Tuesday, June 9, 2015

On the Efficacy of God's Word

God has given us His Word.  I don’t think we think about this enough, about what it really means. Because I think if we thought about it more, our pursuit of Scripture would be ignited by faith in its power.

How can we not be amazed by this great gift from our Creator? For He has given us His Words. The Creator—whose speech put time in motion, whose speech caused pure energy to burst into the void, whose speech pierced together the very essence of matter—this speech He now directs towards us, to show us who He is and who we are.

Heb 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

He has given us His Words

How capricious and cold a god who would create a world and walk away.  Or who would stand above, but remain distant and silent so that the created wander in ignorance of Him and of themselves.  He did not have to stoop down and clue us in.  He did not have to enlighten our ignorance.  He had no obligation to interact.  But no.  Our God is kind.  He gave us stories. He gave us poems and songs.  He gave us rules and guidelines.  He came and lived and walked and spoke and had someone write it down.  He told us who we are. He told us His heart.

Psalm 119:18-19, 73 “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me !...Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments”

He gave us His Word.

How can we belittle this? How can we not be overwhelmed with faith in the power of this book?  Why do we doubt its influence? God made us word people.  People of communication. People who cannot stop telling stories to eachother.  People who craft our identities with the languages we speak.  Because we are made in His image, we are word people.

So how can we not believe that these Words of His will be perfect in meeting us, in reading our souls and minds and hearts and capturing them, stirring them, correcting our warped nature in a profound way.  His words which formed mountains and valleys, rivers and oceans, which crafted the spirals of the galaxy and the antenna of an ant—those words He turns now to us, to craft our souls into His image.  For His Word is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword.

Psalm 33:6-9, 13-15 “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made and by the breath of His mouth their host.  He gathers the waters of the seas as a heap, He puts the deep in storehouses.  Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the World stand in awe of Him! For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded and it stood firm….The Lord looks down from heaven he sees all the children of man from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.”

Our understanding of and faith in the transforming power of the Word of God should fuel our study of it.  We must understand the richness of this gift and use that to spur us on.

Jeremiah 23:29 “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rocks to pieces?”

Isaiah 55:10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; It shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

For He has given us His Words.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My Grandmothers

An Old Irish Blessing
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Top o' the mornin' to you ye! It's St. Patrick's Day.  I have donned the only green t-shirt I own and the shamrock dangle earrings I've had since middle school. I fully intend to momentarily indulge in a bad Irish accent at some point during the day.  And if I had any Irish Breakfast tea on hand, I would certainly be drinking it. But even while I nod towards the celebration of Irish culture (caricature?), my thoughts wander to my two grandmothers. 

I last saw my maternal grandmother on St Patrick's Day 2005. My mom, myself, and my two younger siblings donned garishly green plastic bowlers and visited my grandmother in the medical care center to celebrate the holiday.  She died a few days later. 
We simply called her Grandmom. We'd visit her once a month (or so) with my mom at her row home in Dundalk, Maryland. (On the one occasion I spent the night there, I sat in the dark room staring out the window when I was supposed to be sleeping, mesmerized with the view of the city lights.) She had a dog named Duchess who would bark when we arrived--a raspy bark, like she had a sore throat. In her living room, my grandmother would always have a jigsaw puzzle in progress. Even though we rarely did a puzzle together, I like to think that some of my appreciate for that activity comes from her.
On our visits we'd take her to Sam's Club for groceries (she'd always send us home with candy of some sort), to the bank , and finally to lunch. I.H.O.P. and the Double T Diner were two favorites, and she always made us order dessert.
We'd visit on Easter Sunday and Christmas Eve. For Easter she'd always have unevenly colored, stickyish oil-dyed hard boiled eggs, and gave each grandchild a white chocolate Easter Lamb.  We all hated white chocolate, and eventually managed to ask for milk chocolate instead. But she insisted that white was the only option, she didn't want us to get milk chocolate on our Easter clothes (though at this point I was a teenager).  
I didn't know her well but she seemed stubborn that way, completely content in her opinions and choices.  My grandfather died before I was born, so she always struck me as independent, despite the help she accepted from her daughters in getting around. Sometimes I think I'll probably grow up to be like her: content, stubborn, with a dog to keep me company and the family on speed-dial, doling out candy however I see fit.

My paternal grandmother died more recently, in January of 2014.  She and my paternal grandfather embraced our Irish heritage.  Their apartment was filled with pictures of their visits to Ireland, little figurines, shamrock teapots, and a "Guinness is good for you" plaque.  The blessing at the beginning of this post hung in their bathroom where I read it many times.  My name was her's before it was mine: Alice Mary Kelly became Mary Allison Kelly, and a good Irish-Catholic name it is. It's easy to think of her when March 17th rolls around.
We called her Nanny. We visited her and my grandfather often growing up.  First at their single-family home in Cockeysville, later their condo in Timonium, and finally walking to the retirement home down the street. When I was very young there was always the delicious smell of roast beef that'd she'd cook when we visited, the plastic big-wheel we'd pedal down her driveway, the shiny costume jewelry she'd let us tote around in plastic baggies--the secret treasure of princesses on the run. I was fascinated with her silver-backed hairbrushes and glass seashell paperweight.  When I wrote my first short story she sagely affirmed, "I always knew you were going to be a writer." I got the impression that she always liked to be in control of the climate. She kept the condo chilly in summer, and hated stuffy cars, but made us wear hats and personally zipped up our coats in winter. 
As I grew up, she grew older and slipped into a battle with Alzheimer's. I often wished that I had matured more quickly or that she had aged more slowly.  I wished that I had asked more questions, listened more carefully, appreciated Nanny as a person rather than just as my grandmother. Eventually the conversations became limited and circular, and I was left to imagine and infer.  I can remember enough details, I caught enough glimpses, to be intrigued about the woman behind them. Her fluid handwriting in the books she gave me, her enjoyment of chocolate pudding, the way she leaned so naturally, though heavily, on my grandfather as her mind began to fail her--these are all echoes I use to fill in my knowledge gaps about the woman who gave me her name. I hope she'd be proud of what I've done with it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Lift up your eyes on high and see...

It's an often asked question: "How do you reconcile science and faith?" Perhaps there is an implied: "How do you worship if you always explain away the mystery?" But the opposite is the case; my knowledge informs my wonder.

Read Isaiah 40:25-26:

To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.

I suppose it is natural to gaze up at the stars and be overcome with a sense of awe. You feel small--as you should. There is a bigness in those tiny pinpricks of light that you sense almost without understanding.

But now consider this. Consider that each of these tiny points of light is a huge orb of burning gas that is large enough to engulf thousands of earths. Each of those tiny points of light puts off enough energy in an hour to fuel humanity for a year. Those tiny points of light capture planets, so they must orbit that star forever. Consider that we can only see a fraction of these tiny points of light on a good night.

Now read Isaiah 40:26 again.

He brings out their host by number, corralling them into an ordered assembly. He can call each one by name. And these giant furnaces of energy, He gathers them into His arms. Because He is strong in power not one is missing.

Now worship Him with heart and soul and mind. For the stars may capture planets, but The LORD is the one who marshals the stars.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Abdication

I'm not sure which one comes first, the melancholy or the spiraling lack of self-control. But sometimes I just let my life happen around me: I don't sleep like I should. I don't eat like I should. I binge watch movies and television while the laundry piles up and the bathroom get's moldy. I call it apathy, but that apathy is quickly followed by self-derision. I feel like a failure, and something whispers: "The worth of your existence is measured by the effort you put into it."

So I pull myself together. I scrub the shower. I eat a dinner that isn't icecream. I write shopping lists. I wash and dry AND fold my laundry. But even as I stand triumphantly atop my newly-built adult life, I am mocked by the premonition that apathy will return and I will again be mediocre. I'm king of the hill, but I will roll back down. I'm king of the hill, but from the top, the hill seems pointless, even fake.

Perhaps my soul knows. It knows that it wasn't made for sleepless nights and tv binges. It knows that it wasn't made for a perfectly ordered life of clean bathrooms and well stocked freezers.

My soul knows that my value, my life's value, does not lie in what I do or do not contribute.  My value was assigned for me before I was born. My value was imparted to me by an act of love over 2000 years ago. My value will be fulfilled when moments after my death I meet the One my soul was created for.

So for my soul, I will seek this foundation, and leave the hills to others.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Speak Tenderly to Jerusalem...

The assurance that God is sovereign should be a great comfort to the Christian. In suffering and trial, this truth should ground our faith and capture our unruly emotions. It should be our sweet strength.

However, if this truth is not a comfort, if your heart bulks and rears against this idea, if when your brother or sister voices this truth, your instinct is to close your ears, harden your heart, and turn away--then, my friend, you must take up your arms against sin. Because your doubt will cross swiftly into unbelief and bitterness. Take up your shield, call on your friends, pray and pray still more. Hold on more tightly to the truth you want to push away. Hold onto it like an anchor so that you do not slip.
Recognize that in the moment your heart rails against this truth, you are no longer simply fighting for faith, you are fighting against sin.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Comfort, comfort my people...

The doctrine of the sovereignty of God is not a band-aid to throw onto any crappy situation.  It is not "Mommy's magic kisses" for a hurting Christian. The doctrine of God's sovereignty is a salve. You have to rub it deep into the wound, and it will hurt.  You have to apply and reapply diligently, staving off the infection of bitterness, until the hurt begins to heal. Compassion and empathy will aid the process--there is a wound after all. You have to push through and keep applying, putting faith and trust in the belief that it will work.  Because it is Truth.

To consider this doctrine as anything less, to throw it around flippantly, to glibly brush off worries or fear, pain and hurt--this is not only unkind, it can be damaging and hurtful. To do so, is to ignore the depth of human experience.  It belittles the ability of God to speak into the darkest depths of that experience. But it is the deep darkness where we need Him most. And with compassion and reassurance, He will meet us there.