Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Submission -- Thy Will Be Done

"Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.

Yet I want your will, not mine."

Luke 22:42

We face daily opportunities to yield our wills and lay down our lives in countless ways. However, there are some encounters so significant - when the choice to yield is so challenged and death so distasteful - that the altars of sacrifice will forever be reminders of His loving Lordship. You see, He never forces that death; He looks for willing sacrifice.

In my past I had two such altars of remembrance, encounters when giving up my will to His was a prolonged, incredibly agonizing wrestling match. In time I erected a third. There may be more yet to come.

Often enough our wills are firmly set, our minds are deeply entrenched in a certain paradigm, and we have set our hearts in that direction. And if that will or mindset is in any way contrary to His, He will ask for it. It is then that we must take up our cross and follow.

It is mercy revealed that would challenge us to lay down our wills. If left to our own desires, they would ultimately result in the death that all flesh knows. He gives us the opportunity to lay down our wills, sacrifice those desires, and put them to death at the altar, thereby receiving His life-giving will in return.

In these encounters, the arduous wrestling with my will was agonizing. I was wondering if it could be a sincere yielding when accompanied with such pain. Could I truly declare with the Lord, "I delight to do thy will, Oh my God"? This was far from delightful. This was an obstinate display of self-will. Not pretty in any way.

I found myself in church one day singing these words about my Lord, "...whose obedience shows the way for me." And I immediately recalled the Garden of Gethsemane. His yielding was not accompanied with jumps of joy and cartwheels. Instead He brought to the altar blood, sweat, and tears. I could relate. This was a supreme act of will, a laying down of a fleshly will for the lifting up of a purer will, God's will. And He showed us how. We must lay it all at His feet and say, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done."

The enactment itself is simple - a child could do it. But sincere commitment to obedience is, at times, wrought with pain and suffering. Death is not always easy. But the fruit it yields is abundant life.

At those erected altars in my life there has been no outward display of emotional joy -- no cartwheels, no exultant shouts of "Hooray!" But the relinquishing of my will for His brought an inward delight that came springing forth with abundance, bubbling up from that eternal fount found within all who are His. This encountering of death, this cross, could only result in tremendous life and fruit! As I truly yielded, a glad sigh of "It is finished" flooded my being with hope once more. His will would reign supreme again. Could there possibly be anything better?

Psalm 40:8 I delight to do thy will, Oh my God!

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Dusting It Off; But Where Shall We Go? And Do I Really Need To Know?

 A new year, 2023, is nearly upon us. And here I am revisiting this blog. I think I need to write again.

I probably need someone to show me how to include photos so I can be a bit more current, though painting word pictures has always been a delight for me. Still, one must keep abreast of current interests!

The sense of a new season opening before me has been on the horizon for years now. And I suppose oversight of The Arts Program of NNY for the past five years was certainly a new endeavor. But here comes 2023. I will be handing that ministry position over to Calvin and Shannon Brown, such capable and Godly young visioneers. And so I find myself in the midst of change once again.

Life is like that it seems. 

My Mom and Dad are facing change constantly, but at times resistant. They are tired of the change. They are less supple. My Mom especially wants the past to circle around once again. I get it. Boy, do I. And I thank the Lord for these extended years with them. I hope she knows how thankful we are!

But Lord, I want to be serving You in the moment, not missing the "here and nowness" of Your plan and purpose by longing for what it was yesterday. I want to change, evolve, form to Your will, even in these years. These later years.

Then again, who knows -- these may not be the later years should You tarry and I live long. Maybe this is just the middle! And maybe it's later than I think! Who can say? I stand in awe of You and trust You completely with the plan. Thank You for such faithfulness to me.

So, I begin here, at this little blog spot. I will stir up the creative thought process. I will determine to think and find words for those thoughts. If you should find yourself visiting, hopefully it will bless you!

With 2023 beginning to peek at us from the other side of the calendar, let's rejoice in the knowledge that even this coming year is His domain. He rules and reigns over time and place, over all things in every sphere. 

And He's not afraid. He's not unsure. He's not wondering what to do. Let's just ask and wait on Him!

With that thought, a new calendar year, the passing of all that I've experienced heretofore, and the embracing with certainty that which is to come suddenly are more than okay -- they are filled to overflowing with the wonder of His grace and power and love!

Serving Him is a marvel indeed!

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Fall 2020 Notes

 A few thoughts from my fall thus far:

Covid-19 brings twists and turns to routine living, some welcome, some not. My natural proclivity towards laziness and homebody-ness is NOT benefitted by Covid-19 protocols. Even the simplest of outings seems monumental in effort. I can count on my hand the number of times I've been in a grocery store since this all began. (Well, slight exaggeration, but the number is nonetheless small. Too small, in fact. I've been lazy, sending my son in my stead too many times. Thank you, Merrick.)

On the other hand, my implacable desire to guide other people in making music forced me to find a new venue, my usual ventures in theater being curtailed (altogether eliminated would be a more accurate assessment). Therefore I dreamed and schemed a way to make music with some folks who are so inclined. Setting up an 8 week session of private coaching to culminate in a small recital, I currently have fifteen students participating in weekly lessons at my home. When we share the fruit of our labors in recital fashion we will be socially distanced with all solo singers 12' away from the audience. And in a private setting, mind you. Taking care to honor protocol and yet make music, mind you. This is perfection!

On another front, two years in and apartment living continues to bring delight and adjustment. I love this space! What a lovely way to do life, with numerous and generous windows creating such an open airy view! And easy to clean. (So why, I often ask myself, are the tables currently dusty and the games still out of place? Ah, another tribute to my lazy tendencies. Oh, wait, let me attribute such things to "other priorities". Ha!!!)

Simultaneously, I seem to miss the gardens. Or do I miss the energy I had to keep the gardens? I double check myself, knowing that it was a chore just to water my flower boxes outside the front door this summer. Something has changed. Is it my interests? My energy? Whatever it is, I settle into the awareness that this seems to be a time to refocus whatever energy it is I have in other directions. And so, I go with it.

We thought we would be traveling. But Covid. And I thought we would be writing and reading and studying. But Covid. 

Covid has limited and constrained. Covid has demanded and pressed us in new directions. As has age and aging.

And in it all, I trust Him to use our time, energy, talent, resourcefulness and creativity to serve Him today, here and now, in the midst of Covid and aging, national turmoil and strife, unsure routines, plans and the need to be flexible with plans. In it all and through it all He is building His kingdom. That is all I want to know. That is all I need to know. 

Finding Him. And being found by Him, our ever present Father.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Yielding Life to Him

 I was recently reading through past posts. Chuckling over some, dismissing others as neither charming nor insightful. 

And finding fresh inspiration in those revealing His faithful work in my life.

I'm realizing a theme, a life message if you will, and it is this: God, in His faithfulness to me, deals a death blow to my aberrant will and misguided desire time and time again until more and more of who I am becomes yielded to his Glorious Reign. 

There are the daily regular times of submission, of yielding, of honoring Him above myself -- the mundane choosing to share my toast with a little one, to wash the dishes one more time, to happily make a meal for the visitor. Take note: I speak as though these are trivial choices, mundane as they are. But do not be deceived, for indeed it is the exercise and practice of giving oneself to death in the small thing that enables you to take on that same cross in those times when it looms larger than life itself. For indeed, some of His requests loom very large indeed, and you sense that your very identity is at stake.

It is then that the shadow of that cross overwhelms. You run. You tremble with fear and anger, wrestling with self-will as you battle within against His will which seems contrary to your deepest identity. You want to hide from that shadow, but love for Him draws you relentlessly.   

At long last you bow before the cross, saying yes to Him, yielding your heart and your life. 

And it comes. The death blow is deep, cutting into the inner most part of your being. Intense pain crushes you. Ineffable anguish floods your being and you are lost, engulfed in transcendent agony.

In the yielding, you are somehow sensible of the surreal rendering asunder of your being as your heart is removed and lifted by the Spirit's hands; a scalpel cuts, removing the aberrant will, your very being, your identity. Deep, intense, crippling pain ensues. You bleed long as your very life is slowly drained away.

And there you lie. Lifeless. Broken. Useless it seems. The ache reverberates and throbs. It is beyond words. You are breathless and without any other feeling. 

But you have given yourself to Him. You are His. More His than ever before.

His life begins to flow in, restoring you. Fresh vitality is yours with a heart made new. His reign has taken its rightful place; His will in place your own. 

We must decrease. He must increase. Daily. Incrementally. And even to the very core of our beings. 

Our identity lost to His. Our life in exchange for divine life. 

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Share the Suffering

The Gospel of Peace. The Gospel of Reconciliation.

Who would have thought such a Gospel would bring suffering and division? Our carnal thinking says it wouldn't. Our natural inclination, when confronted with suffering because of the Gospel, is to assume we've done something wrong.

Certainly the enemy and the world all around us is happy to jump on that band wagon. It is a common cry and judgment amongst those who don't believe His Word. "This isn't love!" "You call yourself a Christian? Those words aren't loving!" "If this was truly God's plan it would not have resulted in such public outcry, in such strife. He is the bringer of peace, remember!"

As of late I've been reading through several of Paul's letters. Paul? Oh, let me clarify: the Apostle Paul, writer of much of the New Testament. Esteemed teacher and leader. The one who boldly declared (and through the Living Word declares still today), "Imitate me as I imitate Christ."

Share in the suffering, he says. I, Paul, am imprisoned. But don't be ashamed of me, rather be bold and look for God's strength so you yourself might face affliction for the sake of the Gospel. 

This is not the suffering of sickness, poverty, or sentimental disappointment, though those are all real enough. Paul is talking about persecution and affliction because of the Gospel.

It is true. This is the Gospel of Peace. But let's be clear. It is the Gospel of Peace with God. Once we have partnered in this covenant of peace and reconciliation with God, we become His --  His own people.

Simply put, those at enmity with God are now at enmity with us as well.

So let us hear Paul and wake up. There will be affliction and suffering for those who declare the truth of the Gospel. Stop dreaming and drinking the Kool-Aid. There is no Utopia and there will be no Utopian world culture. We will never evolve into sinless creatures. Ever. No matter how long this earth exists, man will always have sin. And sin is the basis of enmity with God. A covenant that removes sin allows us to be friends living in peace with God, but those who cling to sin remain in enmity.

Are we called to be peace makers? Yes. But can we make peace between the enemies of God and ourselves? We have only one means to do so: the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace. The outcome of that preaching is not in our hands. Through that preaching many others will enter into peace with God. With them we must learn to live in peace. But it is through that same preaching that we will find ourselves at enmity with those who cling to sin and are contrary to God. It is inevitable. The Word guarantees it to be so.

Again, let us hear Paul who wrote again and again, exhorting the church to share in the suffering he himself experienced.
So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don't be ashamed of me, either, even though I'm in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 1 Timothy 1:8