Monday, January 30, 2017

Winter Stillness


Just when I thought I could bear the grey skies no longer, the sun burst through for a morning of light at last! The brightness tempted me to open the storm door, and capture a photo of the sunrise, but "someone" had been busy overnight!  Isn't it strange the way that shapes and forms can feel mischievous, as though they have a life of their own?  

And isn't it strange how a glimpse of mystery needs no 
explanation to gladden a heart?  









Jack Frost

Jack Frost, blow and paint

The icy panes show a touch

 Sunlight, please reveal   
                        --Bettie Gilbert





 "From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?"



These offerings today, are part of the #HaikuChallenge that has been issued by Ronovan Hester over at his site:


where the weekly challenge is set forth to write Haiku using his two word prompts. This week's word prompts were "blow&please." At first I was quite stumped as to how those two words could fit together, but it didn't take long for a "window" of opportunity to present itself to me.    pardon the pun, couldn't resist :-)




But the next set of words flowed from a photo that I shared with a dear friend yesterday. A plant that keeps me going through the garden-less days of winter, Crown of Thorns is a pretty reliable bloomer. But just because it's reliable, doesn't mean it's boring. I am always moved by the beauty that rests alongside the pain of this plant. Thorns are jagged along the whole stem, with hardly a space left open. But at the tip of each stem there rests such a fragile seeming, tender bloom.



Will my own heart find tenderness alongside the pain?








Crown of Thorns

Gentle thorns, I pray

Please don't blow the joy away

Let the blooms remain 
 --Bettie Gilbert








And if you understand the Song of Solomon to be an allegory of the love story between our God and His People,
then He sees us as that beautiful bloom:

 
"Him: Like a lily among thorns, that is what she is;
        my dear is a captivating beauty among the young women."

Song of Solomon 2:2 (The Voice)


 Oh what a mystery is the Love of my God!




I am linking today over at:
#TeaAndWordTuesday with Meg Weyerbacher 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Breath of God




My breath is taken away by the beauty of my Lord's earth. The way the sun can swiftly break through on a foggy, gray day. Or the way the ice crackles and shifts after a January thawing. And my heart, that felt so hard only moments ago, is just as swiftly thawed into a tenderness of honoring the Creator of all these things.


It is week 4 for the Book Discussion group over at Michele Morin's site, Living Our Days, where Michele is leading a wonderful study on  C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces.  I have so enjoyed the great questions that she poses for us to consider, and all of the incredible responses offered by those who are joining in the study. It is serving to stir my heart to new depths of searching into the ways that God writes His Story into our lives.

This week, Orual has faced an awful, bottomless pit of despair, and has begun the process of living again. Her way of coping, however, was to harden her heart in order to numb the pain and confusion at life that could not be answered by anyone near to her.  


Don't we all choose that numbing at some point in our lives?

When she is offered to be taught a new, deeply physical skill, her response shows the level of coping that she had chosen when she tells us, 

"He kept me at it for a full half-hour. It was the hardest work I'd ever done, and, while it lasted, one could think of nothing else. I said not long before that that work and weakness (or sleep) are comforters. But sweat is the kindest creature of the three--far better than philosophy, as a cure for ill thoughts."  

And I pitied her, but nodded my head in agreement, as I recognized my own self in her statements.  Working up a sweat out in the garden, or a long arduous hike, were the best ways of coping that I chose for many long years when the events of my days were more than I could bear. 


But what happens, when all of your own coping methods 
are stripped away?

Is there a way to find true comfort?

Or will the heart become harder still
and find new ways to push 
through the pain?

Orual eventually finds herself on a journey to recover at least a small portion of her own and her family's honor. She and the Chief Guard for the King's Army, Bardia, set off to climb the Grey Mountain, and reclaim her sister Psyche's bones for burial,  and thus to bring a closure to her broken heart.

But on the journey, she and Bardia cross beyond any previously known exploration of the mountain, and enter a scene of indescribable beauty. C.S. Lewis shines at his description of nature for us. And almost, Orual's heart begins to soften. As she is overwhelmed by the beauty, she hears a question stirring within her: 

"Why should your heart not dance?"

But once again, Orual reveals the true hardness that lurks within her, when she fights against that urge:

"I was not a fool . . . The gods never send us this invitation to delight so readily or so strongly as when they are preparing some new agony. We are their bubbles; they blow us big before they prick us . . .  I ruled myself. Did they think I was nothing but a pipe to be played on as their moment's fancy chose?"


My heart was saddened by her choice.  I wished that she could have known the true God of Compassion whose heart for His children is all filled with Love.


But haven't I betrayed that very Heart, myself,
when I have mistrusted
the work
that my Lord is doing
within me? 


Throughout this first month of the year, with my #OneWord of Stillness coloring my days, there is a benefit to Stillness that cannot be received through any kinds of numbing or coping methods. If my heart truly wants to see God's Compassion, and His longing for intimacy with me, a pause and a softening towards stillness is what is required. His voice cannot be acknowledged in a heart that has hardened itself with its own way of speaking.

So, open my ears,
to hear the pulse of your hearbeat
my Lord.

And still my hearbeat
to match the rythmn
of your very own.

Where my bones have felt
dry and dead,
breathe your life into the damaged ones.

And soften those rigid slopes
where my mind has
resisted your working.

Breathe on me, O breath of God,
and call that Faith to life.



  I came across an old song this week, that I must have listened to again and again when I was a young wife. I had no memory of it, even, until the music started, and then I knew each word before he sang it. Has music ever stirred your heart that way? Brought an openness that you weren't even aware that you needed?



"This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life."


Is there a place of hardness in your heart,
my friend?
My prayer for you is to feel that breath of God
and choose to ask Him

for that wind to blow across those
hardened bones,
and find HIS New Life again.



If you are interested in reading all of the posts pertaining to the book study on C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, you can find an index by clicking here.



I am linking today over at 
#LiveFreeThursday, Suzie Eller 

 




 





Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Poetry and the Stillness of LIfe


I awoke early this morning, waiting for the new arrival of our youngest Grandbaby, and my heart was filled with so many emotions.

 Too full for expression even

So I looked over at Ronovan Hester's site to see if he had posted the prompts for this week for his poetry challenge issued at #RonovanWrites, 
where the charge is given to write #Haiku using his prompts. Sure enough, there were the words for this week: #flow&tear.


Oh, I know these words, I thought, 
as my heart is filled 
with the weariness of the flow of the trial 
on my own path,
and yet I sense the tearing that will come
as I let go of old ways
to find the healing
in the new.


Isn't that also a picture of 
Labor and Birth? 

"My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."


When we carry our children
with a heart full of love
we find ourselves
carried over the edge,
our hearts lacking enough
to be what's needed.

We find in the failing
that God is enough
brimming over
with fullness
the flow never ceasing
with Love.



So, again this week, I will try my hand at joining in this #Haiku Challenge. I had to try two, since my heart was stirred in separate ways. Here is my first offering:

 

Heart and Healing

  Heart will you tear free
River of healing can flow
Strength and Life renew
                                --Bettie Gilbert 








 And the second offering with the little one in mind:

Life is Born

The wee Babe inside
Pushing through sac to tear free
New breath will flow in 
                               --Bettie Gilbert  




"The Lord is my strength and my shield
 my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,
    and with my song I praise him."
Psalm 28:7 NIV 




I am linking this week with:
#TellHisStory, Jennifer Dukes Lee 



 

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Stillness of Poetry, Part 2



"Be Thou my Sun, my selfishness destroy,
Thy atmosphere of Love be all my joy;
Thy Presence be my sunshine ever bright,
My soul the little mote that lives but in Thy light."
--Gerhard Tersteegen


On such a day as this, with our Land facing such inner turmoil,
 my own heart is choosing to look up,
to remain in that place of
Stillness before my God.
He is the ruler I will cling to,
when all else might feel shaken,
He remains constant
and ever loving.

"The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us."


And, thanks to the encouragement of my dear blogging friends 
and
I have taken another "poetry plunge"
and taken on a new challenge
issued by poet and author, Ronovan Hester,
for his weekly Haiku Challenge at
This week the word prompts are
Flame & Kiss,
and the challenge is to use both words in a Haiku,
and then link back to his site to read 
the writing of many other wonderful 
poets and bloggers.

So, while I am praying for my Country,
and Resting in the Place of Stillness
that Jesus has called me to be,
These words have dropped like dew
to bring me encouragement.




Candle kisses Flame

Light sparks over darkened room

Softly falls the heart

                                  --Bettie Gilbert


May your own heart find encouragement 
in the light of Jesus
as well.
 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Holiness of Grace


Some days breakfast with your devotions is a great idea. Other days, not so much.  Especially if the devotions you are reading are on your tablet, and the phone rings, and your oatmeal . . . well, you get the picture. Thankfully my keyboard has dried out enough that only a couple keys still remain sticky!  


I'm a mess, and I know it.

 Do you ever feel that messiness when you look at yourself? 

This Chronic Illness journey has taught me more about the state of my own "messiness" than I ever thought I could understand.  It seems that there are days that no matter how hard I try, I just can't "cut the mustard," as we used to say in my childhood small town.  


It wasn't always this way. People depended on me to be the strong one--the one who could be faithful to the end, and responsible to her core. And when I was thrown into situations beyond my understanding, I knew that in order to survive, I would have to find my strength in God's strength.  And He came through for me, for our family, again and again. He let me walk through troubled water, and through places and events that made no sense. He let me walk through places of Silence, when I doubted I would ever hear His voice again.  

He let me 

           voice my questions

                     share my struggles

                              come to the end of myself

And then He met me there to show me how He had never left my side, and was walking with me all along, through all of my doubting.


But what happens when God lets you know
that the path you are entering
is one where He will not
make you stronger?

In fact, walking the pathway
means that you
will become weaker?

Will my heart contain the
trembling?

Will my soul bear the
frailty?

 
I have been reading C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, as part of the online Book Study that Michele Morin is hosting at her site, Living Our Days. This week, while I am still absorbed in watching Orual's teacher, "The Fox" express his own heart, a continuing theme that keeps running throughout the story would not leave my mind. The book is a re-telling of the myth of Psyche, told through the eyes of the Princess Orual, Psyche's older sister. When Orual is approaching the end of her life, she begins our story with the very theme that has been filling my mind: she is angry at the gods, and she is convinced that the gods, themselves, hate her. 



Orual is someone who has never experienced any of God's Grace. 

I was someone who took that very Grace for granted.


But several years ago, when I stepped out of my comfort zone of Grace-filled-situations, and journeyed alongside those who had never known the comfort of Grace, my eyes began to open, and my heart began to feel how this very GOD, who is so dear to me, could feel too large and too HOLY for a mere human to approach.


From her earliest days, Orual had a fear of the gods, but when she was confronted by a situation beyond her control, and set in the room with the priest, who demanded horrific things of them all, Orual says, "the room was full of spirits, and the horror of holiness." 

My mind immediately knew that she was facing the darkness from the enemy of our souls. But then my heart remembered my own
eye-opening relationships, and my journey alongside those who had never known the God of Grace.

And I felt in my own soul

         the overwhelming bigness of a God that I could not approach,

                  the horror of a HOLINESS that contrasts

                             the messiness within my own soul.


Even if I looked into the longing of my heart for 

        SOMEONE bigger than myself,

                how could my trembling heart ever face HIM?


And yet . . .





Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness;
    tremble before him, all the earth.
Psalm 96:9 NIV







These very words from our God, 
Himself, 
speak to the
trembling
that my weak soul 
now carries.
But it is this very weakness
that has moved HIM
to compassion.

  

Here in this place of weakness,
I know that I have
NOTHING
to offer the God
who created
everything I see.


But He opened Heaven
and gave me everything
when HIS LOVE
sent Jesus.


I can no longer accept a
CHEAP GRACE.
my JESUS 
gave Himself,
the only
ONE,
who opened a way
for me to step into
the Holy Place. 



"For it is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God’s plan of salvation; he was the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation"
1 Corinthians 1:30 TLB 


This path set before me?
I can say,
as I have never known before,
that these words hold new meaning
for me:

 "But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9 


Where are you
on this path marked by Grace?
Are you in a place
that reeks of the 
"Horror of Holiness?"

There is a way
for you, my friend,
to plunge into that Comfort of Grace.

Jesus is that ONE,
and He longs to give
God's Grace to you as well.





If you are interested in checking out all of the posts pertaining to the book study of C.S. Lewis' "Till We Have Faces" you can find an index by clicking here.

 


I'm linking this week over at:
#TellHisStory, Jennifer Dukes Lee 



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Stillness of Poetry


"Sun of my soul, thou Savior dear,
it is not night if thou be near:
O may no earth-born cloud arise
to hide thee from thy servant's eyes."
--John Keble 


What is it about poetry that causes my mind to stop its whirling spinning and to hear with my heart? In the same way that music goes to a deeper level into my soul, I believe that poetry touches something intimate and bare in the depths of my being. And when music and poetry collide, as in the stanza shared above, taken from the hymn John Keble wrote, Sun of my Soul, Thou Savior Dear, then my heart drops all of its defenses and peers into eternity.

 Or even a re-working of an older hymn as here, 




In this Season of Stillness that has begun my 2017, I heard God whisper to me to slow my reading even as my days have slowed. I did not think that I liked that thought! After all, last year, my spinning mind craved words, and I read more books than at any other time in my life. Nevertheless, I followed my Lord's promptings and finished up several books that had been in my Kindle list, and have been working on the reviews that I had promised to share.  In the meantime, a lovely blogger who fills her posts with beautiful and encouraging book reviews, put out an invitation to join her in an online book study of C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces starting this week, over at her place: Michele Morin's site, Living Our Days.



And that same Whispering Voice stirred in my heart to know that here would be a place I needed to settle in and rest my Stilling heart.



I have loved and read many of C.S. Lewis' books, and in fact had borrowed this very title from a dear friend several years ago. He encouraged me to read it, and hold onto it for as long as I wanted, because he felt it was such an important read for me. I don't know why I kept putting it off, but perhaps God knew that I needed to be in this place of stillness before I would be able to hear the poetry that Lewis' words would ignite in my soul.  This is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, C.S. Lewis' own favorite of all of his books, and one that has already swept me up into his epic storytelling.

The two main princesses in this tale, Orual and Psyche, are revealed within the first chapter. The Greek slave, "The Fox," bought by their father to be their teacher, is however, the one who stole my heart in the beginning pages. One who professed much of the Philosophies and Rational thinking, he had a poetic side that was actually the heart he followed. Early on, he shares a Greek myth with Orual, and is quick to add:

"Not that this ever really happened. . . . It's only lies of poets, lies of poets child."  

Orual saw behind his facade and spoke:

"It was always like that with the Fox; he was ashamed of loving poetry ('All folly, child') and I had to work much at my reading and writing and what he called philosophy in order to get a poem out of him. But thus, little by little, he taught me many. Virtue, sought by man with travail and toil was the one he praised most, but I was never deceived by that.  The real lilt came into his voice and the real brightness into his eyes when we were off into Take me to the apple-land or  

The Moon's gone down, but
Alone I lie."


 And, suddenly, in only the first chapter, my heart of Stillness was beating with a longing for more of the intimate words that poetry stirs. 

Why is it so hard for me to
still my mind
even as my body 
has been stilled?

Why have I "allowed myself"
to savor the sweet fragrance
of poetry
only as I lie awake at night
longing to find peace?

What if this very
stillness
is the place
that God's true
Poetry of Love
can be 
tasted?


"But the closer I am to You, my God, the better because life with You is good.
    O Lord, the Eternal, You keep me safe—
    I will tell everyone what You have done."

Psalm 73:28 (The Voice) 



God Moves in a Mysterious Way, by William Cowper 

"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.


Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.


Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.


His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.


Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain."




Have you tasted a sweet gift of Poetry lately? Or perhaps you have a favorite work by C.S. Lewis?  I would love to hear your comments as you share your thoughts!  And even though I feel that I may be "out of my element" by joining in with an Online Book Discussion Group while being such a Newbie to this world of Blogging, my Stilling Heart is longing to hear the poetic sharing about such a great storyteller as C.S. Lewis.


Here is an index for the series on C.S. Lewis' "TILL WE HAVE FACES"  book study. Within each post, I have included the link for that week's discussion led by Michele Morin at her site.

Post 1: The Stillness of Poetry 
Post 2: The Holiness of Grace 
Post 3:  Breath of God
Post 4: Eternity in our Hearts and in our Eyes 
Post 5: Love or Self? 
Post 6: Surprised by Love
Post 7: Unlocking the Heart 
Post 8: Die Before You Die
Post 9: The Face of Love



I am linking this week over at





Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Stillness








I sat on the bridge
still as a stone
And watched the fish
darting and dashing
under the rocks
and into the shadows. 


And my heart 
felt as one 
knew the quiver
that a stirring in the water
could bring. 





Two and a half years ago, when my man and I walked to that bridge, I did not realize that I had already begun this Journey with Chronic Illness. Even though my joints had started their swelling, the first jolting-awake-with-fire-flare-pain was still several days away.  But in my heart there was a tiredness running so deep, and a sensitivity so acute that I felt I must be slipping into a Spiritual Fog of some sort. 

My life had been running on empty-full-empty-again for so long that I feared what might happen if the full failed to appear once again.

And just like that,

                     the empty overtook me,

                                And my spinning life found a new

                                                                rhythm by which to dance. 



"Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10 NIV 


I spent the next year just trying to keep my darting and dashing emotions on some sort of even plane, as the medications were set before me, one after another. There were rashes and nausea and headaches and side effects more shameful than I care to recount.

But I never walked alone.

Have you felt that quivering in the water?

Have you known that stirring when Jesus sets down beside you,
and enters into the ocean of your troubles?

As my body finally accepted the proper medication, I spent the next year reeling from one diagnosis after another, and more tests than I care to recount. I watched my man dealing with his own health struggles. 

And I felt the quivering yet again,

telling me I would never be alone.

I heard the whispers to 

come away and rest awhile.

So, as this year of 2017 approached, I prayed for a #OneWord365, a Word that might set the course for this new year. Not unlike the other times I heard Him speak for #OneWordLent, and #OneWordAdvent, and even the theme for #Write31Days, I counted on God to speak what He wanted to give me.  

I just hadn't counted that it might feel like
more of the same.

Because the Word He gave was 
stillness.

Where can we hide when the shadows are flitting  
and our hearts are still darting?

There is a place of stillness
that centers in Jesus' heart.

There is a place of knowing God
that finds its rest in loving Him.

So, while my rhythm may still move to slow,
and my feet may not dance as I would want them to,
My Lord calls me in
and my heart runs to Him.  




Thank you so much to all who prayed for my husband's hand surgeries! God is restoring him to health, and helping him as he returns to work this week!


I am linking this week with 
Jennifer Dukes Lee, #TellHisStory  

and 
Bonnie Gray, #OneWordCoffee