a window into what is (or will soon be) the state of the inner conscience of many, many in our country. The line between life and death, right and wrong was so gray and hazy, that I discovered it was hard for people to remember whether killing a baby after she was born was illegal or not. This was several days before Obama's inauguration. After I thought over the dream, I realized it was insight into the heart of the nation and into the utter moral confusion we are entering. While I watched the inauguration I could not shake the feeling of grief. Millions gathered (and more watched globally) to worship and welcome one who would lead us deeper into this wickedness, into the full searing of consciences. It is like watching a movie on some terrible tragedy, like the holocaust or 9-11, and knowing ahead of time what is going to happen. Grief rises up -- in its wake is a helpless feeling of being unable to stop what you know is about to happen.

The difference is, of course, in those movies the tragedy is already fact. There is nothing to do about it. Today's tragedy? We do yet have something to do about it, and that something is not fighting or yelling or quivering in our corners. Nor is it just trying to bring the truth out about where our new leader is leading us to. No, it is praying - for God to move. It is asking for God's mercy. And it is, unfortunately, inviting His strong hand to shake everything that can be shaken, in the hopes that within His judgments some, even some, may turn back to Him and to His ways.

Do what You must do, God, to turn our hearts back. Raise up your prophets like Elijah and John the Baptist, who will turn the hearts of the fathers back toward the children (Luke 1:17).

Jan 15, 2009

The Road to Victory

A week ago tonight I pulled "The Hiding Place" off my housemate's shelf, took it over to Lizzie's, and made Annie watch it with me while we babysat Glorie. Annie had never seen the movie, and I hadn't seen it since I was in elementary school. I don't know about her, but the next day I arrived at work with puffy eyes.

When we'd finally turned the movie off that night - which is usually the moment when one can quiet one's emotion and get hold of any tears that had been pushing themselves forward - I sat next to Annie on the sofa and wept, utterly losing the control I'd fought for through the last few moments of the movie. The Lord had required of Corrie Ten Boom something stunning -- a soft heart in response to evil and terror and torture and loss. And she had been victorious.

"Victory" is the word we associate with winning visibly. When all the world (or all the Sunday night football fans) have seen the win, you'll be labeled victorious. It's a marching, blazing, flags snapping smartly in the wind sort of word. But when Corrie achieved it, it was a quiet, no-one-noticing, silently-leaving-the-dead-body-of-the-most-cherished-sister-behind sort of word. It was gained not by triumphing over the cruel Nazis, but by forgiving them. Not by destroying the killers, but by loving them. And it was so obscure.

Well, obscure in a sense. While all the angels were rejoicing and honoring God because of Betsey and Corrie's love, all the prisoners and guards and townspeople barely saw Corrie's insignificant form, and certainly few of them comprehended the spiritual battle that had taken place inside those camp fences, and the victory the Lord had won over Corrie's heart.

Is it usually like this? It is for me. The biggest things in my heart are the ones invisible to others, and sometimes I don't have the energy or inclination (or freedom) to explain them. It is a part of surrender, this state of having an internal life with God that only He and I know. And it is definitely a humbling process...to not explain or prove myself to those around me, to not have a victory that is as visible to them as it is to me.

I'm not trying to say here that I've had some sort of deep victory I can't tell you about :). No, I'm just pondering the amount of work God has to do in our hearts to get us ready to walk through the sort of thing Corrie did, and to come out victorious in the end. Annie and I read through her wikipedia article after the movie ended, and from the short paragraph on her "Religious Views" this sentence leaped off the computer screen at us:

"She was known for her rejection of the Pre-Tribulation Rapture doctrine. Her writings claim that it is without Biblical foundation, and she has claimed that the doctrine left the Christian Church ill-prepared in times of great persecution, such as in China under Mao Zedong. She appeared on many Christian television programs discussing her ordeal during the Holocaust, and the concepts of forgiveness and God's love."

Of course.

Of course a woman who had endured so much (including the death of almost her entire family) would see right through a new-fangled doctrine designed to keep Christians from believing they would ever suffer deeply. And of course she knew how dangerous such a belief is; when those believers do encounter real persecution and suffering, they are ill-prepared.

I know that when God's wrath is poured out on the wicked during the Great Tribulation, the believers will be severely persecuted. (But not any more so than our Lord was; we are certainly not above our Master.) But what is gently surprising and instructive, in both Christ's story and Corrie's, is the road to victory. That it lies in quietness, meekness, the laying down of life, in suffering silently, in loving to the end.

May we learn this now, Lord! May we not be of the foolish virgins, who do not obtain oil to last the night...for the night will likely be very, very long.

Jan 3, 2009

Friendship with Man

Self-focus. It's scary, imprisoning, depressing, and blinding. Oddly enough, it manifests most in our spiritual walks. We know how beautifully gentle Jesus is -- loving us so thoroughly. He's even excited to interact on a moment-by-moment, situational level. (How many of us have been shocked to discover that He enjoys being asked to provide a parking place, and usually answers?) But in our weakness and egotism, we enter into that part of relationship with Him and forget His part in this two-way friendship. Because I am a friend to Kim, for example, we talk both about her heart and my heart, about what's going on in her mind and in my mind. Friendship is certainly not a one-way street. If it is, you've a pretty good indication that the relationship is not actually a full friendship.

I got frustrated with myself on the trip from Chicago, to Indiana, to Kansas City -- frustrated that my own difficulties had been my focus in prayer for so many weeks. So during the drive from Terre Haute to Kansas City, I asked about His heart. I promptly forgot I had asked, and popped in a tape recording of an old album of my mother's: Joy is Like the Rain. It's a collection of folk-style songs by a group of Catholic nuns in the 1960's. And then He answered. Perhaps my emotions were rawly near the surface and so easily energized. Perhaps not. But I was singing raucously along (in the sense of being loud and enjoying harmonies to the extreme - no one else was in the car, you see) when all of a sudden a line hit me hard. It's in a song about the Wedding Banquet story of Matthew. The master has already sent invitations, been rejected by the people who are too busy, and called for the poor from the town. When his banquet table still isn't filled:

When all the poor had assembled, there was still room to spare

So the master demanded: "GO search everywhere

To the highways and the byways and force them to come in

[This is where I burst into violent tears.]

My tables must be filled before the banquet can begin."

Repeatedly, I would calm myself and listen to the tape over, and then burst into tears at the very same line. Over and over. Inconsolable, body-shaking sobs. It was one of those Holy-Spirit cries where your nose doesn't stuff up and you don't have a pre-existing emotional attachment to the issue you're crying over. Just the Spirit, falling...falling...putting a tiny bit of the weight of His heart onto yours. So I did the only thing I could, after recovering from the tears -- I prayed for His great harvest of the poorest and most marginalized to begin, in every corner of the globe. He's going to begin it soon, I believe. I was shocked, not only that He would answer my prayer and give me a glimpse of what is occupying His heart right now, but shocked by the violence of His passion over it, by how intensely He feels, by the strength of His desire for the poorest and the least. In the middle of it all I had to repent simply for my own lack of passion toward this group, because compared to Jesus' passion for them, my own was invisible and almost non-existent.

Two-way friendship. It's what I want. Not just Him interested in me and my life, but me interested in Him and His plans. Wow. That God would enter into such friendship with man is almost unbelievable. But I believe it.