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From time to time when there is tragedy in the world or in our lives, we hear a lot of how what perspective we ‘should’ take on it. The following passage from “How People Grow” by Henry Cloud talks about the different kinds of suffering we can experience in our lives, and the important distinction between destructive suffering and therapeutic suffering. Have you been mugged? Or have you been in surgery?

“Certain suffering tears down aspects of our character that need to be torn down and builds up new aspects that we need in order to live as we were designed to live. So suffering can be good. It can take us to places where one more season of “comfort” cannot.

“But suffering can also be terrible. Some suffering is not a “wound… to heal.” Such suffering inflicts evil on a person’s heart and soul and is totally outside God’s desire. Although God can bring good out of the experience, the experience itself is no good at all.

“I sometimes use this analogy when I speak: “If one of you walked out of this meeting and a guy with a mask walked up to you in the dark parking lot, took out a knife, stabbed you in the stomach, took all your money, and left you in an unconscious state, you would call him a mugger. Someone would call the police, and they would try to find the perpetrator.

” “But if you left this meeting, drove down the street to the local hospital, and a guy with a mask came to you in a brightly lit room, took out a knife, cut your stomach open, took all your money, and left you in an unconscious state, you would call him a doctor and thank him for helping you. One is a mugging, and the other is surgery.”

“Suffering is a lot like that. There is therapeutic suffering, and there is destructive suffering at the hands of evil people. The key is to be able to tell the difference between the two and to apply the right kind of experience to each. Too often in the church those who have been “mugged” have been told that God is trying to teach them a lesson or that what they are going through is a result of their own sin or that it is part of the growth process.”
Henry Cloud in “How People Grow” page 207

Evil destruction

Evil destruction

“Faith is transferring your trust from your own efforts to the efforts of Christ.  You were relying on other things to make you acceptable, but now you consciously begin relying on what Jesus did for your acceptance with God. All you need is nothing.”
Tim Keller

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“The Christian life is not about the weak becoming strong; it is about the self-sufficient assenting to their own weakness. How horrible! How freeing…

Conventional wisdom tells us that suffering can either make us better or bitter. I don’t think it’s that simple. I think suffering makes us more. More of all the feelings; more of who we’re meant to be; more aware of our own weakness and, hopefully, the source of real strength, who doesn’t leave us to our own devices but carries us.
Stephanie Phillips

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“When we despair of gaining inner transformation through human powers of will and determination, we are open to a wonderful new realization: inner righteousness is a gift from God to be graciously received. The needed change within us is God’s work, not ours. The demand is for an inside job, and only God can work from the inside. We cannot attain or earn this righteousness of the kingdom of God; it is a grace that is given.” Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline

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“We think of Jesus as a hero who dug deep down in himself to find the strength to push through.
But Jesus did not rely on willpower…willpower was not the source of His faithfulness. It was His deep, abiding relationship with the Father by the Holy Spirit.

We fall into the trap of thinking the Christian life is based on self-generated willpower…[that we need to] just try a little harder, come up with the right formula.

Jesus has called us to something deeper than self-help and personal resolve.. He has called us to more than trying our best to mimic his behavior. He has called us to abide in Him.” Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel in Beloved Dust

From Ashley Cleveland’s memoir Little Black Sheep:

“My experience of surrender is not a tidy line in the sand, it is more like: let go, take it back , let go, take it back, let go. The day that I will it and the day that I do it are rarely the same day. ”

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“I had learned in treatment that the gateway to recovery was willingness—willingness to admit my powerlessness, willingness to admit the unmanageability of my life and circumstances, willingness to surrender to God’s care. I needed the will to be willing, and I began to tell the Lord that if He wanted me to turn my wineglass over to Him, He needed to supply me with the will to do it.”

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“I had a pastor for many years who forbade us to sing “I Surrender All,” because he said it was a crock. He said no one surrenders all and that most people, if they are honest, aren’t even qualified to sing “I Surrender Some.” I am solidly in that camp. I know all about selective surrender and cherry-picking my life before handing it over to God’s care: “Here , You can have this. I didn’t want it anyway.” God knows all about it too, but here’s the thing: a little bit of surrender is a lot of surrender.

By the same token, a little bit of hope is a lot of hope. A little bit of faith is a lot of faith. All of these things have the same source: a heavenly Father who is so entirely counterintuitive that He delights in investing His power in tiny things like mustard seeds and broken fools like me. I don’t really foresee a day when I will let go without a fight, but it’s helpful to remember that I am not, as Richard Rohr says, “giving up but giving to.” There is an enormous difference.”

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And a quote Cleveland quotes:

“Every day is a completed whole. The present day should be the boundary of our care and striving. It is long enough for us to find God or lose God, to keep the faith or fall into sin and shame. God created day and night so that we might not wander boundlessly, but already in the morning may see the goal of the evening before us.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who know Him… I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts. Through their obedience to the truth and not necessarily through their explanation of it, they held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled to obey.”

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“When I was in Thailand, I met this missionary. And I was talking to her and I said, ‘You know, I just want the Lord to use me.’ And she said, ‘Well, forget it. God doesn’t need you for anything. God doesn’t want to use you, He wants you to love him.’”
 

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“I’ve been in and out of all kinds of things—like self-deprecation, self-interest, ego trips, alcohol, and other addictions. I’ve failed many times to avoid those kinds of temptations. But that’s not what the devil was really interested in. What he was trying to do is make me feel apart from God. Now I know that what Satan would like most to take from us is our true knowledge of who we are—which is children of God.

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“I would rather live on the verge of falling and let my security be in the all-sufficiency of the grace of God than to live in some kind of pietistic illusion of moral excellence—not that I don’t want to be morally excellent, but my faith isn’t in the idea that I’m more moral than anybody else. My faith is in the idea that God and His love are greater than whatever sins any of us commit.”

Rich Mullins

“I don’t think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is.
It is…a book open to the sky.
It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better…

Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural.
This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders;
we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence.
It is our daily bread.”

Wendell Berry

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We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen.
We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.
For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible,
rank after rank after rank of angels—
everything got started in Him and finds its purpose in Him.
He was there before any of it came into existence
and holds it all together right up to this moment.

Colossians 1:15-18 The Message

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“Attention is the chief means by which our souls encounter God.”

Simone Weil

Desire is often talked about as something we ought to overcome.  Still, being is desiring:  our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our souls are full of desires.  Some are unruly, turbulent, and very distracting; some make us think deep thoughts and see great visions; some teach us how to love; and some keep us searching for God.   Our desire for God is the desire that should guide all other desires.  Otherwise our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls become one another’s enemies and our inner lives become chaotic, leading us to despair and self-destruction.

Henri Nouwen

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Up now, slight man! Flee for a little while your occupations; hide yourself for a time you’re your disturbing thoughts. Cast aside now your burdensome cares, and put away your toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God, and rest for a little time in Him. Enter the inner chamber of your mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God and those that can help you in seeking Him.

Speak now, my whole heart! Speak now to God, saying, “I seek Your face; Your face, Lord, will I seek.”

Anselm

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Abide in me: These words are no law of Moses, demanding from the sinful what they cannot perform. They are the command of love, which is ever only a promise in a different shape.

You are not under the law, with its inexorable ‘Do,’ but under grace, with its blessed ‘Believe what Christ will do for you’.

Andrew Murray

Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, Continue Reading…

Imagine this
I get a phone call from Regis –
he says “Do you want to be a millionaire?” Continue Reading…

None of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Continue Reading…

“Surrender is the glad and voluntary acknowledgement that there is a God and it is not me.
His purposes are wiser than my purposes,
and His desires are better than my desires,
and Jesus does not come to rearrange the outside of my life the way I want it to be,
He comes to rearrange the inside of my life the way God wants it to be.
In surrender, I let go of my life.” John Ortberg

Continue Reading…

This morning as I face

  • a new day
  • a new week
  • a new month
  • a new season

I have so many possibilities to choose from. I need to listen to God and learn which signals are from Him. Continue Reading…

Costly grace is the hidden treasure in the field, for the sake of which people go and sell with joy everything they have.

It is the costly pearl for whose price the merchant sells all that he has;

it is Christ’s sovereignty, for the sake of which you tear out an eye if it causes you to stumble.

It is the call of Jesus Christ which causes a disciple to leave his nets and follow him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which has to be asked for, the door at which one has to knock.

It is costly, because it calls to discipleship; it is grace, because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.

It is costly, because it costs people their lives; it is grace, because it thereby makes them live.

It is costly, because it condemns sin; it is grace, because it justifies the sinner.

Above all, grace is costly, because it was costly to God, because it cost God the life of God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale.

And not only that, but God Himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of His Son and our Master Jesus.

He will never give up on you. Never forget that.

I Corinthians 1:7-9, The Message

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O what blessing accompanies devotion,

when under all the trials that weary me,

the cares that corrode me,

the fears that disturb me,

the infirmities that oppress me,

I can come to You in my need and feel peace beyond understanding!

Puritan Prayer

 

Yesterday I came across this wonderful quote that expresses a major theme in Walk with Me:

As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a body of broken bones.

Even saints cannot live with saints on this earth without some anguish.

–Thomas Merton

When did God start loving you?

Before the creation of the world…

Long before He laid down earth’s foundations,
He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love,
to be made whole and holy by his love.
Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ.
(What pleasure He took in planning this!)
He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving
by the hand of His beloved Son.
[Ephesians 1:4-6 The Message]

From the moment you were conceived…
If you go on Youtube and search for an eight week ultrasound, you can see one of many amazing videos of a fetus moving, with its heart beating. God was watching over you when you were that tiny, His heart filled with love for there is no unwanted child in His family.

For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in Your book
before one of them came to be.
[Psalm 139:13-16]

On the cross…

He left his Father’s throne above
so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam’s helpless race.[Charles Wesley]

And His love will carry you home…

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. [John 14:2-3]

***

…Someday
Love’s gonna carry me home

Amazing grace, big surprise
Hits you right between the eyes
Hits you hard
Like a small, flat stone
Slays your giants and leads you home**
[Pierce Pettis]

Links
listen to Love’s Gonna Carry me Home

I can’t think of a better subject to contemplate during Holy Week.

The first selection is a little hymn with 12 [count them!] stanzas, though I’m only sharing eight here.**

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth’s sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth’s failings
Have such kindly judgment given.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

There is grace enough for thousands
Of new worlds as great as this;
There is room for fresh creations
In that upper home of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty,
But is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness
Goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own.

Frederick Faber

***

I told a minister–a stranger–in ’86 that I was drunk, nuts and beyond God’s love. He said gently, “God HAS to love you. That’s God’s job.”

Anne Lamott

***

Love releases life that would otherwise remain dormant and
unsummoned. When you are loved, it is not just that you receive more from someone else, but also that you become more yourself. Loving people are literally lifegivers.

John Ortberg

***

for all the writers and scribblers out there:**

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

refrain:
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Frederick Lehman

Notes and Links
**All 12 stanzas to There’s a Wideness

the fascinating backstory to The Love of God, which reads like ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’

and if you want to sing along to this hymn

By His power God raised the Lord from the dead,
and He will raise us also.

I Corinthians 6:14

***

In the kingdom of the Son of Man
the power that counts is the power of love.
It is the rule of Emmanuel, God with us.
Let us heed the call that goes with it,
that we should go into the world
to follow this Emmanuel
to work and pray
so that the healing celebration of the coronation anthem
may woo this weary old world
back to the God who made it and who loves it still.

N.T. Wright

***

Here lies the tremendous mystery –
that God should be all-powerful, yet refuse to coerce.
He summons us to cooperation.
We are honoured in being given the opportunity to participate in His good deeds.
Remember how He asked for help in performing His miracles:
Fill the waterpots,
stretch out your hand,
distribute the loaves.

Elisabeth Elliot

***

This Week’s Special

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
He remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.

Psalm 146:6-7

Most loving Father,
whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things,
to fear nothing but the loss of you,
and to cast all our care on you who cares for us:
Preserve me from faithless fears and worldly anxieties,
that no clouds of this mortal life
may hide from me the light of that love which is immortal,
and which you have made known to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord;
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Prayer for the week, The Divine Hours

***

A year ago, I wrote about praying The Divine Hours while being with Lucy and Clara.
On the Divine Hours

Here is the reason why I’m praying The Divine Hours during this month:


one year later

Speaking of eyes to see

February 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

Our stance as Christians in the midst of the world is that of poor persons,
possessing nothing, not even ourselves,
and yet being gifted at every instant in and through everything.
When we become too affluently involved with ourselves and deny our inherent poverty,
then we lose the gifts and either begin to make demands for what we think we deserve (often leading to angry frustration)
or we blandly take for granted all that comes our way.
Only the truly poor person can appreciate the slightest gift and feel genuine gratitude.
The more deeply we live in faith the more we become aware of how poor we are and how gifted;
life itself becomes humble, joyful thanksgiving.

George Aschenbrenner

***

When the prosperous man on a dark but starlit night drives comfortably in his carriage and has the lanterns lighted, aye, then he is safe, he fears no difficulty, he carries his light with him, and it is not dark close around him.
But precisely because he has the lanterns lighted, and has a strong light close to him, precisely for this reason, he cannot see the stars. For his lights obscure the stars, which the poor peasant, driving without lights, can see gloriously in the dark but starry night.

So are those deceived ones who live in the temporal existence: either, occupied with the necessities of life, they are too busy to avail themselves of the view, or in their prosperity and good days they have, as it were, lanterns lighted, and close about them everything is so satisfactory, so pleasant, so comfortable—but the view is lacking, the prospect, the view of the stars.

Søren Kierkegaard, The Gospel of Suffering

***

This Week’s Special
Defend the weak and the fatherless;
uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 82:3-4

Speaking of being fed

February 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

High and Holy God,
give me this day a word of truth
to silence the lies that would devour my soul
and kind encouragements to strengthen me when I fall.
Gracious One, I come quietly to Your door
needing to receive from Your hands
the nourishment that gives life.
Amen and Amen.

Bernard of Clairvaux
12th century abbot

I am not wonderful. I am just a poor old frail and weak woman. God has taken hold of me and he gives me the strength I need each day. He uses me just because I know that I have no strength of my own.

Granny Brand
***

“God wages war on our despair by loving us into the future and by opening us up to infinite possibilities. The person, from the believer’s point of view, is a pilgrim, a sign of what is to come. Thus it is that we are invited to live not in the future, but from it.” Living from the future means refusing to define ourselves as less than what we will be when we stand before God. Living from the future means living at the edge of glory and rejecting the attempts made by the world, the flesh, or the devil to cut us down.

Richard Krejcir quoting Alan Jones

***

I don’t mean to say that I have… already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me…I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

The apostle Paul, around 60 years old, writing to the Phillipians about his growth in faith. [Phillipians 3:12-13]

This Week’s Special
Stop dwelling on past events and brooding over days gone by.
I am about to do something new.
Even through the wilderness, I will make a way and paths in the barren desert.
I shall provide water in the wilderness, and rivers in the barren desert.

Isaiah 43:18-21