“He does not let us go when our hands are as weak as water”

This morning I wanted to post something that describes how I’m feeling right now. To be honest, I’m feeling just a little bit low. It’s been a strange week; There are some burdens that I’ve been carrying this week and, frankly, I’m also wondering if I’m not under some sort of spiritual oppression. Not that I want to pull the Spiritual Warfare card every time I’ve got a heaviness on my heart, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what’s going on.

Well, words don’t come easy, so no post was forthcoming. Then lo and behold I came across this quote fronted by the inestimable Rich in comment #643 of the Thinklings Word Tag Meme (which is, by the way, a splendid and clever little meme you really must check out. I must say, bravo and kudos to the intelligent and devastatingly handsome young man who created that meme!):

We all have our times of being strong and our times of being weak. The swings of the pendulum cover different ground for different ones of us, and the swings of the pendulum are of greater intensity for one of God’s children than another. But the swings are there for all of us – for weakness and unhappiness and also for sin. It is for this reason that any honest person must be totally in despair unless they understand the reality of the finished work of Christ upon the cross for us. If it was not for this, none of us could have any peace of mind either for this world or from the world to come.

The wonder is that when we know God’s forgiveness is based upon the infinite value of Christ’s finished work, we can then have peace of mind and knowledge of His love, even in the midst of our weakness and depression. And again, we all have depressions too; since the Fall, none of us are psychologically healthy or perfect morally. And I must say that depressions are very hard. This is not unknown to me; though most people do not know it, I have my own periods of depression which are very difficult. I realize that they are not as deep or as often as some people’s…. But I do understand the depth of feeling that can be involved. But again – and I speak here not from theory but from experience – in the midst of our down times we can know that His arms are about us, and that He does not let us go when our hands are as weak as water. [Emphasis mine]

— from Letter Thirteen, Times of Strength and Times of Weakness, Francis A. Schaffer’s letters written to friends


I also think that the higher highs and lower lows that are often part of the Christian experience are aspects of the abundant life that Jesus promised us. And, of course, we all experience that life differently and at different intensities.

And it’s all good, because of the reality of what Christ did for us on the Cross.

“in the midst of our down times we can know that His arms are about us, and that He does not let us go when our hands are as weak as water.”

First full-time rabbi in Krakow since Holocaust

This blows my mind.

Krakow, Poland, now has a rabbi. For the first time in 60 years.

I became familiar with Krakow through reading Schinlder’s List, the excellent and heartbreaking novel by Thomas Keneally. It was a hard book to read; the Holocaust is a dreadful demonstration of the depths of cruelty to which we all as fallen human beings can sink. The Jewish population of Krakow was obliterated by the Nazis in the late 30s and 40s.

But still it amazes me that Krakow is just now getting a full-time rabbi.

The organization reported that of the 1,000 Krakow residents who are Jewish, only 200 are members of the Jewish community. Since the fall of Communism in 1989, people in the city have begun to uncover their Jewish roots.

The city is filled with “hidden children,” Jews adopted by Catholic families during WWII who have only recently began to reconnect to their Jewish roots.

“In a place where the Germans sought to erase all traces of Judaism, and nearly succeeded, it is gratifying to see that Jewish life still endures,” said Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund.

“Many of Poland’s ‘hidden Jews’ are seeking to reconnect with the Jewish people, and we must do what we can to help them return. Six decades after the Holocaust, the best revenge is to rebuild Jewish life and to bring as many of these people back as possible,” he said.

[Hat tip: NRO’s Corner]

Watchman Nee

Inspired by this post from Dan I decided to look up some Watchman Nee quotes.

This one was a doozy. I hope that my ending here on earth carries the same quiet, firm conviction as that posessed by this great man who died in a Chinese prison after 20 years of imprisonment for his faith:

Christ is the Son of God. He died to atone for men’s sin, and after three days rose again. This is the most important fact in the universe. I die believing in Christ.

– Watchman Nee – Note found under his pillow, in prison, at his death.

“Only the pure in heart want to”

I was googling this morning looking for a specific C.S. Lewis quote. I couldn’t find it and instead found this one:

“It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Problem Of Pain

It meshed very well with my dark reverie on the bus ride this morning. It is becoming clearer to me that purity of heart is a high calling, and, I believe, really God’s achievement. I can affect purity of manners and speech, I can strive to keep my eyes pure, watch my language, keep my temper in check, and even be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

These are all good things. But my inner core, is it golden or cardboard? And if my heart is not pure, how does it get purified? Only God can do it; there is no other way. He is the great Alchemist who can turn the hard, discarded rocks that beat in our chests into hearts of gold. Pure. And blessed!

Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

– Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

Two-fer from Psalm 27

Seeking God’s face, His character, His will, His beauty and majesty and, yes, what sometimes can only be described as the terror of His presence is something that I feel God has been calling me to do. With that in mind, I love the straightforward simplicity of this verse from Psalm 27:

You have said, “Seek my face.”

My heart says to you,

“Your face, Lord, do I seek.” – verse 8


God says “seek my face”

And David seeks.

Have you ever noticed that God sometimes seems to hide Himself? We’ve all had those times; times when the skies seem to be made of rubber and everything’s dry and lifeless. I think that this happens sometimes because he wants us to seek His face.

Reading down a bit, we come upon the promise in verse 10. I can’t put into words, really, how this struck me. I’ve seen too many people struggling because their mom or dad (or both) has forsaken them. It’s a crime, but it’s one that is part and parcel of our fallen creation. To be outcast, left “outside the camp”, shunned and forsaken is the frequent answer to the deadly mathematics of our sinful natures and this cursed ground.

It’s no accident that God has chosen to reveal Himself as Father. It’s no accident that He represents our salvation as “adoption”.

For my father and my mother have forsaken me,

but the Lord will take me in. – verse 10

Without Jesus we’re orphans and we’re lost, regardless of how secure we look on the outside. But when we seek the Father, He will take us in.


Bear one another’s burdens

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

– Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

Did this verse jump out at me tonight or what?

“Bear one another’s burdens”. This sounds simple. But I’m sitting here trying to figure out who’s burden I’m currently bearing. I’m drawing a blank.

I spend a lot of time thinking about my burdens. I really do – the subject of my burdens has been on my mind a lot recently.

But who’s burden am I bearing? This fulfills the law of Christ. I’m not a Bible scholar, but my gut tells me that this is something important.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

And he said to him,

“You shall love the Lord your God

with all your heart

and with all your soul

and with all your mind.

This is the great and first commandment.

And a second is like it:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments depend

all the Law

and the Prophets.”

– Matthew 22:35-40

If I’m not sure, perhaps I better start looking.

Or maybe it’s just something I ate

As some of you may know, I’ve been working on a novel, off and on, for quite awhile. Lately it’s been more “off” than “on” but I’ve been feeling more and more like I need to get back to it.

The working title of this piece of fiction is Twenty Three Notes. I don’t have any thoughts of being published at this time. I know, mainly from walking through this process with Jared, how hard it is even for good writers to get published, let alone a scruff like me. But the whole point has always been to finish it and let whatever happens after that happen, even if it’s nothing.

I’ve written a Prelude, chapters 1 through 5, bits of chapter 6, 8, 12, and the Postlude. Chapter six has been the sticking point. I began writing it and just stalled. The last thing I wrote in it was a big, bold, disgusted “REWRITE THIS” at the top of the first page of the chapter.

Well, I pulled chapter six out this morning on the bus and began to read it. One of the conversations in it touched me and I started crying. Well, not “crying”, per se, but my eyes misted up. I’m realizing that there is some good in this chapter. Either that or maybe it’s just something I ate this morning 🙂 – in any event, it got to me. I think I’ll keep it. The fact that it was dialog that got to me was heartening, because good dialog is the absolute hardest part to write, for me anyway.

I also read the Postlude. Yeah, I started crying after reading that too. I realize that this isn’t about getting published or even really about anyone else ever liking this novel. It’s about finishing it, and in some way being able to communicate what’s in my heart, what I think God has put in my heart, that I’ve longed to communicate but have never been able to verbalize. Maybe now I can, through the fictional lives of these characters that I’ve created.

I hope I can get moving again on this. I need to.

Remember these things . . .

Remember these things, O Jacob,

and Israel, for you are my servant;

I formed you; you are my servant;

O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud

and your sins like mist;

return to me, for I have redeemed you.

-Isaiah 44:21-22 (ESV)

“Remember these things . . .

Sometimes it’s good to remember. The Lord formed you, Christian, and He will not forget you. He has blotted out your sins through the atoning death of Jesus. That means all of them – even the one that you just committed and are too ashamed to think about.

Remember and return, o servant of the Lord. No matter where you are in your walk, Christian, even in a far country, He has called you His servant. He has made you to serve Him.

Return to Him, for He has redeemed you. And He will be glorified!

Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it;

shout, O depths of the earth;

break forth into singing, O mountains,

O forest, and every tree in it!

For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,

and will be glorified in Israel.

Isaiah 44:23

Shall I fall down before a block of wood?

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

– Isaiah 44:12-20 (ESV)

Oh the gods we construct!

This short passage from Isaiah contains a decent amount of irony and even humor, doesn’t it? It’s easy to agree that we humans are often ridiculous creatures.

God has given us the earth to enjoy and to nurture. He has given us reason, language, music, the skill of our hands and the strength of our backs. We have minds that are able to think abstractly, to think ahead, to study and even begin to understand this amazing universe. We have the ability to think mythic and epic thoughts; to understand irony and tragedy. He has given us a sense of humor, and the ability to laugh at ourselves. We are able to gain truths through parables, through worlds “thrown alongside” our own world via story and metaphor. Many among us can plan and construct amazing works, both artistic and practical. We can peer into the deep corners of space and even venture beyond our world. We are amazing creatures, made amazing by our amazing Creator.

All these good and perfect gifts are to be presented back to the One who bestowed them, for His sake and for His glory. This can happen even when one of His creatures uses the gift to satisfy himself or make himself or others happy. I believe God takes great pleasure in the warm fellowship of Christian friends around a fire, or in the satisfying grunts of a blacksmith as he plies his trade with integrity and excellence. He takes pleasure in the love between friends and the purity and beauty of marital intimacy. Our Creator designed us to enjoy a good meal, a good song, laughter, the excitement of sport, the beauty of art, and a thousand other good pleasures besides.

Yet how easy it is for us, as creatures both animal and spiritual, to cross the line into idolatry. We are searching for gods to satisfy us every day when the one true God offers us eternal satisfaction, eternal security, and a life more abundant than we can imagine. I find myself setting up little gods around me; gods of my own accomplishment, or the small gods of the affirmation others give me, or of interests that crowd out more important things. Appetites run rampant; “their god is their belly” does not just refer to gluttony but to the insatiable and maddening desire we humans, and this human in particular, have to fill ourselves with all our eyes see while leaving God absent, to be called upon only when we’re in dire straights. I’ve flung myself down before more blocks of wood than I care to recount.

Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray,

and he cannot deliver himself or say,

“Is there not a lie in my right hand?”

Lord God, my King, teach me to be satisfied in You alone.

Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel

and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:

“I am the first and I am the last;

besides me there is no god.

Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.

Let him declare and set it before me,

since I appointed an ancient people.

Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.

Fear not, nor be afraid;

have I not told you from of old and declared it?

And you are my witnesses!

Is there a God besides me?

There is no Rock; I know not any.”

– Isaiah 44:6-8 (ESV)

Band Party!

Tonight the band I worked with last year had a final reunion party. I say “final” because I have a feeling we will never all be together again, at least not for a long while. That makes me sad, because we went through so much together last year and became a true family and it’s hard to see that end. But such is the way of life on this earth. These times are a preview of the days when my own kids will grow up and go away. That’s not something I’m ready for!

The party was fun. We played our traditional Taboo and Balderdash, drank IBC rootbeer, and talked and laughed and just enjoyed being with each other. Our student ministers Randy and Jeremy joined us to make the party that much better.

On nights like tonight I am painfully reminded that it is hard to be away from people who mean a lot to you. In our lives we move to new places, scatter over the face of the earth, leave the familiar and drive to the unknown. We fall out of touch. In addition, as the oldest person (by far) in this group I always feel just slightly behind. The cultural references pass me by. Tonight I learned what a “facebook” is, for instance. 🙂 Fascinating!

It’s easy to feel like a square peg in a round hole. Work with students as an older adult for a while and you will recognize this feeling. But I also know that really, as believers, none of us “belongs”. Not here. We long for a heavenly home, the place where we “fit”. Though I’ve been blessed beyond blessing here on earth with all I ever could have wanted and even more – my best friend and wife Jill, our four children, shelter, income, food, and treasured friends such as these – it dawns on me that I’ve been looking for the place Jesus is preparing for me all my life. My very flesh groans for it. To be with Him, that is Heaven!

I’d go in a second given the opportunity. To have my brokenness fixed, once and for all, and to be able to finally worship our Lord fully and with no guile, no pretense, and nothing held back . . . wow!

To be, finally, in that place where you never have to say goodbye . . .

But I remain here, in the struggle, in the joys and pains and weariness of this mortal life on our broken earth and in this broken body. And I accept that with joy. God has been very gentle with me, really, and has made my path very easy.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

– John 14:1-3 (ESV)

Below are some shots from the party. These people are precious to me – darn it, I miss them!

left to right: Jeremy, Randy, Joey, Brad, Kevo, with Mego and Kelso hugging


A bad smell (but not really – and no, Brad, it wasn’t Kelsey) . . .

Sad . . . Mego is distraught and Kevin has decided to drown his sorrows in IBC.