Waiting for the storm

It’s just after 11 p.m. on Sunday. The Sunday after Allume. It’s quiet, but it’s not going to be that way for long and it wasn’t that way most of the day.

Last week, if you would have asked, I would have thought that I would be taking a really long nap the day after Allume. I’d probably start subscribing to blogs and following new friends on Twitter. I’d take a day of rest, honor the Sabbath and jump into doing all the housework on Monday.

But I didn’t. That storm that so many were talking about at Allume is on our doorstep. A meterologist on TV just said that Sandy would be “destructive, life-threatening and historic.”

Most of that devastation will, of course, be closer to the coast wherever Sandy comes ashore, but it’s going to be tough here in Central Pennsylvania. The forecast says we’ll have winds of 30-40 miles an hour with gust up to 70. The electric company is calling people to give them a message that the electric could be out for several days to a couple of weeks.

So I spent the day (after church!) putting things away outside, making sure my Grammy’s house was ready, cleaning out jugs and containers and filling them with water. I did a load or two of laundry and most of the dishes. Checked and double-checked the flashlights.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll leave my house and go spend the worst of the storm with Grammy. She’s an amazingly self-sufficient and healthy 95-year-old woman of faith but I don’t want her to be alone.

Now, though, now is the quiet. I can hear the beginnings of the rain outside though the real wind isn’t to come until tomorrow. My cat is sleeping and purring next to me as if all is at peace in the world.

After I hit the publish button, I’ll turn off the computer. I’ll head for bed. I’ll stop to pray for the quiet of the heart to last through the howling winds of the storm. I’ll pray for safety for my friends, family and my Allume sisters who find themselves stuck here because of cancelled flights. I’ll pray for God to turn the storm aside and to carry us through it if He doesn’t.

Join me in those prayers?

A Song for Sunday: One Thing Remains

I’m scheduling this post a week early.

‘Cause this week’s going to be a doozy.

I work nights on Monday and Tuesday, regular day shift on Wednesday and an early shift on Thursday so that I can work a full eight hours then go to the loveliness that is the Allume Social conference.

Here’s what I know I will be able to say come next Sunday:

  • I’m so tired!
  • I’m so blessed to be be able to share about Him through writing.
  • I’m doubly blessed to have found a community like Allume.
  • I wish I wouldn’t have had to work on Thursday.
  • I should have sprung for the hotel room instead of commuting.
  • God put just the right people in my path all weekend.
  • What am I going to do with all these gifts from the goody bag?

And here’s another thing.

I know that if every little bit of that comes true or if every little bit of that falls through, his love will never fail me and he will never give up on me.

That’s the message another song that seems have been on constant repeat since the Passion CD dropped last March. The original is by Jesus Culture. The video below is Kristian Stanfill leading at Passion 2012.

The small beginnings of grace {An Emmaus look at Isaiah 42:1-9}

Settle into the book of Isaiah. Soak in the portraits of Christ that we’re going to see in the poetic prophecies of the servant songs.

Isaiah 42 is the first of the songs, appearing in the book just after God calls out idolatrous religions for their futility. His argument in Isaiah 41 concludes:

But when I look, there is no one;
among these there is no counselor
who, when I ask, gives an answer.
Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind.
(Isaiah 41:28-29 ESV)

Against these delusions and works of nothingness God introduces his servant. Where the idols are abomination, the servant is delight. Where the idols are full of an empty wind, the servant comes with the Spirit’s power.

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
I am the LORD; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
(Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV)

Compare this picture of God’s Servant to portraits of Christ painted by the gospel writers. Christ opened the eyes of the blind. He dealt justly with the people around him. He didn’t draw attention to himself with aggressive advertising campaigns and the first-century equivalent of social media buzz.

And, perhaps most impressive of all in a world impressed with power, he was gentle with the weak and patient with the questioning. John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes, described it as “cherishing the small beginnings of grace.”

Bruised physically, emotionally or spiritually by events in your past or present? Christ will not break you. He will restore.

Faith weak and full of questions? Christ won’t abandon you. He’ll protect what you have so the flame can burn strongly again.

Discouraged when you see the way our culture treasures money and fame but rejects the poor and oppressed? Christ will bring justice.

Closed in by darkness and depression? Christ is the light.

Imprisoned by addictions? Christ offers release.

In these little moments when we seem weakest and furthest away from God, we turn to the servant to see and cherish our own small beginnings of grace.

Dead Sea-Judean Hills spring weeds in bloom

This post is part of a 31-day journey on the road to Emmaus. To begin at the beginning, click here. To see other “31 Days of …” posts from other bloggers, visit The Nester.

A Song for Sunday: 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman

This song hovered under the radar for me even though it’s on one of my favorite CDs of the year. It finally blossomed to the surface late summer. A friend at work was facing the loss of a loved one from cancer. I was wrestling with the idea of leaving my job without a back-up plan. Truthfully, God felt far away.

Then, I really listened to the lyrics, particularly the last verse (printed below the video).

I can’t begin to describe how much it has sustained me over the past few weeks. My prayer is that it will meet you where you are today and remind you of all the reasons we have to praise God.

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)

Bless the lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name

The sun comes up
Its a new day dawning
Its time to sing your song again
What ever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name

You’re rich in love and you’re slow to anger
Your name is great and your heart is kind
For all your goodness I will keep on singing
10,000 reasons for my heart to find

Bless the lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name

And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing your praise unending
10,000 years and then forever more

Bless the lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name
Bless the lord oh my soul
Oh my soul
Worship his holy name
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name (repeat 3x)
Sing like never before
Oh my soul
I worship your holy name (repeat 3x)

And all flesh shall see it together {An Emmaus look at Isaiah 40:3-5}

A moment of sheer, unadulterated honesty here.

I love the Bible. I read it often, but not as often as I like. I love exploring it in community. I love hearing someone teach from it.

I love it when it reveals something new.

And I love it most when I read a passage that I have have read a gazillion times before and for some reason at this time and this place, it absolutely sends a chill right through me and makes me spontaneously whisper a word of praise.

That just happened. Continue reading

Bringing fruit to a barren landscape {An Emmaus look at Isaiah 11:1-5}

The prophetic landscape at the end of Isaiah 10 is dark and foreboding. Destruction has fallen on the Assyrians from the hand of the Almighty. Only a remnant of Israel remains.

Then comes a brilliant point of light. A splotch of green against a bleak, gray landscape.

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
(Isaiah 11:1 ESV)

A son of Jesse growing like a tiny twig on the stump of a fallen tree. The twig will grow into a strong branch bringing fruit to a barren landscape. Continue reading

A Song for Sunday: After All (Holy) by Crowder

Hi.

Yes, it’s late.

Yes, I’ve left everyone hanging for a couple of days on the Emmaus series. I really have to get the hang of my new work schedule. I’m planning a big day tomorrow with a bit of cleaning in the morning and writing the rest of the day.

But today? Today I rested. It’s something I’m working very hard at doing. Over the years, I haven’t been diligent about keeping a Sabbath, a day of rest. A few weeks ago, I decided it was time.

Now, as best I can, I am going to church, making dinner, napping, reading, writing, watching football and just plain taking it easy. The laundry, vacuuming and cleaning cat hair from the furniture can wait until Monday, which is my day off in the new schedule.

It’s not easy. I didn’t plan well and ended up at the grocery store today.

Baby steps.

So, just sit back and let Crowder lead you in a little bit of worship to a holy God before you head to sleep tonight.

You can get back to the busy tomorrow.

Are we there yet? {An Emmaus look at Isaiah 9:7}

Yesterday’s post left us reflecting on the child born to us as “a gift of divine grace to sinners.

Still a bit overwhelming to think that we, as messed up as we are, can call on Christ, our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace, isn’t it?

But, we’re going to move ahead one verse to look at the final part of the prophecy of Isaiah 9.

Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:7 ESV)

This child, who comes from the royal line of David, establishes a never ending kingdom of peace, filled with endless, expanding grace.  It’s a kingdom characterized by justice and righteousness that can only be achieved by the Lord himself.

Don’t read that too quickly.

Peace. Grace. Justice. Righteousness. Everlasting. Ever-expanding. For all people.

Can I be honest?

It puts me to tears.

The image is just that beautiful.

Today, I heard of a young, 14-year old blogger in Pakistan who was shot in the head for daring to stand up for her rights. In a CNN interview in 2011, she said, “I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”

And of the systematic cheating that enveloped a sport I love throughout most of the time that I have been following it.

Not to mention, the crime log in the local paper.

And the stories of the addicted, the broken homes, the poor, the sick.

And I want to know what’s going on.

To mix metaphors and scramble similies, if this train is bound for glory, I’m the kid in the back seat yelling, “Are we there yet?”

No.

We’re not there yet.

One day the child of Isaiah 9:6 will return as the triumphant king of Revelation. Then, the kingdom envisioned in Isaiah 9:7 will come in its fullness.

We see glimpses of it here now.

We work to see more of it now.

And, believe tonight that the kingdom is expanding. One by one, it is expanding.

Somewhere, someone living in darkness is seeing a great light.

For unto them, a child has been born …

Dead Sea-Judean Hills spring weeds in bloom

This post is part of a 31-day journey on the road to Emmaus. To begin at the beginning, click here. To see other “31 Days of …” posts from other bloggers, visit The Nester.

A gift of divine grace {An Emmaus look at Isaiah 9:6}

It doesn’t look promising for the people of Judah.

From Isaiah 7:18 through the end of chapter 8, it’s a message of despair. Armies will march. People will be humiliated. The population will be diminished to the point that just a couple of animals can provide enough food. They will find themselves oppressed by the nation to whom they turned for help. Spiritually, they will turn from God seeking the advice of spiritualists and the occult.

The dismal news comes to a climax in Isaiah 8:22: “And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.”

But … (don’t you love it when God says, “but.”) … into the darkness comes a great light. Continue reading