"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book recommendation: A Severe Mercy

I find that, often, my favorite books are the unexpected ones. I am near to finishing a beautiful memoir by Sheldon Vanauken. It is an incredible story of a journey of love, faith, adventure, and tragedy. I have owned this book for a while, and it honestly took a long time for me to really get into reading it. I actually began reading this book over a year ago on the way to Lima, Peru. It was shelved after that trip, until recently. Though it took a little while for me to get into the story, it has been an incredible journey to read about this couple's story unfolding. A Severe Mercy is about the lives of Van and Davy, a couple who find love in each other, and ultimately journey to the foot of the cross by the power of the pursuit of Jesus and powerful community, which included their friend C.S. Lewis. What I love so much about this book is that it's simply about life. It's about how two imperfect people collide with the Living God, and how they love each other and others in the process.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Vanauken's memoir.
“It is not possible to be 'incidentally a Christian.' The fact of Christianity must be overwhelmingly first or nothing. This suggests a reason for the dislike of Christians by nominal or non-Christians: their lives contain no overwhelming first but many balances."

"No: a glimpse is not a vision. But to a man on a mountain road by night, a glimpse of the next three feet of road may matter more than a vision of the horizon."

"I choose beauty; I choose what I love. But choosing to believe is believing. It's all I can do: choose."

This is such a lovely, rich book, and I would recommend it to anyone. :)

Friday, June 15, 2012

I think I'll go to Boston

Today I took a day trip to the lovely city of Boston. I was swept into a love for this New England city by its beautiful architecture, deep roots in American history, lush greenery and hundred year old trees... And it's delicious seafood. Exploring places I have never been is one of my favorite things in life. I love the adventure of discovering new things and seeing beauty unveiled around me. In Boston, there are so many sites with rich, important historical significance to the Revolutionary War. So many sites in the city were the locations of events that shaped our history as a nation. One particular building, the Old State Building, had an upstairs balcony that faces the now busy downtown intersection. From this balcony, Bostonians first heard the words of the Declaration of Independance read. What a moment that must have been. Did the townspeople below know the weight and gravity of the words they were hearing? Did they know that the history of Western Civilization was about to change forever? Did they know there were part of something much bigger than themselves, a part of one of the most imporant times in their mation's history? Or was it simply an ordinary day in the town of Boston, Massachusetts?
Just like these Bostonians, I am living in a time of tension, and the earth is groaning in expectation for what is to come. The enemy is still prowling, seeking to devour, and he wants to lull me into a sleep and into believing that this is just an ordinary day. He wants me to believe that what I do doesnt really have any significance in the grand scheme of things... I'm just living life as usual. But in reality, all of heaven and earth is waiting with bated breath to see what I do, how I respond to life. I'm not the center of the Story of Heaven, but because God calls me His child, I have an important part to play. You have an important part to play. Today is not ordinary. Today, history is in the making. Lines are being drawn. Souls are at stake. We are in the middle of something so much bigger than ourselves.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Imagine yourself a living house

An incredible analogy by Lewis.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Faith and greeting cards

Right now, I'm sitting in a cottage in a little town in New Hampshire. So quaint, so lovely. I am surrounded by beauty here: the wild daisies growing in the rolling meadow out back, the cool breeze, the lovely bird calls, the smell of the blooming rose bush while visiting the neighbors, and the purple mountain against the setting sun at dusk. Absolutely gorgeous. Tomorrow I'll be driving into Boston with my grandparents and a couple that lives next door. We will explore the Freedom Trail and soak in some classic American history while they go to some appointments, then meet up for some good old New England seafood on the bay. Perfection. I am so excited to explore a city I've never been to! One night earlier this week, when I was still in Waco, I went to Fort Worth for a night to have dinner and spend some quality time with my sweet friend Monica. As we talked over one of my favorite meals in the entire world (the grilled salmon from Brio in Southlake Town Square... Incredible.), we tossed around our recent thoughts and revelations about faith. We had both felt the Lord stirring something in us dealing with the idea of faith. As I've been reflecting on the conceps of faith and grace and hope, I have been realizing how insane they are. Seriously. Crazy. Doesn't make sense. Completely blows my mind. I keep coming back to the most simple, basic verse when it comes to faith: Hebrews 11:1. It's one of those verses you memorize in VBS and actually seems to stick with you through the years because it really is that simple. But is it?
"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
I've heard this verse, these words for my entire life, but I still cannot get my mind around the vastness of what they mean. The idea of having "faith" is trendy right now. "Faith" is used as such a broad term in the world, and probably in the Church, too. "Faith" is a system of beliefs ("the Christian faith"), or trying to muster up enough personal willpower or courage to do something hard ("Just have faith! You can do it."), or a word to express confidence in something or someone ("I have faith that you'll do the right thing."). While I do think that we need to check our word usage, that's not what I'm getting after. I think that we've softened faith into "faith". We've taken something that because of is very nature we cannot fully understand, and forced it to share a word with a soft, trendy, NICE, comfortable, substanceless idea. We can't actually understand what faith actually is, so we cheapen it into something we can... A nice, quaint sentiment we can stick on a greeting card. We were made for more than nice sentiment. You and I were made to live in the greatest adventure that has ever been. We were made for JESUS, not greeting card "faith". When life comes, and it will, and threatens to tear my world apart, the greeting card sentiments will not mean a thing. The cheap faith and the cheap grace I've tried to convince myself were substantial will be revealed for what they truly are: hollow, empty words on an overpriced, fading piece of card stock. They will fail me, but Jesus will not. I want the faith that leads to more and more and more and more of Jesus. But if "faith" is cheap, what does that make Faith? Expensive. Costly. Faith is pricey, because it requires that we forgo our "right" to understand and to see. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Sounds great on a card (now that I've run that analogy into the ground...), but when it's applied to life, its a little more difficult to swallow. For me right now, my faith is being stretched and expanded by me choosing to believe and accept what Jesus says about me, even if I don't see those things in myself. I am generally inclined towards wanting to have control over my life and I don't like doing things without calculating the risks and rewards. But in life with Jesus, those "righs" are no longer mine. I don't need to see the end, or even the next step in this season of life, but trust that He sees it as He's guiding me. This is a journey of FAITH for me, because as I choose to trust Jesus in what I believe and the direction of my life, I am forsaking what I see with my eyes, and am choosing to believe even when I can't see. Which is so. Hard. For me, at least. Hey, maybe you've got the faith thing down. I don't. It is hard every day to choose joy over disappointment, even when what I see is disappointing. Honestly, it is hard to believe that I am pursued when I feel like I'm not. And when all I want to do is make a bunch of plans for my life, it is really hard to obey Jesus and in faith wait for His timing and direction. When it comes to "bible characters" and the idea of faith, I instantly think of Abraham and Sarah. If you don't know their story, look it up. Their story is INSANE... Once we get past the stigma of the "bible character" syndrome (forgetting that biblical people aren't just characters in a cool book, they were real people who actually lived the stories we hear. So when we read how many years they waited for their child, maybe we'll gain a little better perspective.). Long, long story short, God promised Abe and Sarah a child. At the time of the promise, Abe was really old, beyond the age of conceiving a child, and Sarah was also old and had always been barren. It sounded so ridiculous that Sarah actually laughed when God promised Abraham. Then came the waiting. And more waiting. They're only getting older, how can God's promise actually come to pass? Were they out of their minds to actually believe that God would do something so great to them? Did they actually believe God told them that? Come on, be realistic, Sarah. I can almost hear the mockery, the disbelief of their friends and family. But then.
"BY FAITH Abraham, even though he was past age-- and Sarah herself was barren-- was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise." Heb 11:11
By faith. Because HE is faithful to His word. He is who He says He is, so Abraham trusted Him. Would I be one who knows the character of God so intimately that I have no option but to trust Him and consider all other voices, all of the mocking and nagging of the world and the enemy, as what they are-- but a passing mist that will soon be dispersed by the burning Light of Jesus. Would I choose His truth over what I see with my eyes, trusting that He is who He says He is.