More than watchmen for the morning

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!

O Lord, hear my voice!

Let your ears be attentive

to the voice of my pleas for mercy!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

and in his word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord

more than watchmen for the morning,

more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love,

and with him is plentiful redemption.

And he will redeem Israel

from all his iniquities.

– Psalm 130 (ESV)

I love this Psalm.

It got me thinking. We are all, truly, waiting for the morning, aren’t we? I’ve experienced what I consider some bright mornings here on earth. But I don’t know – maybe I don’t really know what “bright” is.

There is a part of my soul that is waiting. Waiting for the Lord’s bright dawn, with more expectancy and longing than a watchman waits for the morning. Because the Lord is really the only One we can truly hope in, with every assurance that our hope will not disappoint.

That’s why the Psalmist exhorts Israel to wait for the Lord. In him alone is steadfast love, and plentiful, bountiful redemption.

I love redemption!

And deep down I know that all the brightest mornings I can ever experience here will seem dull and shabby compared to the bright Morning that is to come.

A New Jerusalem

I recently bought a large book of poetry. I was just thumbing through it at the bookstore and the first poem I came to was A New Jerusalem by William Blake, and that prompted me to buy the book.

I can’t put my finger on it, but for some reason this poem blows me away. I think partly because I’ve heard it set to music. It was featured in the funeral scene of Chariots of Fire and also, of all places, in a great cover of the hymn by Emerson, Lake and Palmer on their album Brain Salad Surgery (gross title, good album).

A New Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land.

William Blake

From mourning to dancing

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

– Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)

As someone with very few dancing skills, I’ve often looked at the act of dancing from the sidelines, wondering just what it is that posesses humans to engage in the behavior. Jill and I were at Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas last week (oldest dancehall in Texas, reportedly) listening to Two Tons of Steel and watching the patrons cut some major rugs. It was amazing how good some of them were, spinning and whirling each other around the floor. We ourselves danced a simple two step, which was neat as I always love dancing with my wife.

But dancing is not something that comes natural for me. Yet Psalm 30 talks about the transformation that God can bring in our lives, turning our mourning into dancing. Can you believe it? In the midst of grief, as the long forgotten sun rises on a new morning that you could not fortell, you can be dancing for joy. And it is a joy made deeper, fuller, and sparkling with a thankfulness and wisdom that would be impossible without the grief. Joy is the redemption of grief. And it makes us dance! Because, you know, we say it often enough but let this sink in: He loves us!

When one of his creations wakes up to joy after a dark night of the soul and begins dancing for joy, I believe the Lord beams. He laughs, he himself rejoices and exults over his beloved. You see, this is what he does, and this is why he died and rose again. It was for his glory and our joy.

Only he can do this. I know some who are passing through their own dark nights; people for whom the morning is a long-forgotten fable. I pray that soon they will be dancing for joy at their beautiful and timely redemption from God’s hand. I pray that when I too face the darkness I’ll remember.

Sackcloth is not our permanent garment.

Mourning will not last. It will be transformed to joyful laughter.

Darkness is only for a season. It cannot abide the Light, and melts away in the Presence of the Holy One.

If you’re a child of God, gladness and joy is your destiny.

A Masterpiece

I just finished reading the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have read this book several times, but not since the movies came out.

I had forgotten just how good it is. It’s a complete masterpiece, inspiring and beautiful. I liked the movies but they pale when compared to the book (and that is often the case, isn’t it?)

“Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron: here is a book which will break your heart”

– C.S. Lewis, speaking of The Lord of the Rings

” . . . to him be glory . . .”

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

God is so good.

Two of my kids got back from church camp today. One was a student, and the other was privileged to take part in leading worship. They both had an amazing time.

He’s always good, in the good times and the bad. He was so good during some of the hardest times we’ve ever faced back a year ago, and he’s so good now, having completely redeemed that situation.

Struggles will come and go, situations will arise, “happenings” will challenge our happiness, but there is a deep joy in knowing the Lord and knowing that He has it all under control. And that he really goes beyond my feeble expectations and thoughts and imaginings.

If you are facing an impossible situation, know that nothing is too hard for him. He can redeem that situation, and the next one, and the next one . . . none of us are ever “out of the woods” this side of glory. But he is the Lord of the woods, and the mountains, and the valleys, and even in the deepest, darkest pits his arm remains very strong to save.

To him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen!

While you’re at it . . .

Do you know anyone who you used to see in church, used to fellowship with, used to worship with, and you just haven’t seen them for awhile? Do you know anyone who’s bitter at the church, swamped in sin, depressed, or just very dry?

I encourage you to pray for them, and to contact them in some way. Some people are just waiting for someone to notice their pain. Some just need a nudge, some encouragement, and some confidence that God is really there.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

– Luke 15:4 (ESV)

I admit that I have often, to my shame, forgotten about the lost sheep because I was too busy hanging around with the ninety-nine.

We hope that they’ll just come back on their own. But I think that they really need to be gone after. Not all will come back. But some might.

The God who has all things . . .

I noticed this lyric for the first time yesterday; it’s from one of Barlow Girl’s latest songs:

I just never saw how You could cherish me

‘Cause You’re a God who has all things

And still You want me.

– Barlow Girl, I Need You To Love Me

Now that’s an amazing thought. And though this song falls squarely into the intimate worship genre – not in everyone’s comfort zone, I know – I still believe these words are both true and heartfelt.

He is the God who has all things. Why does he trouble with me? It would certainly be less trouble for him to disregard my ramshackle soul, no?

Yet he wants me. And he means to have me, to glorify him and enjoy him forever. And he can do anything, and his arm is not too short to save nor is there anywhere I can hide from his presence. So I believe this is a done deal.

If he means to have you, trust me, you’re had. Done deal. He is amazing, and he loves beyond our furthest understanding and saves to the uttermost. See what kind of love the Father has given to us!

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

– 1 John 3:1a (ESV)