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Archive for the ‘Dependence’ Category

Last Sunday as I entered the church auditorium, I greeted a couple and conversed with them for a moment. I complimented the lady on her coat, which was sorta of a yellowish-tan, not quite gold or orange color. So, I followed up my first comment with, “What would you call that color?” Without hesitation she responded, “I’d call it sunshine.” Her husband and I chuckled and I said, “That sounds like it should be the beginning of a poem.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. I was driving my wife to a doctor’s appointment 1:15 minutes away. About a third of the way into the trip I told my wife about the conversation on Sunday. She said that was cheery. We both went back to our thoughts and the following poem began to come. I didn’t write anything down until we reached our destination. I had composed the 1st verse and two lines of the 2nd verse by the time we arrived.

“I’d call it sunshine”
Even though the day be drear
I’d look for joy
In the midst of trial and fear

Not pretend it’s fine
When hardships are all around
But peace with God
Is settling and profound

Can’t keep it in line
There is so much going on
God controls all
It’s trust and rest I must hone

I am His, He’s mine
Though life is full of trouble
Unchanging grace
And His Word are comforts double

This poem is not about pretending everything is OK when it is not. It is not an Optimist’s perspective. Instead, this is a reminder for those who know God to look at the unseen realities that God has revealed and living based on that. And it is a reminder for those who have not come to know God that there is a spiritual reality that they should consider and seek to know God.

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The following hymn caused me to think of several others, or at least phrases within them. In verse one of “Be Thou My Vision” it concludes “Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” And of that presence of God I may say, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Therefore, “Abide With Me” in the evening and night terrors, during the day, and death’s door. The hymn writers put word to our need for God’s presence in our lives for peace and really, sanity.

Some hymns fade and are forgotten for reasons of musicality. They just don’t have a memorable tune or the tune doesn’t go with the tone or meaning of the lyrics. (1) Other hymn lyrics don’t resound with the worshipers’ heart cries. I came across the following old hymn from 1820, by John Keble, that may have slightly stilted language. But as I read musingly, it gave me comfort and conviction. (2)

Sun of my soul, Thou Savior dear,
It is not night if Thou be near;
Oh, may no earthborn cloud arise
To hide Thee from Thy servant’s eyes.


When the soft dews of kindly sleep
My wearied eyelids gently steep,
Be my last thought, how sweet to rest
Forever on my Savior’s breast.


Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without Thee I cannot live;
Abide with me when night is nigh,
For without Thee I dare not die.


If some poor wand’ring child of Thine
Has spurned today the voice divine,
Now, Lord, the gracious work begin;
Let him no more lie down in sin.


Watch by the sick, enrich the poor
With blessings from Thy boundless store;
Be every mourner’s sleep tonight,
Like infants’ slumbers, pure and right.

Come near and bless us when we wake,
Ere through the world our way we take,
Till in the ocean of Thy love
We lose ourselves in Heav’n above. (4)

I am drawn in to the words by the calling upon God for peace and nearness at all times of day. It gives time of day detail to the plea of the hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour”. It causes me to want to add other verses that call on God’s presence in other daily activities like mealtime and work hours and evening reflection. The third verse requesting God to abide most poignantly reminds me of my need of Him whether to live or to die. I can do neither without Him. Verses four and five feel like the petitioner is pleading with God for the fallen brother in Christ, the sick, poor, and mourner just before retiring for the night. And then he prays for God to bless him in the coming day in verse six. It is a good reflection on our need and desire for God and the protection and peace of His presence.

  1. In my opinion, the tune commonly used for this hymn, Hursley, is well suited to the ideas conveyed. The only problem is that this long meter (8.8.8.8.) song is used used in another hymn I already knew, and several others besides.
  2. As I mused upon the effect this hymn had upon me, it caused me to consider what a hymn is for. Comfort, conviction, joy, thanksgiving (3), worship, and review and better recall of truth come to mind. All of these should be encapsulated in worship, but in the list I was thinking of worship in terms of attributing worth to God for His character and works. I think this probably should be a blog entry unto itself.
  3. Cool! A footnote within a footnote. I learned recently that there is no Hebrew equivalent of thanksgiving. Rather, the translators were interpreting the praise given to God for His benefits as thanking Him.
  4. Sources for understanding this sacred poem/hymn better:
  1. Sun of my soul, Thou Savior Dear
  2. Sun of My Soul, Thou Saviour Dear Hymn and Story : John Keble, 1792-1866 (christianmusicandhymns.com)
  3. Evening Poem by John Keble – Poem Hunter
  4. Sun of My Soul (hymntime.com)

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We don’t enjoy harsh teachers, but we can learn from them nonetheless. “But it isn’t fair”, “such a teacher shouldn’t be allowed”, and “we must do everything in our power to rid the system of such teachers”. Unless of course the teacher has tenure with no intention of retiring any time soon.

Pain is just such a teacher. Now I’ve lost some of you. We want the fun, picture filled blog entries. But life has not been so fun lately, and that is not the goal of life anyway. So I decided to share a little of the less pleasant side of life, not for pity or running readers off, but because it is part of life and part of my life at present. And there are lessons to be learned from this less than favorite teacher.

I started having mild back pains about three weeks ago. I have had back problems all of my life and I think there is evidence of it being genetic since my three brothers have and father had back problems. I do exercises to keep my core strong and avoid extreme motions.* However, this time I didn’t do anything that I could have avoided to prevent the problem. I guess if I had been able to see the future and its ramifications, I could have worked around it, but I don’t have that ability. Sometimes it is just small things that trip us up.

Anyway, I have these down periods with back maintenance, but this was a perfect storm. The two most painful things were getting in and out of bed and putting shoes and socks on. Function and activity came to a standstill.

In the midst of this particular storm**, my attention was riveted by the frequent bolts of lightning running along my lower back. The teacher had my attention. When in pain, you pray more. Certainly a prime topic is relief, but I found myself praying for others I know who experience constant pain and wondering how they cope. And what of people who have reduced functionality because of pain? Couldn’t I be more compassionate and helpful? And the thought occurred to me several times that at my age, when a significant regression in health occurs, is this the downturn from which there will not be recovery or serious reduction in functionality? And if it is, what is my new focus? What would be my purpose? What new goals do I set? In short, I found this bout with pain highlighting (throwing a shadow on?) my mortality. Life is short and the end is coming, sooner perhaps rather than later. Don’t think so darkly you may say, but in the midst of the pain, lighter thoughts are hard to come by, and they may be no more than whistling in the wind anyway.

So here are the deeper and brighter, not lighter, thoughts that resulted from what I am going through. Life is good, because God is good. I have purpose and meaning because He has assigned those to me. Even if my body wears out or continues in pain, I can pray for others, for my family, the infirm, this sick nation, my lost friends, and my church. I have peace with God even in the midst of turmoil within and without. I am more content when I am thankful, even in the midst of difficulty. Even though I knew all of this beforehand, I know it at a deeper level now. I suspect the lessons are not done since the holidays (the second advent) have not come, but I will have to focus on these and like thoughts as soon as the next lesson starts rather than days into it.

That should make the teacher and lesson seem less harsh, even though still uninvited and unwanted.

.

I should report that my back has shown some improvement in the last few days, though I don’t know what that means for work and play just now. I am privileged to be able to start again, but wary of the fact that physically that is not sustainable in the long-term. Life is full of ups and downs, but I don’t have to pin my hopes on the ups nor dread the downs. I belong to God.

*I hear some of you snickering (LD and BF, for instance).

**See “Midst the Storm”.

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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18

CreatorWorship

Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains