Category Archives: Poetry

An Austere Beauty

Sometimes beauty shows up most clearly on a backdrop of barrenness.

I have known this theoretically and biblically, but this past weekend, I experienced it physically. My boys are in a phase where they have become obsessed with the National Parks System, and I am not complaining. They get it honest from their grandparents who have become second-career park visitors. Since we are privileged enough to live in a state which boasts nine National Parks, my boys have set their sights on visiting all of them.

Having visited Joshua Tree (the closest to our home), we decided to visit Death Valley, the next-closest park. Sounds inviting, right?

When I think of National Parks, I imagine epic waterfalls, treed forests, towering animals- in a word abundance. Not so much in Death Valley. Boasting the hottest, driest, and lowest point in the Western hemisphere, Death Valley is a land of scarcity. As it receives less than two inches of rain per year, it is not exactly a welcoming place. In fact, the National Park rangers do an excellent job of scaring you with warnings of death by overexposure and dehydration.

Yet, this inhospitable land also boasts an austere beauty. Those who dwell therein (namely the kangaroo rat, roadrunners, and some brave horned sheep) have learned to live on the edge of existence.

I couldn’t help but see an obvious spiritual parallel. Much of the Bible was written in the context of the desert and desert places play a prominent role in the Scriptures. There are far more deserts and waste places in the middle of the Scriptural story than there are gardens and lands of abundance. Those take a prominent place in the beginning and the end of the story (which is really the beginning of a restored heaven and earth for eternity).

The older I get, the more I find myself in dry, arid places (literally and figuratively). I see friends panting for life-giving water in the desert wastes of both childhood and adult cancer and bereavement. I have friends who are dwelling in what would seem to be the lowest points on the spiritual topographical map. I have friends looking down on empty cribs who feel like they are in the spiritual badlands.

But these friends will learn the secret that God teaches us best in the desert places: the gift of austere beauty. Speaking in the power of the Spirit, Isaiah (another dear desert-dweller) speaks of a coming day of abundance.

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing…For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes…and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall up upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:1-2; 6-7; 10).

In the meanwhile, we walk in a land of austere beauty, of subtle sustenance. Lord, give us eyes to see the beauty all around us. For, even in the most inhospitable places of the soul, you have made your home within us.

An Austere Beauty

An aura of austere beauty,
A land of superlative extremes,
Rocky heights and sublime depths,
The stuff of both space and dreams. 

That anything could make its home
In such an inhospitable place –
That life should be sustained here
Is an exhibit of His glory and grace.
 

Your design portfolio’s diversity 
Speaks of your infinite mind;
Your desert’s delicate balance
Stems from your heart so kind.

The Maker of Death Valley
Knew a thing or two of each:
Deserts, valleys of weeping,
And a cross His people to reach. 

He who sustains an ecosystem 
In the extremes of such a place
Will surely keep His children,
By, for, and with His steady grace.

Gladness Isn’t Glibness: A Preemptive Perspective for the Hurting during the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us. This means scrumptious food, seasonal decorations, and a whole smattering of unspoken, though deeply felt shoulds.

While many people disagree on when you should buy your tree or how long you should brine your turkey, our culture loudly agrees that we should be glib during the holidays and that the festivities and food should drown our the pain we feel in the depths of our hearts.

But, the Scriptures say believers should be glad, not glib. While glibness implies a giddiness which is often insincere and/or shallow, the Scriptures call for gladness which is rooted in the unchanging character of God and the deep works for God rather than changing circumstances.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night…For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Psalm 92:1-2; 4)

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord! Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!'” (Psalm 122:1).

In the Old Testament, gladness is often correlated with oil which represents the Holy Spirit. The first time Jesus opened the Scriptures during his public ministry, he quoted from the prophet Isaiah who mentioned the oil of gladness which would replace mourning in time.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The gladness the Scriptures speak of is cultivated through worship as a discipline and accompanies the presence of the Holy Spirit. In Psalm 92, which I quoted above, the writer connects gladness to the works of God. However, this statement was not spoken cheaply or lightly. In the Psalm, we hear an honest outcry that the wicked seem to be flourishing (Psalm 92:6). However, time spent in the presence of God and a fresh anointing with oil (Psalm 92:11; 13), the psalmist is given new eyes to see the same things differently. The situation has not changed; the psalmist’s perspective on the situation has. Thus, his ability to be glad in the works of God and the nature of God in whom “there is no unrighteousness” (Psalm 92:15).

Don’t let the subtle shoulds of the season demand a surface glibness. Rather, hear the should of Scripture which invites you to gladness that can coexist with honest disillusionment, deep grief, and trying circumstances.

The poem “Christmas Eve” by Christina Rossetti captures the depths of gladness the Incarnation brings.

Christmas Eve” by Christina Rossetti

“Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing moon.
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show;
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.”

Suffering Sharpens Sight

Suffering and grief make our brains feel fuzzy and forgetful. They make us fatigued and sleepy, body, mind, and soul. But they sharpen our sight, if not in the moment, in the longterm.

I remember reading a book written by a Vietnam veteran who wrote honestly not only about the horrors he saw in Vietnam, but also about his experiences of color and beauty in Vietnam. It wasn’t that the colors changed or were brighter there; it was more that living on the thin edge between life and death made him see more clearly both the beauty and brokenness of earth.

Corrie ten Boom, while living in the nightmare that was a concentration camp, talks about moments of being utterly stunned by the beauty of a bird or a small flower or blade of grass.

Suffering trains our eyes not only to see sharply but also to see through. Suffering cuts through the gauze of this earth and removes its shiny veneer. It exposes much of the laughter of earth as hollow and many of its pleasures as transitory.

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In her poem “Thy Friend and thy Father’s Friend forget not.” Christina Rossetti poetically captures the sight that suffering offers.

Friends, I commend to you the narrow way;
Not because I, please God, will walk therein,
But rather for the Love Feast of that day,
The exceeding prize which whoso will may win.
Earth is half spent and rotting at the core,
Here hollow death’s heads mock us with a grin,
Here heartiest laughter leaves us tired and sore.
Men heap up pleasures and enlarge desire,
Outlive desire, and famished evermore
Consume themselves within the undying fire.
Yet not for this God made us: not for this
Christ sought us far and near to draw us nigher,
Sought and found and paid our penalties.
If one could answer, ‘Nay’ to God’s command,
Who shall say ‘Nay’ when Christ pleads all He is
For us, and holds us with a wounded Hand?”

Suffering can help us to see earth as “half spent and rotten to the core.” Suffering can aid in focusing our longing and hope on the lasting land of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Pain unsettles us and points our hearts back to lasting promises, so that we can say with Peter, “But according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

In our suffering, we have the opportunity to see the Suffering Savior as he is. In our suffering, we have the invitation to be held by the Wounded Healer.

For the believer in Christ, suffering is punctuated and purposeful. It will come to an end in the presence of Christ. There, we will see him as he is and all things as they should be (1 John 3:2).

May our suffering, be it minute or monumental, commend to us the narrow way which leads us to the broadest places of His presence.

Be a Bellwether

“Be a bellwether!” You don’t see that on motivational posters hanging in classrooms. You don’t hear it in pep rallies or board meetings. But you should!

In its present day vernacular a bellwether is a trendsetter, an indicator of the future, or a gauge for future trends. (e.g. the Apple corporation is the bellwether for technological advances). By this definition, I am, by no means, a bellwether. I might be one of the latest adapting humans I know. I still own an iphone 4. I like paper calendars. I listen to CDs in my car.

However, the term actually came from a shepherding practice used in the Middle East and Europe.

When leading their flocks full of personality, some shepherds actually learned to lead through a few sheep. They trained a few particular sheep to listen closely to their voices and to be attuned to their location. Eventually, the shepherds placed a bell around the neck of these “wethers” (thus, the term bellwether). The bellwether served as twofold help to the shepherd. First, the shepherd could listen for the sounds of the bell which would indicate the location and his flock. Secondly, other sheep would follow the bellwether as it followed the shepherd.

This original definition of a bellwether has become a beacon for my heart and soul. In a culture full of influencers, this is a kind of influence I can wrap my heart around. David, the Shepherd-turned-king of Ancient Israel, knew a thing or twenty about leading stubborn animals. His expertise leading animals colored the way He saw the Lord as His own Good Shepherd, as seen so obviously in Psalm 23, but also in Psalm 32.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eyes upon you. Be not like a horse or mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord (Psalm 32:9-10).

This entire psalm describes the blessing of being forgiven through honest confession and walking in constant humility and dependence. David knew a thing about being a horse or mule without understanding, as he had stubbornly ignored the Lord and forcefully gone his own way into adultery and murder. He uses his painful experience to call others to stay rather than stray, to invite God’s people to be humbly led by their Good Shepherd.

Stay close to His staff, for He leads to still waters even through valleys shadowed by death. Be attentive to His Spirit’s gentle nudges and slight course corrections. Allow yourself to be led. Make it easy for your Savior-Shepherd to guide you. Be a bellwether whose life helps others find and follow their Good Shepherd.

A Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers, 
   Life is but an empty dream! 
For the soul is dead that slumbers, 
   And things are not what they seem. 

Life is real! Life is earnest! 
   And the grave is not its goal; 
Dust thou art, to dust returnest, 
   Was not spoken of the soul. 

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow, 
   Is our destined end or way; 
But to act, that each to-morrow 
   Find us farther than to-day. 

Art is long, and Time is fleeting, 
   And our hearts, though stout and brave, 
Still, like muffled drums, are beating 
   Funeral marches to the grave. 

In the world’s broad field of battle, 
   In the bivouac of Life, 
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! 
   Be a hero in the strife! 

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant! 
   Let the dead Past bury its dead! 
Act,— act in the living Present! 
   Heart within, and God o’erhead! 

Lives of great men all remind us 
   We can make our lives sublime, 
And, departing, leave behind us 
   Footprints on the sands of time; 

Footprints, that perhaps another, 
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, 
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, 
   Seeing, shall take heart again. 

Let us, then, be up and doing, 
   With a heart for any fate; 
Still achieving, still pursuing, 
   Learn to labor and to wait.

Sons are Slippery

I cry during commercials and movies, but I weep at weddings. I can usually hold it together when the bride walks toward her groom, but I officially lose it during the mother/son dance.

As a mother of three sons, I cannot help but imagine myself in that position in the future. In a moment, my mind flashes back through a montage of memories with each of my boys: dancing in the kitchen, watching them ride a bike for the first time, remembering the first time they failed at something significant that broke their heart.

What seemed impossibly far off when they were toddlers toting their blankets becomes more realistic every year. One day, I will send these boys off, not merely to kindergarten or the prom, but to their own future. While they will always be my sons, the intervals between check-ins with their mother have been slowly lengthening. I remember being nervous to leave them for a thirty-minute jog when they were infants. I remember mutual tears at preschool drop-offs. As recently as this year, I cried tears dropping them off for middle school.

Sometimes I want to cling to them, to try to clutch them too close, to corral them in realms I can control. But the best way to hold these boys of mine is with one hand tightly holding the Lord and one hand loosely holding them.

Seamus Heaney’s poem Mother of the Groom perfectly captures the slipperiness of sons. While I don’t know if the Lord has marriage in store for my boys, this poem captures a mother’s heart and the slippery nature of sons well.

“What she remembers
Is his glistening back
In the bath, his small boots
In the ring of boots at her feet.

Hands in her voided lap,
She hears a daughter welcomed.
It’s as if he kicked when liften
And slipped her soapy hold.

Once soap would ease off
The wedding ring
That’s bedded forever now
In her clapping hand.”*

Heaney’s mention of a voided lap and her clapping hands reminds me that there is joy in every season. My older boys have long since vacated my lap. Their disproportionately growing feet barely fit in my lap these days. But they will never vacate my heart. And, as one who has hope in the Lord, I can smile and even clap at the future (Proverbs 31: 25).

Photo by Vytis Gruzdys on Unsplash

For this season, God has entrusted these boys to me. These days are slipping by and these boys of mine are growing increasingly slippery. But the Lord who has entrusted them to me has a love that is steady and sure. To teach them to stand firm in him is one of the highest calls on my life.

I don’t want to pitter away these precious days filled with sweaty socks and deepening voices and constant snacking. I don’t want to miss the fleeting moments that happen as we drive to school or on our occasional hikes. I want to bottle them up and treasure them in my heart.

As I raise them, I have to fight the urge to place my deepest identity in mothering. Such an ill-founded identity will fail them as quickly as it will fail me. My deepest identity must be found in being the beloved of the Lord, the daughter of the Perfect Father, the dwelling place of the brooding-like-a-mother Holy Spirit. As I fight for this identity, my prayer is that it would bleed into their own.

Then, when my lap and these bunk beds are voided, I will still have a lifetime of being siblings in Christ with these slippery sons of mine.

*Seamus Heaney. Opened Ground. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998, 66.

Competing Justices

In the name of seeking justice, injustice is birthed from competing justices. These are no mere philosophical musings, as this statement only describes the bitter battlefields of the past few years.

We are not the first to live in a pluralistic society where different concepts of justice are warring to establish their vision of fairness and rightness in the world. After all, Jesus himself was born into a time rife with pluralism in the Roman Empire. He was born into the Jewish people, who themselves were divided about how to respond to Roman occupation and Roman rule. Some sought to keep the peace and assimilate, others wanted to fight power with power, others sought to focus on living holy lives (and even within this group, various subgroups fought about what constituted living a holy life).

It is what C.S. Lewis called chronological snobbery to think our current battlefield singular and unique in the human experience. I am not belittling the bewilderment and frustration of our particular cultural moment. We are living in mind-boggling, soul-shaking, foundation-exposing times. However, this current ideological battlefield is only a new front of a very ancient war (Ephesians 6:12).

As those made in the image of God, every human has some remnant of a justice sentiment. We want fairness and fight when what we define as fairness is violated. But what happens when we have different concepts of fairness or even those with the same end-goal conceive of vastly different routes to take towards such an ideal?

I need not tell you what happens. You are living in what happens.

One must either hide and hang out only within those who agree with your sense of justice (huddle, hide, and hope for better times) or fight with those who differ, whether with missiles or malicious words (fiercely fight for military or political might).

In his book The Everlasting Man, G.K Chesterton argues that God wisely stepped into time exactly when he did. The wave of the world had crested; humanity and a merely human concept of justice had reached its crest in the Roman Empire. Man had done the best he could. And failed. Miserably. Our best attempts at establishing justice only proved our inability and created more injustice.

Any and every solution build from man for man will fail. Man and man-made systems cannot fix the problem that man created when man rejected God as the center and hub of all things, visible and invisible.

Christ refused to be drawn into the battle lines that had been drawn by men. He continually pointed to the battle lines that we drew when we stepped outside the ancient boundary given by God for our good. But he did far more than point to them. He stepped into the injustice and bore the weight of eternal injustice.

Competing Justices

We clamor for the perfect king:
We campaign only to arraign
We endlessly elect leaders
Who promise but don’t attain.

We demand only to depose,
Measure by a shifting scale.
One group builds a system
That another works to derail.


One of a limited vantage point
Points the finger at another.
Justice competes with justice.
Arming brother against brother.

Man-made justice keeps failing;
Every attempt earns the verdict.
The evidence is irrefutable:
We cry for a rule who is perfect.

Yet we have always had Him.
The King of thorn and scar.
His substantive Word stands.
His justice is better by far.

I don’t have neat answers for how to live in this strange time. I haven’t studied political science. I am wrestling deeply with how to live out God’s commands to do justice and love mercy since they are so close to his heart (James 1:27).But I do know this much. God is the just judge (Psalm 45:6-7). He sets the parameters (Isaiah 44:24-25). He is preeminent (Colossians 1:15-20). He has priority (Matthew 6:33). He himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14).

This Just Judge submitted to unjust authorities to bear injustices we committed. We must learn our justice from the only Just One.

The Lord is Our Lodestar

Supposedly people are leaving California by droves. I saw a Babylon Bee this week to the effect of awarding Governor Newsom the highest salesman for U-Haul trucks. I do not want to get political. I think I am largely allergic to politics. 

That being said, I felt the weight of the world this week. I felt the weight of the reality that God has led us to have our children in public schools in San Diego (if you disagree, please take it up with the Lord himself, as we get our orders for our children each year from him). Even those who are not called to raise their children in an urban, postChristian, postmodern city must grapple with the incredibly strong cultural currents that are ripping through once seemingly (though only seemingly) serene cultural seas. 

This Friday, I spoke to our youth, a motley crew of 12-15 years olds, about identity. I had to contend for things that were once commonly presumed and assumed. But I was glad for the chance to be sharpened and concise enough in my communication of biblical identity to be heard and semi-understood in fifteen minutes before fifteen year olds. 

Our identity is not the same as our identifiers. Our deepest identity is not merely the sum of our surname, our sport, our successes, and our sex. Our deepest identity is who our Creator says we are irregardless of our feelings, failures, or foibles. As his created image-bearers, we are his by birth (Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 139; Isaiah 43:20). And those who are in Christ are twice-his. His by birth and His by rebirth (Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3: 5-8).

As those purchased at an unthinkable cost, our lives are no longer our own (Galatians 2:20-21; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I wish I could say that I always lived in the peace and with the purpose that comes from these rock-solid realities. But, as I was teaching them, I was reminding myself. 

If I were my own, I could make decisions on my own. I could at least pretend to be in control of the circumstances around me and my children. Alas and alleluia, I am not.  

When I think about what our children are hearing and seeing, I cringe and cower in fear. I want to remove them from any trace of the evil one and lewd lies (John 8:44). But, then the Spirit leads my stirred-up spirit to truth as spoken by our Savior. 

“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out  of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you send them me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).

As I was praying this for our children, the Spirit opened my eyes to a new reality. When Jesus was praying this for his disciples (and us, as his future disciples), he knew exactly what this meant. He could not claim ignorance or partial knowledge of evil and its power, as He, being fully God and fully man, knew evil in its full, unalloyed strength. 

Jesus could likely see Peter hanging upside down on a cross when he prayed these words. He prayed this costly prayer knowing full well what Nero would do in the Roman colosseum. His all-knowing, all-seeing, all-pure eyes knew evil in a way that we never will, as we would be crushed and undone. Jesus prayed with one eye wide-open to evil and the other expectant of the keeping protection of His Father. 

Yet, he still prayed, “I do not ask that you  take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” These words, spoken on behalf of his disciples, only reiterate what he had spoken directly to them:

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs are on your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:28-31).

When fear of what my children may be hearing or seeing fills me, a greater fear must do the work of expelling it. My God sees, hears, and knows all. He knows the boundary lines allotted to my children. He knows the days they are living in. He chose their zip code. 

Far more important than these realities, he knows them. He knows their hearts as he knows the hairs on their heads. I am limited. I am fallible. I often don’t know what is best. 

But their ultimate Keeper does not grow weary and does not follow a circadian rhythm. He stands alert even when I sleep. He goes where I cannot go. He guards constantly, keeping watch over their souls (Psalm 121). He alerts me through his Spirit and his Word. He directs us both. He is our lodestar, the fixed point who steers us through cloud-shrouded days and dark nights. 

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Lodestar

God is the lodestar of our lives;
He keeps our course set aright.
Above even the fiercest storm,
He guides us through the night.

The Lord, our designated Captain,
With great cost has gone ahead.
He charted a course through Hades
As the firstborn from the dead.

The Spirit, our steadying compass,
Cabins ever-so-closely within.
With Christ-exalting accuracy,
He points both to comfort and sin.

With such Triune involvement,
Even broken vessels have hope.
We’ll be guided safe to harbor
Bound by love’s threefold rope.

Under the Sun

This morning at church, we read through the entire book of Ecclesiastes. If you are looking for a booster shot to bolster humanity, I would not recommend it. Although, as an antidote for the prosperity gospel, it has great effectiveness.

About midway through the book, I looked over at my teenage son who was taking notes with a look of confusion. He literally wrote, “Solomon keeps saying everything is vanity under the sun.”

I looked over at him and whispered, “Under the sun, yes. But, that’s the whole point. The book is meant to lead us above the sun, beyond the sun, outside of humanity’s constant attempt to create meaning for itself.”

As James so wisely realized in his words to the early church, wisdom had to come down from above (James 3:13-18). When we had thoroughly malled God’s good purposes for humanity, we needed the God-man to step onto the course He created for the earth.

Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Under the Sun

Under the sun on our collared run,
All’s been tested, tried, and done.
Looking for novelty, finding none.
With each rotation tedium is spun.

Here, both rags and riches ravage,
And evil dwells in sage and savage.
Emptiness follows caviar and cabbage.
Vanity is an often verified addage.

Even the wisest of men is confounded,
Pessimists proven, optimists astounded.
Favor is fleeting while folly is founded.
By meaninglessness we are hounded.

Oh, my friend, but beyond the sun –
Past the path earth was taught to run –
Stands He who its orbit has spun,
Speaks the meaning-dripping One.

Seeing our toiling under the sun,
He to His sin-sick people did run
To be stuck in a web he hadn’t spun
Until the Savior cried, “It is done!

Death itself He did repugn,
For three days later, life won.
Meaning now in us does run
For all our days under the sun.

I am so thankful our self-revealing God did not leave us with our own wisdom-folly to discover meaning under the sun. I am thankful for the lifter of our eyes and the One whose light will outshine our dying sun. In Him we trade vanity for victory and hopelessness for living hope!

A Word to Bruised Reeds and Dimly Burning Wicks

I have been running on fumes lately. The beginning of our summer felt like a gentle crawl; however, by the beginning of August, our pace was more sprint than stroll. School supplies to buy, well checks to be scheduled, sports games to attend. In addition to the normal hustle, God has birthed an infant church under our care. This means support to raise, insurance plans to shift, and souls to shepherd. In the midst of many necessary and good things, I tend to lose sight of the best thing: time spent in the presence of the Father.

I know I am not alone. I have friends whose faith is running on fumes as they continue to wade through difficult diagnoses. I have friends who feel like bruised reeds, barely standing after a series of storms. I have friends who have walked with Jesus brightly for decades who feel like dimly burning lanterns after the events of the past year.

A languid lot of lamps we are.

Thinking of them and of my own barely-puttering heart, I sat down yesterday for desperately needed time alone with the Lord. I have been slowly meandering through Isaiah 41 and 42 for the past few weeks. And, in God’s merciful timing, the Spirit led me to pick up where I left off in Isaiah 42.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him…A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law (Isaiah 42:1 & 3-4).

Isaiah sets up a juxtaposition between God’s people (bruised and dimly burning) and their God who won’t be bruised or dimmed until he brings forth justice for his sin-struggling people. In fact, he ties verses 3 and 4 together by using the same Hebrews words: ratsats which means crushed, oppressed, or struggling and keheh which means dim, dull, discouraged, or faint.

Yesterday, this juxtaposition of our nature to His was just what I needed to be buoyed. I cannot tend to bruised reeds alone, as I myself am a bruised reed. I cannot fan dim lights into flame, as myself am a charred, barely burning wick. But He can. In fact, He already has.

Isaiah said the coming Servant would’t be bruised until he established justice; yet to establish justice for us bruised reeds and dimmed wicks, he let himself be beyond bruised. He chose to be broken on the Cross to buttress His lot of bruised reeds.

He, the light of the world, and the sun He created were snuffed out so we could be fanned into flames that might light this dark world. He who has gone to these lengths for us will naturally continue to care for his languid lot of lamps. He will provide the fresh oil of the Holy Spirit; He Himself will breath fresh air over our souls to coax tiny sparks into flames. He Himself will trim our charred wicks with his scarred hands. He is a gentle light keeper. For no one cares more that the dark corners be lit than He who is its true light.

Dimly burning 

What a languid lot we are,
What barely burning wicks
Who could fan these flames, 
Our feebleness could fix?

If we are to light the world,
We’ll need fresh oil and air.
We’ll need a tender keeper,
Our charred parts to pare. 

Such a keeper we have 
In the Father of all light.
He tends His little lamps,
He’s patient with our plight. 

On Homecomings

Last week, our two older sons went off to camp. I imaged five quiet days of bubble baths and lattes and productive work. In reality, I found myself busy missing my boys, tidying their rooms with a maternal energy that had few other places to flow.

For the first half of the week the three of us remaining home mentioned often how much we missed them; by Wednesday, we found ourselves eagerly preparing for their homecoming on Friday. We made signs and all the things.

As right as it was for them to be gone, their absence felt so wrong. Things felt incomplete without them. The house was too quiet.

Even though they were mostly being held together by Skittles and running on fumes, our reunion was sweet. Having them back, messy and loud as they are, things were set right.

Thinking of our reunion with the boys we love so dearly made me think of the Father and His reunion with His Son. Even though it was the agreed upon plan of the Trinity before time was wound, the Son’s stepping into time surely tugged at the Trinity.

While he was on earth, Jesus kept up communion with the Father, but the communion was different than what they had from experienced from eternity. The Incarnation involved leaving and loss. It involved distance that reached its climax in the agony of the Cross. More than the unimaginable physical pain of a cruel crucifixion, the turning away of the Father wounded the Son.

While I realize it is anthropomorphic, I imagined the Father lovingly tidying the universe with excited energy, waiting for His beloved Son’s return. Our God is Trinity, so it so hard for our minds not to slip into modalism; however, I am thankful that God has given us pictures of human relationships that help us vaguely understand the nature and the heart of our Triune God.

Homecoming

Eagerly awaiting His Son’s arrival, 
He passed time straightening stars.
Though their plans were eternal,
Heaven had not yet seen the scars. 

A Son lent, a curtain rent,
A Son risen soon returns. 
A curse stayed, a debt paid,
A Father for His Son yearns. 

A wave of relief overcame him;
Searing separation was done. 
The Son would sit beside Him 
Until Heaven and earth be one.
 

The Trinity danced in delight,
Before the Spirit descended. 
Redemption was secured, 
Satan’s tyranny upended

One more reunion is coming,
A homecoming of epic scale.
Exiles will enter the eternal city 
Whose King will never fail.

For now, I am thankful that my crew is home and under one roof. But I also realize that our days together under one roof are numbered, as are our days on this spinning globe. Our deepest, most lasting home is with Him. Little homecomings this side of glory give us a tiny taste of that ultimate homecoming which will be the believer’s experience of heaven.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations, before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:1-2).