Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thanks be to God



Happy Thanksgiving to dear ones near and far!













I have so many blessings for which to be 
THANKFUL,
but the greatest of all
is that 
THE GREATEST ONE
has come to
give me life. 




Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!






I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord
They will be my people, and I will be their God, 
for they will return to me with all their heart.
Jeremiah 24:7 


Have you found His indescribable gift?
Have you come to know
the Greatest One?


I would love to pray with you
on your journey.


Leave me a comment below
and we can walk together
knowing HIM.







 





Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Friend of God






"When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God."


If you were in a Church Service within the last 10 years, chances are you have sung the song that is based on this Scripture Passage.  When I first heard the song, I felt a little embarrassed by it, and thought, "Isn't that song a bit arrogant? I mean, how can I stand and just sing those words out loud like that?"  And when I had those thoughts, I realized how often the enemy tries to dupe us into taking a lower standpoint than what God has created for us. 








It's Week 11, and the final week with our friend Jayber.  In case you missed any of the posts in this series, and would like to catch up, I will post an index at the end of today's post.
I am so grateful to Michele Morin at
Living Our Days, 
for the beautiful way that she has opened her site and her heart to lead us in such an enriching study of 
Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry.



By the end of this book, it was the 1980's, and the little village of Port William had succumbed to the fate of so many small towns, and dwindled down to a handful of residents. The farms in the area had also suffered the fate of modernization and overzealous attempts to be bigger and better every year. In particular, the farm of the woman that Jayber had secretly loved had been worn to a frazzle as well. 


But there yet remained an untouched patch of forest land, passed down through the generations, called "The Nest Egg," where Jayber often found himself communing with nature, and where I found some of Wendell Berry's finest writing:


 "Above those, the big trees and the vines went up to the crown of foliage at the top. And at all these aboveground stories there was a moving and singing foliage of birds. Everywhere there were dens and holes and hollows and secret nests. When you were there you could be sure that you were being seen, and that you more than likely would not see what was seeing you. Everything there seemed to belong where it was. That was why I went there. And I went to feel the change that that place always made in me. Always, as soon as I came in under the big trees, I began to go slowly and quietly."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 345-346). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 



One afternoon as Jayber was resting there and fell asleep, he awoke to find that Mattie, the woman he secretly loved, was coming up the same wooded path, and the two of them found themselves in a woodland hush of nature. Hardly speaking, never touching, yet they would arrive there at the same time, purely by accident, at least a few times every year. Jayber counted it as a special connection of hearts that could not be shared in any other way.  




We've discussed this uncomfortable side of a "platonic" emotional relationship in the book study, and most of us have concluded that it's a little wierd and not quite "pure" in the fullest sense of the word.  Nevertheless, Jayber was moved to find what real love looks like because of his love for Mattie.

For you see, his chiefest enemy was Mattie's husband. 

But it was not because he had Mattie and Jayber did not, no, it was because Troy, (Mattie's husband,) had no true love and reverence for the woman that Mattie really was.  And this was finally most fully realized on the day that Jayber heard a horrible crashing of machinery in the woods.  



Mattie had been terminally ill for several months, and by word of mouth, Jayber found out that she was in the hospital, probably never to recover.  Mattie's husband had mortgaged the farm to it's fullest amount, but borrowed yet again and again. He had one more option left, and that is what Jayber came upon, as he followed the sound that he had heard:


"It was a painful walk, for I was still hoping to be proved wrong, but every step I took confirmed that I was right. The thickety little strip of bottomland along the lower end of Coulter Branch had been cleared off with a bulldozer, and that was where they were yarding up the logs. Tremendous logs were lying there, side by side. They made me think of beached whales, great living creatures heaved out of their element at last. But all the logs were not big. Troy Chatham had sold every marketable stick, every tree big enough to make two two-by-fours."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 359). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 



And Jayber was furious. Did Troy really know his wife so little, that he could sell off the one remaining part of land so dear to her, all while she was on her deathbed? As Jayber felt the anger and hate turning to rage inside of himself, a curtain parted, and the swaggering self-assured man that Troy had always played himself to be, was finally revealed to Jayber:


"So there he was, a man who had been given everything and did not know it, who had lost it all and now knew it, and who was boasting and grinning only to pretend for a few hours longer that he did not know it. He was an exhausted man on the way back, not to the nothing that he had when he started out, but to the nothing that everything had been created from—and so, I pray, to mercy. And there I was, a man losing what I was never given, a man yet rich with love, a man whose knees were weakening against gravity, who needed to go somewhere and lie down."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 360). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 



In time, Jayber would become friends with Troy, and find that forgiveness had been planted within him. But on that day, he had to face a kind of dying first:

"But that day I couldn’t stay with him any longer. I needed to leave him and his desperate merchandise and that woods of once-upon-a-time. I needed to go and find a place to lie down. That urge was in me like a natural force. Like a woman or an animal in labor, I longed to lie down, for I was heavy, not with new life but with much dying, many deaths. I had in me the shaking of the fall of all things. I wanted to get as low as I could, as I thought I would want to do had I been in the top of a windblown tree or in a little boat in a storm."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 361). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 




And I recognized the death Jayber spoke of.  

Haven't I faced that death myself?

Haven't I been brought low when I have seen

into the depth of my own sinful heart?




And while I don't want to give away the ending of the book for any who might choose to read it still, I must say that my heart was left with longing for a man who never seemed to enter into friendship with the ONE who loved Him most of all.



Jayber found forgiveness with God.
He knew that only because of Jesus' death
are any of us fully forgiven.


Jayber even found forgiveness for a
man he had hated.


But I never saw that He found
the friend that would stick 
closer than a brother.


And for that, my heart wept. 




And once again, my aching cries out for those around me and even for myself. Because the enemy of our souls has duped us into a position lower than what Jesus came to bring us. Jesus took up our sins to bring us into friendship with God. Anything less than that is simply a lie.



Will I answer His call?

Will I go after those I love

and speak in His Name

 to join Him at the table

to find a friendship deeper than any

a love so much higher than

all we can grasp?











Index for the series on Jayber Crow:

Week 1:   "Revival"
Week 2:  "Are Questions Allowed?"
Week 3:  "The River is Rising"
Week 4:  "The River is Eternal"
Week 5: "Shade for our Souls" 
Week 6:  "Who is Sufficient?"
Week 7:  "Transforming Stillness" 
Week 8:  "Life, Life, and more Life"
Week 9:  "Deliverance Will Come" 
Week 10: "Glory Reigns"  
Week 11:  "A Friend of God"



I am linking this week with:
Jaime Weibel #SittingAmongFriends
Debbie Kitterman, #TuneInThursday
Barbie Swihart, #Glimpses 
Meg Weyerbacher, #TeaAndWordTuesday 



 










   

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Glory Reigns





 

Glory



Your Glory breaks thru the dark
And my heart runs after You
When my eyes are opened here
Heaven's light is captured true.


Leaves turn and Seasons change
The dying falls from the sky
But in the seed of the broken fruit
The living gift will lie. 
--bg





In the  midst of grey days, when the sun finally decided to burst upon the scene, I happily grabbed my camera to focus on the way the Light spotlighted a treasured family hand-me-down.  I've placed a pretty wreath around this wall plaque now, but I remember staring at it while growing up, and wondering if somehow it wasn't quite true.


How could my Mom place that definition of HOME on the wall, when she so obviously knew about the many choices that were being made by each of us to "NOT" live for God?

Even more, how could I then place it in my own home, with those same tendencies running through us still?


~~~~~




It is week 10 with Jayber over at Michele Morin's site
Living Our Days 
for the great book study she is leading of Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry. Jayber has moved back by the river, and has entered the final chapter of his life, where he has encountered a sense of home and community in spite of his choice to move out on the edge even farther.


Jayber's words about how our little touches to a place impact our sense of home, especially touched me. As I have had to move slower in this chronic illness lifestyle, some days I feel that the touches I can make now are so small. And yet it is the smallest of things that may touch us most deeply:



 "Every little difference I made seemed a significant change in the world. I would finish a piece of work and then I would stand and look and admire the way it fitted in with everything else. Just sweeping the porch seemed to make the tree limbs spread and hover more gracefully above it. Where a falling limb had poked a hole through a screen, I took a fine wire and stitched on a patch, and then sat a while and looked out the window, feeling that my work had improved the view."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 309). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition



In his little cabin by the river Jayber finds a sense of family with the friends who have stuck by him through all of the years in his small town. Yet more surprising to him was the gift of friendship offered by those few who chose him to continue their barbering, even in the cabin:


"But the ones who have remained have been faithful. Their coming is made even more an act of faith because in this house on the river I have no mirrors on the walls. Here, I am the sole judge of my work. When they climb into the chair, they have to trust me. They have to be willing beforehand to be satisfied with what I can do with scissors and comb and razor only."
Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 306). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 




And those few came to include the family of Jayber's oldest friend, Burley.  He was the one who helped him find the town barbershop, and now he was also the one who owned the land where Jayber's cabin stood.  Jayber took to visiting their home as well:


"On the winter nights we would have popcorn, and sometimes Burley would go to his room and bring out his shoebox full of keepsakes, which he would take out one by one and identify and pass around for everybody to see. The smaller children would be playing around quietly or sitting in laps or lying beside our chairs to listen. I so much loved the quiet of those times of talk, when the children were listening or asleep, and we were all aware of the darkness spread over the ridgetops and the valley."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 318). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition. 




And in that joining, hearts were being knitted together.  Hearts became family as homes were shared, as each heart made a home for the other ones.  And I saw how the Love of our Lord has called us into this joining of homes and hearts as we walk through our days.  


As I was writing this post, a phone call came to let us know of the passing of my husband's only remaining Aunt. As the tears ran down my face, I remembered how she was a feisty, independent sort, but always wanted to share her knowledge of antiques and crafting and the old ways of living.  Never having walked with God herself, it was a strange thing for her when my husband made his choice to live for Jesus.  There were many discussions over the years, as first our prayers were spurned, and then our prayers were welcomed, and finally, even requested.  But always, hearts were shared as homes were opened.


And, somehow, I feel this is where we let 
the Light of God's Glory 
shine to those around us.  
Whenever one of us 
makes the choice to "live for God," 
all are given opportunity 
to witness HIS Glory there.

Home becomes more than just a place.

Home becomes a dwelling place for the Glory of God.


"God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory."
Colossians 1:26-27 MSG  



God's Glory in me?

God's Glory in my Home?


Oh, yes, most emphatically yes! 
In these days of shifting shadows
and wavering choices,
Whenever I have set Jesus as Lord,
He has come to dwell in me!


And HIS GLORY rests here,
in the Grace of His calling,
drawing us ever on
for that day 
to join
HIM
in His own Heaven Home 
forever. 


 



I am linking today with:





To find a copy of Jayber Crow, you can click the link here.






 



Friday, November 3, 2017

Prodigal Mom









Have you heard the call of the Heavenly Father as He asks you to join Him in prayer for the young ones?  Maybe you are a Mom of a Prodigal yourself? 



I have walked that road, and I know the varying levels of pain and love that are felt inside of a Mother’s heart.  When my oldest child became a teenager, I resisted the efforts of those in our church who wanted to label him as a “perfect example” to all of the younger ones there.  I knew how the pressures of those labels create a false pedestal that we humans simply cannot attain to.  I prayed and tried to warn against those labels.  I even asked those in our church to pray for my son as he was entering his older teen years, to pray that He would be strengthened only in God.  Some of the women there told me to stop worrying, that he was a great kid, and he would do just fine. 



Moms, please don’t ignore those promptings in your spirit when God calls you to pray.



God was preparing me for the many hard days and years ahead for both of my sons.  He was calling me to a season of deep prayer and intercession.  Thankfully, He sent a few close friends who were also walking with prodigals of their own.  He knew that we could not walk the path alone, and so HE brought us together to share the load of praying, even when the church had seemed to fail us. 



“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,  by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:19-23 


I am blessed today to be part of the team at my friend Anna Smit's site, Beloved Prodigal.  Please come join me there to read more of my story by clicking here.




 I am linking today with:  


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Deliverance will Come


It's week 9 with Jayber and his fellow Port William dwellers, as we study along with Michele Morin for the lively discussion about Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry, that she is leading at her site, 
 Living Our Days.
Have you been part of an online book study? I am reminded of my Literature Classes, and feel thrust back in time as I prepare what feels like my "Book Report" here on this blog.



But did I ever let those books, so long ago, touch my heart in the way that God is moving me as I read these days?



As life moved along, and history affected the day-to-day of each person, Jayber found himself having to face the grief and pain of those around him more than he might have wished. When the Grandson of one of his cherished friends, the son of the woman he secretly loved, was killed in the Vietnam war, Jayber, the grave digger, found himself no longer just an observer:

"I dug the grave. I waited while the pallbearers—Jimmy’s friends, unbelievably young—bore the flag-covered coffin to the grave and the mourners gathered. When they had assembled, instead of standing well out of the way as I usually did, I took off my hat and stepped in under the edge of the tent."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 293). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.  



As hard as Jayber tried to distance himself from the deep grief that he thought he had no right to feel, he indeed was swallowed by "grief and bewilderment." 


I find myself swallowed in those same pains as I look at the hurting in this world, and when I am honest, at my own wretched state some days.


Jayber tried to sort out his bewilderment, but expressed words that I have heard spoken today in these times filled with a chaos so similar:



"In any moment when I was quiet, tenderness and madness would come upon me and contend to no purpose, to the making of no sense. I could hardly bear to read the newspaper, which filled me with disloyalty and unbelief."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (p. 294). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.
 


Even as Jayber tried to surrender his questions to God, he found himself asking the age-old question:  Where was God in the suffering--in himself, and especially in the poor and despised of this world? Jayber came to a conclusion that I find myself drifting to on many stormy and pain-filled days:


 "We are too tightly tangled together to be able to separate ourselves from one another either by good or by evil. We all are involved in all and any good, and in all and any evil. For any sin, we all suffer. That is why our suffering is endless. It is why God grieves and Christ’s wounds still are bleeding."

Berry, Wendell. Jayber Crow: A Novel (Port William) (pp. 295-296). Counterpoint. Kindle Edition.





But was there something that he missed? I longed for the next pages to answer that question for Jayber. But his only relief was to find the mercy of time moving forward. 


A bursting in my soul sought to find expression as I examined my own grief, pain, and ugliness. 
Was there more for me?


  

 Broken To Deliverance

 

Longing to be restored I

Cry out

Feeling cut-off and rejected I

Cry out



Ugliness is what I feel

As I look back

Over

Years that led me here



Generations passed down these

Traits

I carry the markers for

Disease



But don’t we all carry

Aren’t we all children

Sin

Trailing behind our days



Burdens we bear together

Shifted

Agonies we passed on

Stunted



And out of the darkness a voice speaks

Listen to Me you who seek after other

Healers

Unable to carry the burdens

You yourselves go off into captivity



I am the Lord your God Your only Life

I have made

And I will carry

Even to your hoary head



---------------



There is no healing apart from You

My Lord

There is no freedom from chains except

My Lord



Without the blood that was poured

Without the blood on the doorpost

The destroyer continues

His work of shame and despair



But under your blood I am released

The curse cannot be passed down

There is beauty here for me

There is Life to be tasted by all



I come into Your Deliverance
--BG






















 "God will pass through to strike Egypt down. When he sees the blood on the lintel and the two doorposts, God will pass over the doorway; he won’t let the destroyer enter your house to strike you down with ruin."
Exodus 12:23 MSG 



“Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden.The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity. ‘Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.’”
Isaiah 46:1-4 
 



There is a rescue deeper than our grief, 
deeper than our pain, 
deeper than any ugliness


Jesus suffered for our release
and for our deliverance.


When the world
and our own thoughts
try to say the suffering 
will never end,


I pray that we will hear
His voice calling
"I will sustain you
and 
I will rescue you."











You can find a copy of Jayber Crow, by Wendell Berry by clicking here.







 

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