Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘joy’

I have never noticed it in myself before, but a couple of weeks ago I didn’t believe people really loved me.  I believed they were being kind to me, but out of obligation more than out of interest in me.  So I avoided people; I didn’t pursue spending time with them unless directly asked.  (The times I did spend with them I enjoyed immensely.)  And I made sure that I was very useful, hoping that even if I wasn’t fun to be around, I would be helping people out to reward them for spending time with me.  

 

At the end of that week, I realized I had been self-centered, not thinking nearly enough about how I could be God’s vessel towards my friends.  I was not being respectful of them, disbelieving them when they said they would “love to have me” or that I was “welcome to join them”.  And on top of it all, I was believing lies.  They do love me, and I’m quite grateful.  

 

Being loved when you don’t deserve to be is strange.  Even with God I am so often tempted to believe in His pity and mercy and goodness but not in His love.  He does kind things for me because He is obligated by His goodness.  He does them to astound my gratitude.  Believing those half-truths, I obediently subject myself to Him.  I reassure myself that what God does is good.  I discipline myself to thank Him (which I don’t think is entirely wrong, but I’ll tell you what I love better: feeling thankful!).  

 

Yet YHWH really loves me.  One of those friends I was doubting a few weeks ago was sharing how God is teaching her about prayer, and how much He wants intimacy with us.  Marriage as a picture of Christ and His Church (us!) should remind us over and over that our lives were created for love and union and a delight in Jesus.  Years back I did a women’s retreat where we spent large amounts of time by ourselves, praying or resting or listening to music.  I remember believing then that Jesus loved me.  A song came on about Jesus’ wedding feast, about Him dancing with His bride, and I was so happy for His joy – a joy I could only believe in if He was getting something out of loving us – if He desired us.  

 

Teshuva (use link to “play” at top of webpage), an awesome band from the Denver area, writes: 

This is how I

Say I love you and

This is how I 

Prove it to you

By my wounds you are

Healed, you’re healed my child

There’s only so much words can say (Only so much words can say)

This can’t be said another way (This is the only way)

 

He has proven love, not just kindness or pity.  For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross.  

 

More than trust and gratitude, my response to really believing in God’s love is love.  Loving and being loved brings joy.  This week I’ve been so full of both, and for that I’m feeling grateful.  

 

I was talking to a friend about distrusting our emotions, not letting them be any part of leading our decisions.  He applied that to his walk with God, needing always a “legitimate” reason to do something, being completely skeptical of anything he felt or wanted.  I think that, at least now, with his friends he does some things because they are good things and he enjoys doing them.  My dear friend just got married in June.  I sure hope that when she kisses her husband it’s because she wants to, not because she thinks it is the wife thing to do!  When I read “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” this is something I think of.  He made our hearts, gave us emotions, and He wants them to be towards Him just as much as our minds, and our souls, and our actions and words.  The greatest commandment, the privilege of our lives as Christians, is to really love God.  

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools.

 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after.

 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future.

 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.

 

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

 

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet.

 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

 

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)

[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)

[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0

[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)

[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)

[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)

[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)

[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)

[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

 

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

There’s a lot of cynicism about the Church today.  And while I am stimulated by argument, by addressing something I identify as wrong, I don’t think of myself as a cynic.  Rather, this confrontation with status-quo is inherently hopeful.  I invest energy because I think Church could be better.

Before I left my last church, a few people were leaving slowly.  And my friends who were staying, they wondered why.  “There’s no such thing as a perfect church,” they argued.  “So why search for another kind of bad?”  Which reasoning rather baffled me.  What were they praying for?  Why did they do anything in the Church?  Didn’t they believe our community could be better?  And if we can get better, isn’t it possible that something better already exists?

Now, there may be other arguments for hanging around a church that is not as close to perfect as you hope.  But to say that leaving a church is for people with unrealistic expectations is silly.  Whatever your choice, your reason for staying should be the same as your reason for leaving: hope.  If you stay, be hoping to see God grow your church to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  If you go, may it be because you hope that God has more designed for the Church than the divided and sterile institution you’re leaving.

I didn’t leave the institutional church in despair.  There was hurt and disappointment over the group of people I had been congregating with.  But there was joy over the release God had given me – not release from fellowship or love or truth, but release from schedules and structures and enduring a view of Church that I no longer believe.  I went out looking for people of God doing life together, praying together, participating together in teaching and worship and celebrating Communion.  My search has been for a high view of our Bridegroom as the Head of His Church, of a supernatural (but orderly) view of the Spirit of our God as He orchestrates lives and relationships and meetings.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

I am persuaded that there is something better than what I have experienced.  And I will desire it and pursue it.  The things I write on ChurchMoot really excite me.  What I read in the Bible about Church excites me.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  Christ is purifying and strengthening His gloriously beautiful Church.  He’s preparing a place for us.  There are visions of unity and purpose and power.  A joy in knowing that we believe in, serve, and wait on an Almighty and Good God.

What’s more, I have hope that the people of God are being awakened to the biblical descriptions of Church.  Now when people realize church is broken, they’re seeking answers from God, and acting on them!  No longer will they betray the Body of Christ by their silence, by their tacit approval, by being accomplices.  They don’t want the world to think that what it knows as Church is the Beloved Bride of a Radiant Savior.  He purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works!  They want the world to see a light set on a lampstand, not some pitiful ember fading into darkness.

We are not a cult.  We are the Redeemed.  Joyful.  Saying so.  Hopeful.  Believing it is our God who builds His Church.  Waiting for our Messiah to come back – begging Him to come quickly!  We are loving, caring for each other, not afraid to weep or to rejoice.  The God who created the universe, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, indwells us.  He speaks through us, comforts us, guides and instructs us.  The same God who rattled the Early Church prayer meetings with mighty rushing wind is among us.  Let that be known.  Let it be proclaimed.  Don’t contain it in schedules and corporate models.  Joy might be practiced, but not rehearsed!  Truth should be so familiar that it can be ad-libbed.  We share in a life that is saturated with God, with no distinction between the times when we are doing ordinary work and when we are worshiping.

God called His people to abundant life, life in Him.  My hope for the Church is that we embrace it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Spring is My Lady’s Domain

Spring is my lady’s domain

Autumn the field of her brother

Winter waits on yarning old women

Summer sweeps in young children’s laughter.

 

Time is the tale of seasons

Space present in jumbles of ways

My friends dance in the streets of lifetime

God catches men home full by joy-worn days.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

God gave gifts unto men.  Through His Spirit, He empowers His Church to grow into unity and the maturity of Jesus Christ.  Jesus promised the Spirit would guide us into all truth.  Paul specifically lists teachers among God’s gifts to the church.  Timothy Keller is such a gift.  (Actually this is the only book I’ve read by him, so I can’t vouch for anything else.) 

 

Do you read through the Bible and wonder what significance a fact or story had that God included it in His unperishing Word?  Do you ever find yourself astounded by discovery as you read, seeing depth and import in the passage that you never saw there before?  I love to find a teacher or author who has been granted insight into a part of the Bible that had always seemed way over my head (or beneath my notice).  Whether in only one chapter of all the books they’ve written, or but one exposition they gave aloud to a congregation or conference, I feel like jumping up and down, thanking God for this gift that draws me closer to my Savior. 

 

In Prodigal God, Timothy Keller blends a big-picture view of redemption and the Bible with the drama of one of Jesus’ most famous parables.  This is one of those rare books where I don’t feel like quoting or underlining, because entire chapters would be quoted and underlined.  One of the most moving points of the book is simply the title.  In the introduction, the author explains himself.  We often refer to this parable as the Prodigal Son – but Jesus specifically introduced it as the story of two sons.  Prodigal is a true description of the younger brother, who got all he could as soon as he could and spent it with equal recklessness and extravagance.  When we call the Father prodigal, we are talking about a whole different kind of spending.  He spent all He had on us, to find us and bring us back, and to welcome us into His love.  To be so extravagant also makes the word prodigal true of Him.  And how can any of His children be unmoved by His sacrifice? 

 

I met my God in this book, not for the first time, but oh, He was there!  His image sparkled as I read through descriptions of the commonly described “sinner”, the younger brother, to the older brother whose heart is equally proud and rebellious, but who is trying to use God and goodness for his own ends, to the older brother that should have been, the missing character from the pattern of the two preceding parables in the trilogy.  Who was seeking and saving the lost?  Is forgiveness really ever free? 

 

After forgiveness, what then?  What was God’s design for living as His children?  Timothy Keller spends the final chapter of The Prodigal God talking about feasts.  Jesus’ first miracle, a sign of the purpose of His ministry, is a (wedding) feast.  The night before He was betrayed, Jesus ordained a new feast for His followers as a remembrance of Him.  The close of this church age is a (wedding) feast where the Church is reunited with her Redeemer.  And eternity is something of a feast, living in the presence of God and eating of the tree of life.  Once again emphasizing relationship, this chapter presents salvation as “taste and see” believing that is lived out and continued in gratitude and celebration of the grace of God.  As anyone knows, celebration is not to be done alone.  In fact, quoting CS Lewis, Timothy Keller makes the point that relationship with God experienced in community brings out more of God than you could experience on your own.  Therefore the final challenge of Prodigal God is for you to invest in a gathering of believers with the same love with which you compassionately seek those who are lost, desiring them to share with you in the Father’s love. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

A God you know about, but don’t trust, that’s useless.  A God whose love you affirm but reject experiencing, that’s miserable. 

 

But He really is my God, by His smashing grace.  Knowing who God is (theology) increases the value of His love for me.  Because He is perfect, yet suffered shame, I praise His love more.  Because He loved his own Son so much, but sent Jesus to suffer in my place, I am humbled by His grace.  Because He is able to create and maintain the whole universe, yet chooses to interact with me on a daily basis, I crumble with joy!  Because He is infinitely good, I have peace passing understanding. 

 

I live in a sphere of truth as I know it.  Truth is something I crave and cling to because it enables me to love my God.  When a part of that sphere is bombarded with doubt (from within or without), I get defensive.  I whirl around in my little world, reexamining associations, texts, and experiences.  Whether I had been wrong about the truth or the doubt had been unfounded, I go through that experience every time.  Some questions are smaller.  Others challenge me to re-read my whole Bible with the tension of interpretation presented by a different view.  Contradictions can even turn out to be paradoxes when I go deep enough into them. 

 

To entertain questions, engage discussions, and comprehend a sense of truth (even as presented in creeds or “institutes”) is not, I conclude, wrong.  Here let me clarify.  If the motive for acquiring truth is to better experience God’s love and return it – if the pursuit is in the context of your relationship with God – and if the odyssey is not harming other people, then it is not wrong. 

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

This week I’ve been thinking about my focus at Christmastime. I love Christmas. The atmosphere intoxicates me. Silver bells, lights, carols, music, parties, sweets, friends, gifts, giving, cards, crafts, kids, memory, and history all bundle up and go dancing through the frosty nights as the year winds to its shortest day. Without the celebration, we might go mad within the shortened boundaries of daylight and warmth.

But I don’t like Christmas Eve service at church, or Christmas pageants. I recall a conversation from the movie Shadowlands, in which Jack Lewis observes that people are out of spirits at Christmas because they’ve “lost the magic.” If we make Christmas about rituals and charity, he says, of course no one is going to be having fun. I believe in living life to the fullest, in frolicing when there is joy so huge that I can’t keep it in. The joy and “magic” are my favorite part of Christmas.

Sermons seem so utterly out of place at Christmas. Jesus spent the interim of His life speaking. But on Christmas and Easter, He acted. He lived. He was Immanuel, the God-with-us. So I guess that’s what I want, is to jump into these days with Jesus, feeling vividly the wonder of the story. There are implications, but not today. For this week I’m not doing theology or studying orthopraxy. I’m living on the edge, ready to float away with the current of truth so real that I’m too busy knowing it to think about it.

That’s what I want. But somewhere in the midst of the magical, atmosphere of awe and merriness, I get lost. My mind forgets that the joy is Jesus’, that He is sharing it with me, and that I only get it through Him. Awareness drops off that the gatherings and giving is to honor my Jesus. The balance goes away, leaving this stressful anti-peace business.

Christmastime is sometimes called Advent. Ann Voskamp, a blogger I recently discovered to my delight and encouragement, has pointed me to the idea of Advent. We remember and celebrate the first coming of God in the flesh. We dance the dailiness of His presence, His moment-by-moment coming to us with more grace. And we watch, on edge, doing the waiting that is not impatient but eager, looking for the ‘blessed hope and glorious appearing’ of our Bridegroom. He’s coming back.

So I challenge myself, and you with me, to let the waiting inherent in the crazy Christmas world remind me that I’m waiting for my Savior, the Great King, to come for me. I am pursuing the balance that refuses to have any joy apart from Jesus. But I will have joy, because I cannot be with Him and not rejoice.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »