When winds whip wild

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Last year when we stepped through the door, the late November sun was streaming gold through the huge windows, lighting a path across the little table and straight-backed chairs in the kitchen nook. No one had been there for a week and the rooms were cold; still, there was a warmth about the place, a welcoming, as though an unseen host waited. As though, knowing we were coming, he had built a fire and was calling to us after a long, unproductive night in the boat, “Come and have breakfast.” I sat at the table and let the sun warm my tight shoulders.

I’d gone with my Bible and journal and plans for how I’d spend the time. I felt instead like someone was feeding me, resting me, opening his arms and gathering me into his lap. I wanted nothing but to snuggle in and be still.

As you read this, I’ll be there again. This time though, if the forecast is right, we’ll have climbed down slippery stone steps and, instead of a sunlit kitchen nook, the wind will be whipping rain against the windows. I don’t know whether I’ll feel the same warm hug. I do know that the same unseen host will be waiting, the One who—whether or not I can see or feel or hear him over the winds—is always calling “Come.”

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

The surprising gift you don’t dare refuse

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We’d just found our housemate unconscious on the cold cement floor and my heart was raging mad. Not at her, but at our guests who cared more about having to wait forty minutes in their warm, comfortable vehicle than about our friend’s life.

I wrote that story last week. Some of it, I think, was good writing. Some felt weak. This morning I realized why. I was afraid of my anger. I tried to soften it, cover it, apologize for it when I needed to let it be seen. It was part of the story and, in this case, a marker of real wrong at work in the situation.

Satan has two tactics when dealing with our anger. The first is to whisper that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for feeling angry, that our anger is bad and dangerous and to be feared, and that we’ll never please God if we feel angry. And so we try to destroy or hide our anger instead of allowing it to energize us in the battle against Satan and toward relationship with God and each other. If he fails at that, Satan tries to turn our hand to train the powerful weapon on other people or back on ourselves, taking a tool intended to spur us to action in the service of life and teaching us to use it in the service of destruction instead.

In one sense, anger is a product of the fall: we didn’t know anger until after the fall. There was no need for this energy-full emotion that makes us feel what is wrong, involving us in the reality of it and spurring us toward making it right.

At a much deeper level, our capacity to feel anger is part of our imaging of the God whose infinite love and longing for right relationship includes anger against anything that threatens to destroy His beloved creation.

It’s a deep and daring trust that is willing to feel God’s anger, knowing it will call us to action.

Anger can kill. It requires great respect and caution. But the reality is, we will feel it. We’re meant to feel it. In this broken world, there’s no way to love without sometimes feeling anger. I watch Jesus turning over the tables of crooks in the temple, restoring His Father’s house to a sacred place of relationship. (Luke 19:45-46) I see him indignant at the tomb of Lazarus, his anger over the destruction Satan had brought on his friend paired with decisive action: “It doesn’t have to be this way!” (John 11)

Surrendered to the Holy Spirit, controlled anger can help push us up the hill of our apathy and fear to act in ways that bring holiness in the world. I hear the anger in the voices of some of the most godly men I know when they don’t just speak of other men enslaving women in prostitution, but act to do something about it. I once stood up to a gynaecologist who was verbally abusing one of my junior residents; it was anger over the injustice that fuelled my small courage.

Carefully handled, anger can be a gift. Join me in letting God teach us to use it well?

“Be angry, but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” (Eph 4:26-27 NRSV)

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For further exploration:

Since our anger—like every other part of us—has been distorted by the fall, there’s no doubt that this powerful emotion needs a trigger guard and cautious handling. We’re given guidelines and constant Holy help:

  • Never train your sights on other people. (Eph 6:12)
  • Learn when to let it go. (Eph 4:26-27)
  • Hand it over to the One who can handle it before it gets too hot to hold. (Psalm 94, 109, etc)

Here are a few questions that help me in the handling of the gift of anger. What others would you add?

  • What is underlying my anger in this situation? (Love? Fear? Envy? Hurt pride?) Is there sin I need to confess?
  • What does this anger show me about what really matters to me? To God?
  • What might be God’s invitation to me here?

The song He’s singing over you

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The pastor extended his hands toward us. “And now, receive this benediction.” And he began to sing:

“May the peace of God, our heav’nly Father,

And the grace of Christ, the risen Son,

And the fellowship of God the Spirit

Keep your hearts and minds within His love.”

And I thought my heart might burst because for a moment I saw right through: they weren’t just Darrell’s hands outstretched over us in blessing. They were Jesus’ hands. And it wasn’t just Darrell singing over us; the face of the Father was turned toward us, shining on us, the voice that spoke worlds into place singing tender love.

He was singing the same song Jesus always sings over us: grace and peace. Those words at the start of most of Paul’s letters? They’re not just a greeting from Paul: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Our God sings grace over us like a love song or a lullaby, grace that erases all the places we’ve failed. He sings peace too, a song that delights in us and invites us to enter and rest there.

And when you hear His grace and His peace being sung over you, sung to you—to you—what can you do but lift your hands and your heart and your whole bursting self and join in?

“And to Him be praise for His glorious reign;

From the depths of earth to the heights of heaven

We declare the name of the Lamb once slain—

Christ eternal, the King of kings.” 1

 

 

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1You can listen to this song by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty here.

When you need a Hand

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Perhaps you crept there blindly, one slow inch at a time.

Or perhaps something caught you and dropped you there.

But you wake one morning to find yourself way out there on a swaying ginko leaf, not knowing quite how you got there, or how to get down.

You curl and cling and wait.

 

And a Hand, strong and gentle, reaches and lifts and places you back where you belong.

Back where it’s safe to be small and slow and made of dust.

Back where you can loosen your grip and start inching forward again, seen and loved and tended.

 

 “Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel,

for I myself will help you, declares the LORD,

your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

—Isaiah 41:14

When you’re facing a too-busy week

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I never thought it could happen.

I looked last night at my calendar for the week. I’d felt each item was right when I took it on, and there was nothing I felt I was being asked to let go. But it all added up to a week busy enough that I usually would have looked at it and swallowed hard. The strange thing was that last night I looked at the calendar and I wasn’t scared. I wasn’t overwhelmed. I was excited.

It took me a while to figure out what had made the difference. Why could I look at the week and instead of panicking, look forward to seeing how God would work?

Then I realized. I’d spent the week remembering:

It was April 2004. I’d just lived my first two days in Kabul. I was supposed to be flying in to see for the first time the little village where I was going to work. But it had been raining, and when someone drove a truck onto the runway it sank ten centimeters into the mud; the flight was postponed. So I waited. And when the call came the next night that I should be at the airport at 5am, a kaleidoscope of butterflies took flight in my stomach. Would we make it this time? What would I find? Could I cope in this place to which I was going?  I wasn’t sure I’d sleep at all, but I went to bed anyway, and picked up my copy of Daily Light before turning out the light. “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” (SS 2:10)

I went to sleep with the words in my head. They called to me when my alarm clock rang at 03:45. I heard them again as I shivered at the airport, watching the sun turn the fresh snow on the mountains pink as the pilot made the final adjustments to the four-seater plane.

“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.” Love is calling me to come with Him into this week too.