Prepare for Joy: Blown Away

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It has been a relatively warm wet week in the northwest, so it seemed reasonable after finishing up farm chores last night to leave the large rolling north-south doors wide open in the barn where the horses are housed.  Then I woke suddenly at midnight hearing powerful gusts of a southerly wind buffeting the house.  Knowing what havoc a wind can do inside an open barn, I went out in pajamas and muck boots to roll the doors closed before the storm could reach inside, a true barnstorming as has happened here before on Holy Week…

 

An unexpected southerly wind hit suddenly late Sunday night, gusting up to 40 miles an hour and slamming the house with drenching rain as we prepared to go to bed. Chores in the barn had been done hours before, but as we had not been expecting a storm, the north/south center aisle doors were still open, and I could hear banging and rattling as they were buffeted in the wind. I quickly dressed to go latch the doors for the night, but the tempest had done its damage. Hay, empty buckets, horse blankets, tack and cat food had blown all over, while the Haflingers stood wide-eyed and fretful in their stalls. A storm was blowing inside the barn as well as outside it.

It took some time to tidy up the mess after the doors were secured but all was soon made right. The wind continued to bash at the doors, but it no longer could touch anything inside them. The horses relaxed and got back to their evening meal though the noise coming from outside was deafening. I headed back up to the house and slept fitfully listening to the wind blow all night, wondering if the metal barn roof might pull off in a gust, exposing everything within.

Yet in the new daylight on Monday morning, all was calm. The barn was still there, the roof still on, the horses where they belonged and all seemed to be as it was before the barnstorming wind.

Or so it might appear.

This wind heralds another storm coming this week that hits with such force that I’m knocked off my feet, swept away, and left bruised and breathless. No latches, locks, or barricades are strong enough to protect me from what will come over the next few days.

On Sunday he rode in on a donkey softly, humbly, and wept at what he knew was coming.

Yesterday, he withered the fruitless tree and overturned the tables in his fury.

Today the plans are made to betray him.

Tomorrow, he teaches the people to prepare them, then rests in anticipation.

On Thursday, he kneels as a servant, pours water over dusty feet, presides over a simple meal, and then, abandoned by his friends,  sweats blood in agonized prayer.

By Friday, all culminates in the perfect storm, transforming everything in its path, leaving nothing untouched.

The silence on Saturday is deafening.

Next Sunday, the Son rises and returns, all is calm, all is well, all set to right.  He calls my name, breaks bread with broken hands, my heart burns within me at his words and I can never be the same again.

Barnstormed to the depths of my soul. Doors flung open wide, the roof pulled off, everything I was before blown away and now replaced, renewed and reconciled.

So shall his spirit storm within us as he has said, again and yet again.

 

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Prepare for Joy: His Penetrating Gaze

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To live coram Deo is to live one’s entire life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, to the glory of God. 
To live in the presence of God is to understand that whatever we are doing and wherever we are doing it, we are acting under the gaze of God.
To live all of life coram Deo is to live a life of integrity.
It is a life of wholeness that finds its unity and coherency in the majesty of God.
It is a life that is open before God.
It is a life in which all that is done is done as to the Lord.
It is a life lived by principle, not expediency; by humility before God, not defiance.
It is a life lived under the tutelage of conscience that is held captive by the Word of God.
R.C. Sproul

 

As we walk together through Holy Week and beyond into the holiness of every day,  may we be under the gaze of God, under the authority of God, open before God, captivated by the Word of God.

And we walk away from the gaping grave knowing our purpose: whatever we do, wherever we do it, it is to be whole and holy before Him.

Coram Deo.

Prepare for Joy: Cry Out!

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A voice says, “Cry out!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40.6-8
I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.
Luke 19:40

So much conspires to keep us silent:
Faith thought unfashionable
A crutch for the weak
Outmoded, obsolete,
Outrageous belief.

Far easier to worship the earth
Or each other
Or nothing at all
Rather than exalt the
Living God Everlasting.

His name no longer spoken
At school or work,
Acknowledged one hour a week
By some,
Forgotten by most.

Sing of His glory
In joy and gratitude
Even if lacking harmony,
We are not to be silenced
While we have tongues.

If we do not shout and cry out loud,
Nor spread branches at His feet,
If too worried what others might think,
The stones will cry out and will not stop,
As He, in deepest sorrow, weeps for us.

 

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Prepare for Joy: Substitution Allowed

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For the essence of sin is
man substituting himself for God,
while the essence of salvation is
God substituting Himself for man.

Man asserts himself against God and puts himself
where only God deserves to be;
God sacrifices Himself for man and puts Himself
where only man deserves to be.

Man claims prerogatives that belong to God alone;
God accepts penalties that belong to man alone.
~John Stott, The Cross of Christ

Our struggle with God, from our first breath,
is wanting to forget we are made from dust, molded from mud,
and will return to the ground, no matter what.
Between the womb and the tomb is the choice of acting
as though we own the earth and somehow it owes us everything because we exist,
or whether we tread lightly, knowing each breath, each morsel, each day
is an undeserved gift granted by Him taking our place.
When we acknowledge that His heart on earth bled
so that ours will continue to beat,
so that we may laugh, cry, love and worship–
only then we are right with God,
instead of insisting we be God.

His heart for ours. A substitution made perfect.

tulip12

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Prepare for Joy: Stewarding the Fields

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It is not our part to master all the tides of the world,
but to do what is in us for the succor of those years wherein we are set,
uprooting the evil in the fields we know,
so that those who live after us may have clean earth to till. 
What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.
~J.R.R. Tolkien — Gandalf in The Return of the King

There is no end to what a field will throw up to thwart the harvest:
stones that rise from the soil,
fences that topple,
thistles and brambles that take over once they gain a foothold,
varmints that undermine.

We do what we can to keep it clean for those who come next,
not knowing what will be,
preparing for the worst, and praying for the best.

dromara3

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Prepare for Sorrow: Pounding on the Door of the Soul

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This morning when I awoke,  I first read the essay below by Morton Kelsey from the Lenten devotional book Bread and Wine.

Only afterward did I read the news about the possible intentional crashing of a German airliner by an apparently rogue co-pilot, killing all 150 individuals on board while the captain was locked outside the cockpit, pounding on the door trying in vain to open it to prevent the destruction.   Imagining the fear and panic of all on board in their final minutes sits heavily on us all;  here is yet another reason to contemplate the darkness of the human condition as we move toward the reality of Good Friday next week.

May the souls of the tragic and innocent victims find rest in God; may we who are yet living answer the pounding on the door of the cellar of our darkened souls:

 

Scratch the surface of a human being and the demons of hate and revenge … and sheer destructiveness break forth.

    The cross stands before us to remind us of this depth of ourselves so that we can never forget. These forces continue to break forth in many parts of the world now, and many of us would like to forget how in some places in the United States we treat a person whose skin is black.

    Again and again we read the stories of violence in our daily papers, of the mass murders and ethnic wars still occurring in numerous parts of our world. But how often do we say to ourselves: “What seizes people like that, even young people, to make them forget family and friends, and suddenly kill other human beings?” We don’t always ask the question in that manner. Sometimes we are likely to think, almost smugly: “How different those horrible creatures are from the rest of us. How fortunate I am that I could never kill or hurt other people like they did.”

    I do not like to stop and, in the silence, look within, but when I do I hear a pounding on the floor of my soul. When I open the trap door into the deep darkness I see the monsters emerge for me to deal with. How painful it is to bear all this, but it is there to bear in all of us. Freud called it the death wish, Jung the demonic darkness. If I do not deal with it, it deals with me. The cross reminds me of all this.

    This inhumanity of human to human is tamed most of the time by law and order in most of our communities, but there are not laws strong enough to make men and women simply cease their cruelty and bitterness. This destructiveness within us can seldom be transformed until we squarely face it in ourselves. This confrontation often leads us into the pit. The empty cross is planted there to remind us that suffering is real but not the end, that victory still is possible…
~Morton Kelsey from “The Cross and the Cellar”

 

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Prepare for Joy: A Reflection of God’s Face

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“Save me from all oppression, conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared.”
~The Book of Common Prayer

It used to be that people feared a sudden, unprepared death,
because they feared meeting God sudden and unprepared.
Now, we only fear death —

because we don’t fear God.
Turn on any street corner, walk through any airport, sit on the edge of any hospital bed, and you can see the glorious wonder of it:
All the faces of humanity carry the image of God.
What if deciding to end a human life is somehow the desecration of God’s image?
What if a human life is not only a gift of grace right till the end – but is a reflection of God’s face right till the end?
~Ann Voskamp from “A Holy Experience” in a blog post about the death of her friend Kara Tippetts from breast cancer

Such hard news this week:
A plane goes down in the French Alps, killing unsuspecting travelers, some so young, who had no thought of meeting their God that day.
A wife and mother, who has known for months she was dying, prepared herself and her family and left this world on God’s terms, not of her own volition.

What is man that we are His reflection, His face mirrored in ours,
whether we are old and dried up and wrinkled beyond recognition,
or we are a floating conceptus, yet to implant and thrive?

It is not up to us; we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, to Him.

quinceflower