O Lord, you search me and you know me

If I take the wings of the dawn
and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even there your right hand would lead me
–Psalm 139

How much do I have to eradicate sin from my life before God will use me to carry out his eternal purpose?

Can I presume to call on him in faith and trust if I am sinning?

Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! for I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
–Isaiah 6

What does God want from me?

Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, an his grace to me has not been ineffective.
–First letter of Paul to the Corinthians 15

It is incumbent upon us to discern our sins and remove them as we can. But we don’t know our real sins, we can never discern it without God’s Love and Grace.

When they had done this, they caught a great multitude of fish and their nets were tearing…. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
–Luke 5

The Lord knows my sins, and he knew them when he made me. Not because we have no free will, but because he knows us the way we know our children. Before my twelve year old explodes in rage at his brother, I know he will do it. I don’t cause it, I don’t want it, I help him to resist this temptation, but I can see when it is past his ability to endure. I forgive him when he comes to his senses.

Already you knew my soul
my body held no secret from you
when I was being fashioned in secret
and being molded in the depths of the earth

Sometimes God has to change things in our lives and our souls disordered by sin and evil drastically. This is especially true if we have suffered abuse. He works in secret, in the dark of the earth, shifting and pulling the evil that distorted us, helping us finally to accept his love and Grace, without which we can have nothing.

The Lord will complete what he has done for me: your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.
–Psalm 138

I remain here in faith and prayer. Choosing God, even as I sin.

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar. He touched my mouth with it, and said, “See now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said, “send me!”
–Isaiah 6


Rest A While

Jesus serves the multitude, healing, feeding, teaching, but then he goes away to rest.

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Mark 6

The greatest mystery about rest is that the opportunity for such has almost nothing to do with our outward circumstances. Rest is a state of mind. Detachment from outcomes.

You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes. Psalm 23

Never wait for life circumstances to be perfect to rest. Rest now. God is with you, surrounding you, protecting you from your enemies, from the darkness that pretends it can overwhelm you. Turn your eyes to the mysterious, invisible reality. God is with you.

As a Bridegroom Rejoices in His Bride

…So shall your God rejoice in you. — Isaiah

Anytime the Bible talks about weddings, or marriage, or the Bridegroom and the Bride or being a spouse, two things can happen in our minds.

The first is a tendency to start thinking about actual marriages between people, as if these were Biblical instructions for us on how to be married.

The second is a feminist or black-pilled inspired deconstruction of text. A small mental scoffing, an inability to recognize what it truly means for the bridegroom to rejoice in the bride because we look at real life relationships as imagine that those are the models.

“No more shall people call you “Forsaken” or your land “Desolate,” but you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the Lord delights in you and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your Lord rejoice in you.”

What does it mean to be the bride of the Lord? It means the Lord loves you, he cherishes you. And he lavishes gifts on you. The problem is, when you think of a rich man with a beautiful wife the tendency is to think “this guy is just paying for sex” or “this girl is just a gold digger.”

But those are not the characteristics of the Lord and his beloved.

The Lord loves you. And if you say yes to him, he will shower you with gifts. But his gifts aren’t necessarily fine clothes and shoes and jewels, or a big house, or money. They are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he gives them to us to serve each other.

“As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter.

But the main gift that God the Bridegroom gives to our soul, His Spouse, is life. Life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

How does this Happen to me?

Song of songs is the story of how the Lord comes to our soul and coaxes us out of the rocks and cliffs we build to protect ourselves.

O my dove in the clefts of rock,

in the secret recesses of the cliff,

Let me see you,

let me hear your voice,

For your voice is sweet,

and you are lovely.

Song of Songs 2

Whether we are high in the hill country of Judea, like Elizabeth in the gospel today, or shut behind the walls of fathers, the Lord will come to us and our soul.

Our job is to come out, to follow him. To trust that we don’t need the structures we have built around our heart of hearts to protect us from the evils of men.

Our soul waits for the Lord,

who is our help and our shield,

For in him our hearts rejoice;

in his holy name we trust.

Psalm 33

I always pray to be like Elizabeth. To be given the gift of recognizing the Lord when he comes to my house to give me help.

Nothing is Impossible

Just a short post today to remember the most important lesson.

Nothing is Impossible with God..

The Lord’s are the earth and it’s fullness:

the world and those who dwell in it.

For he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the rivers.

Psalm 24

I don’t know what is coming next and I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know what I want and I don’t know how to achieve it.

Great peace floods out of a place of waiting and surrounds me like a placid lake. A boat will come.

Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord?

Who shall stand in his holy place?

Psalm 24

Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem

Lost sheep were my people, their shepherds misled them, straggling on the mountains: From mountain to hill they wandered, losing the way to their fold.

Jeremiah 50

Blogging has been light because I lost my prayer book last week. I have ADD/ADHD and I need external cues and tactile prompts to keep my routines going. Without my book it was hard to pray, even if I could look up the same readings on line, it wasn’t the same.

I used to flog myself for these problems. There is a permeable barrier between life struggles that are caused by legitimate external (or medical) factors and struggles that are really the fruit of bad choices. They are all entangled together and, though it’s hard, it is important to disentangle character flaws from real things that are out of your control.

“Their enemies said, “We incur no guilt, Because they sinned against the Lord,”

Jeremiah 50

But you can’t use the presence of sin in yourself or in others as an excuse for cruelty, especially to yourself. The temptation is to see all flaws and struggles and mistakes as sin and to be merciless to ourselves and others in meting out consequences for failure. The tendency is to read the words of Isaiah, picked up by John the Baptist, to “make straight His paths” as a call to do some real serious internal housecleaning. To straighten up and fly right, to be worthy of the Lord’s presence in our lives by acting perfectly from now.

“Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”

Isaiah 40

But that’s not it at all. The call for repentance and self-examination goes hand in hand with a call to be merciful, to speak tenderly, to go out and gather the lost sheep. God will lay low the mountains and build up the valleys, God will part the seas and clear the brambles. God will show us the path to walk. Our job in preparing his path is to accept His Mercy.

Prepare for the Coming of Christ into your heart with honesty and ruthless self-examination, yes. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the paths of God are paved with Mercy.

The Lofty City

The more you read the Bible, the more you see that there are two worlds, coexisting. They overlay each other, like a two layered skirt. You can live in either one at any time. One is separated from God and the Kingdom of Heaven by sin and the affects of sin, and the other participates in Grace.

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height, the lofty city. He lays it low, lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust.”

Isaiah 26:5

I missed blogging yesterday because I’ve spent the last day very very sick with a stomach flu. The vomiting was not so bad as these things go, but I was so dehydrated that once when I sat up I passed out and fell forward and split my head open.

I am chronically dehydrated, I think. I don’t notice much from day to day but when I got sick, it became very apparent that this is a problem for me. It’s hard for me to not make an analogy between this kind of thirst and the thirst for the living water, the grace of life that Jesus offered to the Samaritan woman at the well. Or, to today’s gospel: the house built on sand.

Everyone of them who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
Matthew 7: 24-25

People who build their house on rock seem to step out of this world and walk with God when they go through tragedy or setbacks or hardships. They become more sure about what is important, more full of Grace, more thankful, more kind, more present. This is just a personal observation I’ve made of friends and family who have suffered immense and almost unthinkable badness.

But people who live in the lofty city or who merely sit at its gates slavering to get in are brought to utter desolation when something goes wrong. They isolate, they grow bitter, become angry, lash out. I include myself in this category, in the past and surely also in the future.

The lofty city maybe looks shimmery and bright and powerful and high up and real, but it disappears when you reach out to touch it and ask for something you really need. Or if you are in it, you find yourself ignoring it if someone reaches out to you. It provides no sustenance, no living water.

If you live in the lofty city you discover it only when the rain or the fire or the floods come.

and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Matthew 7:27

It’s hard to know if you are living in the lofty city. Not all things that are fun and glittery and insubstantial are bad. Rich people can live in the city of God, poor people can live in the lofty city. There’s nothing wrong with fun or frivolity taken in its turn. So here’s my shorthand.

The lofty city has no neighbors.