Category Archives: Poetry

________ Friday

We refer to this frightful Friday as Good Friday.

Good. When I hear good, I think fine, decent, nondescript.

As in the generic, catch-all answer I receive from my boys in response to my motherly after-school questions: How was your day? How did your test go? How was chapel?

The etymology of the word good shows that it used to connote something fit or adequate, having the right or desirable quality.

good friday

This morning, I spent a few stolen moments thinking through the list of other adjectives that come to mind as a descriptor of this dark Friday.

__________ Friday?

Frightful Friday,
When the One rightful son,
Before an onlooking crowd,
The curse did become?

Unnatural Friday,
When the light of life
Darkened noonday sun
With un-eclipsed strife?

Diseased Friday,
When the Great Physician
Willfully contracted
Our terminal condition?

Execution Friday,
When the Man Divine
Donned death’s shroud
For humanity’s crime?

Foretold Friday,
When He who wound time
Was bound to a cross
In a death sublime?

Good Friday, 
Yes, that covers it all.
Jesus cleared our way
Back home from the Fall.

Nothing about what happened on that Friday we commemorate today feels right. Yet, it was the only way for the Father to bring back His wayward children long exiled from home. The Father foretold this Friday, the Son came for this Friday, and we are God’s children and Jesus’ siblings on account of this Friday.

Fitting. Having right or desirable quality. Good.

Good Friday, indeed.

 

 

The Seder & The Savior

A few years ago, when my children were three and two years old, I had the brilliant idea of teaching them the deeper significance of the Passover. I studied the Seder meal, went shopping, printed coloring sheets. The whole shebang. My incredulous husband wondered if this was really age-appropriate, but I pressed on.

We sat down and strapped our children into their baby chairs, lit candles and began our walk through the Jewish traditions. It was a total disaster. They spit out the herbs, gagged on the horseradish and chugged the sparking grape juice. I have not yet regained the courage to attempt another Seder in the Joseph household.

Funny story aside,  today I imagined what it must have been like for Jesus to sit down with disciples for the Seder meal. I imagined the familiar scents and flavors which Jesus would have known from years of celebrating the Passover with His family, suddenly becoming ominous as He realized they all pointed to His punishment on the Cross as the second and eternal Exodus of both Jew and Gentile alike.

Thinking of the Savior eating the Seder meal that spelled out His certain death moved my soul to a deeper appreciation for his last Passover in that Upper Room.

lidye-petit-300570-unsplash.jpg

The Seder & The Savior

The Upper Room is ready,
The table carefully set,
The disciples eager to celebrate;
They don’t understand as yet.

The Seder plate stares up at me,
Invading all of my senses,
Sights and smells arrest me,
Alluding my human defenses.

The bitter herbs, they bite me.
Meant to point back to captivity,
Yet they press me to tomorrow
When I’ll be nailed to the tree.

The roasted meat, the Zeroa,
Features the bone of a lamb.
They think of sacrifices past,
Yet I know that I am the ram.

The Beitzah points to desire,
The cries of people to be saved.
The path to their deep desire
Through my death is paved.

Karpas, the parsley-reminder
Of slavery’s back-breaking load,
Smells of relief to them, but to me
Does the darkest day bode.

Charoset paste of apples and wine,
Reminds of the mortar and brick,
To release them from their burden,
I the way of the Cross must pick.

Looking up from the plate, my portion,
I see the familiar faces of my friends.
For them, these sin-sick brothers,
I will drink God’s wrath to the end.

Oh, Father, pass over your people,
Let the punishment fall on me.
Through my ultimate slavery,
Finally set your children free.

Scarred, Sacred Head

Every year, as Easter fast approaches and catches me off guard, I attempt to reread George Herbert’s poem The Sacrifice. Every year a different stanza or two grab my heart strings and command my attention; this year was no exception. Two of the Biblical images Herbert so painfully, but poetically paints have seared my mind and heart this past week.

IMG_5698

They buffet me, and box me as they list, 
Who grab the earth and heaven with my fist,
And never yet, whom I would punish, miss’d; 
     Was ever grief like mine? (lines 130-134)

Then with the reed they gave to me before,
They strike my head, the rock from whence all store
Of heavenly blessings issue evermore:
    Was ever grief like mine? (lines 170-174).

His Hands, Our Hands
Two Scriptures comparing humanity to divinity come to mind when I think of hands. Two rhetorical questions, one from God’s interaction with Isaiah and another from His interaction with Job.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales?” Isaiah 40:12.

“Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt to bring rain on a land where no man in, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?” Job 38:25-27.

Jesus used His metaphorical hands to measure out all the oceans in one span, the way we would use our thumb and index finger to determine the amount of miles between two places on an old-school map. He traced careening canyons with his little finger. Majesty. Yet, when Jesus took on flesh and wore skin, He allowed himself to be punched with the fists of His own creatures. The phalanges that He dreamed up and placed in the intricate hands of mankind were used to box His own precious face.

His Head, Our  Fountainhead

The forehead is landing pad for smooches in our house. I love to tussle my little guys’ heads of unruly hair and sneak a quick kiss onto their soft foreheads. As they get bigger, the landing pad only grows, but the resistance also grows!

When I think of the precious head and forehead of Jesus being scarred by the tears of terrible thorns rather than kissed, when I think of His head receiving blows rather than besos (kisses in Spanish for my non-San Diegan friends), my own forehead furrows and my heart sinks.  Mary most likely kissed that forehead and tussled that head as her son grew up. Little did she understand that his sacred head would one day be scarred.

In the stanza above from The Sacrifice, George Herbert is drawing a parallel from Exodus to the Crucifix. In Exodus, when God’s people are complaining in the wilderness wanderings, God tells Moses to strike a rock with his staff; when the rock is struck, water pours out, satisfying the thirst of the people.  Herbert pictures Christ’s head as being the struck rock from whom streams of living water would flow.

Christ’s precious head being struck by the bludgeons of angry soldiers that He might become the fountainhead from which springs of living water would flow to us who are as guilty as the striking soldiers.

His head became our Fountainhead. What manner of love is this?

As Easter approaches, may we linger long on the face and hands of Christ. As we do so, may we begin to become the face and hands of Christ to others who are as thirsty for life as were the Israelites in the desert.

 

Light Palms, Heavy Burden

Palm Sunday.  The expectant people lined the streets, praising Jesus and quoting from Psalm 118 when he was approaching in peace.  The people knew He was the Messiah, the sent one, the one coming to save them. Thus, they shouted Hosanna! which means “Save us, now!” They were right to notice He was the long-awaited one and to praise Him as such. The problem was that their light and flippant praise did not take into consideration that His kingdom was an altogether different one than they expected. As a result of these missed expectations, their praises faded quickly into shouts of “Crucify him!” in a matter of days. We are not unlike them; our praise quickly turns cold and bitter when our expectations are not met in our way, when His plan for our best does not line up with our desires for what we think would be best.

IMG_2726

As I thought about what it may have felt like for Jesus to ride in through the praises of the people He would willingly die for in a matter of days, I was blown away at His patience, His resolve, His quiet suffering. They cheered His approach with a light and airy joy, but He alone knew He was marching on to His death.

What kind of King?

A King approaching in peace,
In humility He rode on,
Onlookers cheering him,
Expecting a new dawn.

The Scriptures foretold it,
Yet none of them could see,
The dawn would begin with
The God-Man hung on a tree.

The Messiah was coming,
To bring His kingdom to bear;
Of the coronation of tears,
None but He was aware.

“Hosanna! Save us now!” they cried,
As hopes and palms were raised.
“Finally the kingdom’s come,
May Jesus’ name be praised!”

He heeded not their fanatical cries,
For He full knew the heart of men,
From “Crown Him” to “Crucify,”
The voices would be raised again.

They didn’t catch the painful truth,
As they joyfully recited the song,
“Bind the sacrifice to the altar,”
But Jesus knew that they were wrong.

For no cords would be needed;
The lamb was already being led,
With full awareness and submission.
In a week, the King would be dead.

Yet with a tender fierceness,
The King approached the throne,
Knowing the crowds would leave him,
Knowing He must die alone.

With light palms they danced
Around this coming King,
Not knowing the weight He felt,
The heaviness this week would bring.

Yet with the peace of a true King,
He marched on towards the hill,
For the Joy that was set before Him,
For the curse He’d silence and still.

What kind of King is this?
Who is this that we serve?
The King who died to bring us
The Kingdom we don’t deserve.

The Difference Between Submission & Resignation

“There is a significant difference between submission and resignation.”

I don’t remember the full details of the context, but I will never forget the phrase uttered our dear friend and mentor, Judge Bill McCurine. I believe we were having a college gathering in their home, a chance for brand new believers in the beginning of their spiritual journeys to learn from two seasoned veterans of the faith. I believe someone asked about trusting God with singleness. To be honest, I am thankful I don’t remember the immediate context, because the phrase has led to rich application in nearly every arena of my life.

The Difference Defined
According to the Oxford Dictionary,  resignation means, “the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.”  In fact, the usage example says “i.e. a shrug of resignation.”

I, along with the rest of the Chick-fil-A loving hordes, sigh in resignation every Sunday when we, like clockwork, have a craving for a sandwich and waffle fries, only  to remember it is closed on Sunday.

On the surface, resignation bends the will, changes the schedule, and faces the reality of something unwanted; however, under the surface, at the soul and heart level, it can leave an insidious residue of bitterness, distrust, and frustration. Much like the teenage, “Fine” that is accompanied by huffing, puffing, and foot-stomping, resignation bows but does not fully trust.

Submission, on the other hand, is something altogether different. While they may appear almost identical initially, the degrees of separation between resignation and submission become more evident over time.

Biblical submission is much different than the world’s version which seems often to include force and demonstrations of raw authority and power. The Greek word, hupotasso, translated submit, is a compounding of two words, one meaning “under” and the other meaning “arrangement.” Thus, a biblical definition of submission is to place yourself under God’s arrangement of things, to submit under the Lord’s plan in trusting obedience.

While its outward bowing and releasing of control mirror resignation,  its internal source is quite different. Rather than sighing out of inability to change something, it sighs and submits in a trusting way,  believing that the heart of God knows and does better than we could ever know or do.

The Difference Experienced
If  I am being honest, I my soul has been swinging back and forth between resignation and submission these past few weeks since COVID-19 settled in to stay. If you know me, you know that my Sabbath time on Sundays is my lifeline.  Since my oldest was a  few weeks old,  I have been escaping away to a coffee shop for vital connection with God through His word and prayer and wrestling. As silly as it may seem, the getting away feels like going to a secret place to be alone with the Lord, not as a mother or a women’s ministry director or a wife, just as his desperate daughter.

Another example of my routine being off. I resigned to Sabbath by walking our neighborhood, but I was not happy about it, as evidenced by my pace and posture. A fuming little teapot speed-walking through the neighborhood was I. It was not just the monkey wrench in my treasured Sabbath rhythm, it was all of  it.  Disinfecting groceries, Zoom phone calls instead of face-to-face gatherings, tight spaces and tighter wallets.

miki-fath-1v1zjqxldmc-unsplash

But in that walk, the Lord reminded me that this is not what trusting submission looks like. He began to undo my  grumpy heart and remind me of the absolutely proven nature of his love.

Stay

The too-much-ness out there,
Draws out ineptness in here.
What busyness used to filter,
Now gathers in latent fear.

Your love blocked all my exits,
Enticing my going soul to stay.
Fleeting flings aren’t enough:
You would have me all the day.

It’s scary to sit so still, so long,
Without demand or distraction.
You want uninsulated intimacy,
The whole of me, not a fraction.

This blocking love can be trusted,
Even if the checking seems unchecked,
For You died to unblock life eternal,
Giving abundance for my neglect.

Though chosen,  I feel choice-less,
Yet an important choice remains;
Resign in apathy or submit in love.
Your submission my choice trains.

So, stay I must but I also shall,
Living within lines You’ve drawn.
And come again You can and will.
Your coming is sure as the dawn.

May we learn to submit this season to a trustworthy Father rather than resign in avowed apathy.  This too shall pass.

Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. Psalm 31: 21.

 

Sons & Strangers

The fish with the shekel in its mouth.

I have taught the story many times before to children of various ages, but the Lord taught it to me this morning in a way that brought tears to my eyes.

Jesus and his disciples are approaching Capernaum, and Peter is pressed by a fellow Jew for a two-drachma tax. This tax was an in-house tax among the Jewish people, not the Roman tax that Jesus will address later in Matthew 22:12. According to custom established at the time of Moses and later adapted to the Temple, Israelite males over the age of twenty were to pay two drachmas as a tribute to help keep up the Temple. This came to be known as the Temple Tax and was collected at the major religious feasts of the Jewish people.

When pressed and pressured by a leader, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?,” Peter quickly responded, “Yes,” perhaps out of a desire for approval or a desire to protect his teacher and friends from religious shame  (Matthew 17:24-25).

Either Jesus knew what had happened or happened to overhear the interaction. Either way, he used this interaction as a personal and intimate teaching moment with his disciple who would eventually be among the most prominent leaders of the early church. Jesus posed his own question to Peter:

“What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” (Matthew 17:25). 

The answer was obvious. Why would a king make his own son pay a tax? Taxes are for strangers, not sons. No such formal obligations should be made from a father to his sons. The sons, because of their connection to their father, are exempt. The Greek word used here, eleutheros, can be translated free, liberated, unbound, unshackled.

The audacity of this moment shocked me. After all, here a religious leader was pressing the One who was the living Temple for a temple tax, demanding that the One who was the only rightful son of God pay a tax to his father. The very Temple in question was intended all along to point to the One who would pitch the tent of God’s presence among us (see John 1).

The humble, yet powerful response of Jesus at this moment astounded me in a new way  this morning.

He sent Peter, the fisherman, with a hook to the shore of the Sea of Galilee, telling him to grab the first fish he could,  and promising him that he would find twice the Temple Tax in its mouth (a shekel was equal to four drachma). For Peter, who likely had seen just about everything one might normally find in the mouthes of fish, this would be a new fishing story he would never forget. But, more than the story, the powerful lesson it would write on his heart regarding his master would never be forgotten.

hoan-vo-egSqtHrxKDQ-unsplash

Sons &  Strangers

The Living Temple approaching the Temple,
Pressed by men to pay their fee. 
The One True Son treated as a stranger,
The Same Son who would mount the tree.

Would they charge Him to enter
The Presence of His Own Father?
The One who would become tribute
For two drachmas did they bother?

What they demanded from Him
He provided with great precision,
A shekel from a fish was nothing
To the price of His coming decision.

All treasures of all time were His
Yet with His blood, He’d pay the cost.
That strangers might become sons,
That His siblings might not be lost. 

This morning, in the midst of COVID-19, let us rest in the reminder of the One who paid the greatest cost for our freedom. God has provided more powerfully for us in his life, death, and resurrection than He did for Peter with the shekel from the sea.

He Giveth More Grace

TP is not the only thing on short supply in our house. We are running low on books, despite my hoarding of library books before the lock down. We are nearly out of sidewalk chalk and snacks. But those are not the lags that leave me worried.

anna-franques-3uUPiWkGQ2s-unsplash

At times throughout the day, patience is on short supply. While our creativity levels have been steady, I fear for the moment when what feels like an adventure to our boys starts to get old. Left to myself, my hope, willpower, and perspective have expiration dates.

While I don’t have much to offer on the former set of lists, I have good news for those who are running low on the latter set.  I’ll let Annie Johnson Flint say it, since she captures it best in a poem she penned which became a hymn.

“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.”

Lest you think this is mere poetry, you must know that Annie was twice orphaned and was crippled from arthritis that made her an invalid. She knew limitations and lack in every possible way; but those limitations led her to an all-sufficient, ever-present, always-abundant Savior.

Maybe you haven’t the end of your rice or frozen bread or canned goods yet; maybe you  never will.  Maybe you were among the early adapters who took multiple Costco runs for hand sanitizers and TP. Maybe your hospital won’t run out of protective masks.

But your heart will run out of drive and hope and energy and perspective if left to itself. While funny memes keep us laughing (keep them coming, they are like cinnamon sugar on milk toast days), a steady diet of happy thoughts are not enough to keep us hopeful in the midst of a sustained two front war against an invisible virus and a wave of mental health battles.

If you find your heart empty, don’t rush to fill it quickly with a short hope or a sudden surge in self-will.  Please listen to your empty heart and know that it is meant to correspond to and live in conjunction with an ever-full God.

The emptiness in us corresponds to his fullness.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of  the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth….For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. John 1:14 & 16. 

All people are invited to face an invisible virus with the companionship of the God who made himself visible.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross…Colossians 1:17-20.

If you are too quick to fill your emptiness (or your children’s emptiness or boredom) with new lists of fun indoor activities (again, keep them coming…just don’t rely on them or your ability to implement them to sustain you), you might miss out on being refilled by  the living water from the fountain of life.

Only empty things can be filled. We have an upper hand in these COVID-19 days.  As those who will know emptiness like we have not known before in a land that has smacked of abundance for most of our lives, we have a front row seat to the glory of God as seen through his sustaining grace.

As we get deeper into hard days, and closer to empty pantries and toilet paper rolls, may we know that, spiritually speaking, our Father’s full giving has only begun.

Poetry Offers Space for those Sheltering in Place

In a time when possibilities, once seemingly limitless in our nation, have suddenly become far more limited, poetry offers perspective and possibility while refreshing place.

I have long believed that poetry would make an eventual come-back in our culture, but now I see a window of actual opportunity for such a thing to happen. In a culture awash with words, often empty words from the unrealistic promises of advertisements, the economy of words in poetry forces meditation and musing. Each word packed with levels of meaning, each phrase stretchy enough to become a space and place all its own.

cmdr-shane-660498-unsplash

Take it from American poet Emily Dickinson who spent the majority of her life in a chosen quarantine without COVID-19. While she was particularly quirky, she knew a thing or two about limits and possibilities. In her poem I Dwell in Possibility, she expresses the freedom that the poetic form offers as compared to prose.

I Dwell in Possibility  (466) by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

While we are cramped in similar places and limited in our movement, poetry offers movement and imaginative space. It frees us from a merely pragmatic existence and imbues meaning into the seemingly monotonous. 

Scottish writer and poet George MacDonald had the gift of expressing himself through a world of words. In the following excerpt from his book of poetry entitled The Diary of An Old Soul, he puts into words what so many of us have experienced in the recent weeks.

“Therefore, O Lord, when all things common seem,
When all is dust, and self the centre clod,
When grandeur is a hopeless, foolish dream,
And anxious care more reasonable than God,-
Out of the ashes I will call to thee-
In spite of dead distrust call earnestly; –
Oh thou who livest, call, then answer dying me.

We are a shadow and a shining, we!
One moment nothing seems but we see,
Nor aught to rule but common  circumstance-
Nought is to seek but praise, to shun but chance;
A moment more, and God is all in all,
And a sparrow from its nest can fall
But from the ground its chirp goes up into his hall.”

As I have processed with family, college friends, and women from our church, the shared sentiment is a sudden swinging between the poles of levity and gravity, fear and distrust, belief and unbelief, peace and anxiety. One minute we are trusting the Lord and enjoying his purchased peace in the midst of the storm, but then the next, for no apparent reason, we are cowering in fear, hoarding toilet paper, and doubting God’s wisdom and goodness.

I love the phrase, “We are a shadow and a shining, we!”  as it poetically captures the distinctly Christian paradox of humanity which holds both brokenness and beauty, sin and sonship.

Two weeks ago, all seemed normal as circumstances and schedules ruled our lives. We had baseball and soccer practices that called us, coffee dates that consoled us, and work and home to divide our time. Then, as if out of nowhere, COVID-19 changed the filter. Suddenly, the things we took for granted became great gifts: hugs, toilet paper, work and paychecks. Suddenly, the God who had all but fallen into the background came again to the forefront, and the sovereignty of God that our self-assured and self-reliant culture tried to shrug off became a prized reality. The Heidelberg catechism went from a dusty old creed to an anchor line of hope nearly overnight.

MacDonald’s twin phrases, “When grandeur is a hopeless, foolish dream/
And anxious care more reasonable than God,” perfectly captures the feelings many of us have right now. Anxiety seems more reasonable than faith right now, but, as believers, we cry out to the living God to save us.

More poetry which creates space and perspective to come in the coming days of quarantine. Until then, rest in the reality that while we are both shadow and shining, our God is sovereign and good.

Love’s Lonely Offices

Today love will be celebrated with saccharine candies,  glittery cards, and helium balloons, and well it should be in a world laced with hate and envy and self.

I loved making a soccer field Valentine box with my middle schooler. In fact,  I cherished it knowing it may be one of the last we make together before he thinks such things cheesy.  I set out sweet treasures for my boys last night. My hubs and I have some sweet things planned for the morning.

IMG_7615

But today I am also thinking about love’s lonely offices. The uncelebrated, unnoticed, unseen acts of daily love that keep families and churches and cities alive in the midst of the entropy of a broken world.

In his poem Those Winter Sundays, Robert Hayden dropped a line that has been stuck in my head like the thread of a spiderweb.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueback cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires ablaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

The last two lines have been playing on repeat in my mind for over a week. What do I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?

As I continue to step further into parenting, as I watch my mother-in-law care for her sick husband, as I wade into a new Church leadership role, I continue to notice more of love’s lonely offices.

Waking up at odd hours of the night to spend an hour getting her husband out of bed and to the toilet and back, my Amma knows austere and lonely offices well. She has opened my eyes to the quiet faith and uncelebrated fortitude of caregivers to the aging and sick.

Being around our church more, I see the pastoral leadership team bearing the weight of the congregation’s needs and sufferings. I have an inside vantage point to the wrestling in prayer and planning that happen behind the scenes on a daily basis, another window into love’s lonely offices.

Watching friends serving the foster care system set up visitations and caring for children that are not theirs. Love’s austere and lonely offices.

A smaller example, yet significant in its own little way: I spent time writing notes in my boy’s notebooks for school only to be told, tenderly, but still painfully, “Yeah, I saw that. All those notes always say the same thing.” A little example of love’s little yet lonely offices.

The world is full of austere and lonely offices, but they are all glimpses of the Love’s most austere and lonely office, the office of Christ.

In the poem, the image of the father waking with tired and blistered hands to stoke the fires of warmth for his son are both moving and memorable. Yet, the image of the Creator God sending His beloved, dear Son-self into the hatred and hardness of our broken globe trumps the former image.

The image of Christ in the garden, laying with His face to the ground, in agony while His closest friends slept. Love’s austere and lonely office.

The image of Christ lifted on a Cross, perfection pounded by imperfection’s penalty, forgiving the offenders. Love’s most austere and lonely office.

In an eternal string of days, our Christ sets the table, serves His children, offering them the meal of Himself, his body broken on our behalf that we would be made whole. Often, the meal is skipped, if not scorned. Yet Christ faithfully serves in His austere and lonely office.

What a joy to know that as we go about our own nuanced versions of love’s austere and lonely offices, followers of Christ are not alone.  Far from alone, Christ’s brothers and sisters are empowered and enabled by the Spirit and strength from His lifetime of love’s lonely offices.

The Father’s sending, Christ’s sacrifice and the Spirit’s closer-than-the-air nearness transform our lonely offices into lovely offices, chances to join the Trinity in an eternal office of love.

 

 

 

 

The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

As those who recently spent time in Texas, I can at least say that I have seen the cattle on a thousand plains. And as those who raise financial support for a ministry, I can say that I have prayed this phrase countless times (mostly out of context) to remind my anxious soul that God always provides, for all that is on the earth is His! However, this past week, the Lord brought the phrase to mind in a different light.

helena-lopes-QaWSsUSJMbo-unsplash.jpg

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills, I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine.” Psalm 50:7-11. 

In context, God offers the powerful imagery of owning the cattle on a thousand hills to rebuke His people who were quick to do due diligence to the letter of the ceremonial law while their hearts were far from Him. In essence, God says, “I don’t need your sacrifices of bulls; all the bulls are mine anyway. I want what only you can offer me: your dependence, your honor, your worship.”

In juxtaposition to the rote, heartless sacrifices offered by God’s children to their Father, the Spirit brought to remembrance a heartfelt sacrifice from an unimaginably generous and forgiving father on behalf of His child.

But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” Luke 15:22-24. 

I am certain that the father did not consider it lavish to sacrifice the fattened calf to celebrate his wayward son’s long-awaited, oft-cried over return. While the father from the Parable of the Prodigal Son gives us a window into the heart of God the Father, the Cross of Christ gives us a far more focused glimpse into the nature of our God.

The earthly father killed the fattened calf to celebrate the son’s return. Our heavenly  father killed His obedient Son to enable a path for all the other wayward children to return.  I imagined God thinking about the cattle on a thousand hills as possessions He would gladly give up to celebrate the return of more of His children.

The Cattle on a Thousand Hills

The cattle on a thousand hills- 
All of them are mine.
I’ve no need to brand them-
I am their Maker Divine.

Yet, I’d gladly give them
Upon a thousand returns.
For a thousand more children,
My entire being years. 

I’d slaughter every cattle,
But I already gave Myself.
To purchase their pardon,
I gave up all my wealth.

Like the generous father,
I’ve a robe to wrap them in;  
I’ll cover them in my robes,
For I’ve covered all their sin.

A thousand thousand children
for a thousand thousand years;
This is my rightful reward
For all Golgotha’s tears.