When Lightning Doesn’t Strike

clear pool dirty pool

Why am I in Austin? Just one month ago I owned a house in Houston. The pool there is under water now. As I write I am not certain about the house. Meanwhile, I spent yesterday playing with my grandson in a home that is high and dry. We moved here under unusual circumstances that played out very fast. It’s only by the grace of God that we are here instead of wondering whether or not to evacuate a house that was home for nearly three decades.

The grace of God left others in a place where floodwaters are rising. My heart hurts, and I do not understand why many have lost so much and are in the midst of such hardship while I am here. When I told Steve that I needed to replace the blog set to post today, he said, “Use that verse about seeing through a glass darkly.” Here it is in the KJV:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Corinthians 13: 12-13).

A glass darkly. So, truth be told, God never promised that we would understand this side of heaven. It’s sometimes hard to trust in the dark, but that’s what we are called to do. Sometimes it’s harder still to trust through another’s hardships than through our own, but that’s still what we are called to do. One of these days, so says the verse, we’ll know what we do not know yet. But not now. Hard words, but truth.

This passage comes from what is widely known as the love chapter. So, when we are called to trust, we are also called to love. Love means prayer. It also, quite often, means action. I don’t know what my tasks will be when the Harvey waters recede. I don’t know what God may call you to do either. But He does call, and equip, praise God. So, as he shows us glimmers of understanding, may we have the courage and selflessness to love in whatever way he directs.

To God be the glory, even in this.

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Troubled Tunes

musical-note-2415417_1280 pixabay aug 17

A neighbor of mine, when asked her favorite hymn, told me it depends on the day. Me too! Isn’t that one of the wonderful things about having so many hymns from which to choose? If you have an archive of lyrics in your heart and mind, you may discover wisdom, challenge, and encouragement beginning to play in the background of your day just when you need it most.

We so often sing only the first verse or two of a hymn, missing the wealth of wisdom in later verses. “How Great Thou Art” ranked second, after “Amazing Grace,” in a survey conducted by Christianity Today in 2001. It’s an old folk tune, translated by Stuart Hine. Its final verse, added by Hine midway through the last century, reads

“When burdens press, and seem beyond endurance, bowed down with grief, to Him I lift my face. And then in love, He brings me sweet assurance. ‘My child, for thee, sufficient is my grace.’” *

You’ve probably heard the story of Horatio Spafford, who penned “It Is Well with My Soul” after losing his precious children to a shipwreck, but have you sung these words, found at the end of the hymn?

“But Lord, ‘tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait. The sky, not the grave is our goal. Oh trump of the angel! Oh voice of the Lord! Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!”

Backstories add such richness to the songs we sing. The words of “Amazing Grace” meant more to me once I understood that its author, John Newton, was once a slave trader.

“The Lord has promised good to me. His Word my hope secures. He will my Shield and Portion be as long as life endures.” How’s that for words to carry us through a troubled time?

Fanny Crosby wrote “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” and another 8000+ hymns, topping even Charles Wesley, and she was blind from infancy! Her deep trust in the sovereign wisdom of our Lord led her to pen these words,

“For I know whate’er befalls me, Jesus doeth all things well.”

She said of her blindness, “I might not have written so many hymns to praise our God, had I been distracted by the visual beauty around me.” Fanny also penned “Blessed Assurance” and “Christ, the Lord Is Risen Today.” My, how I am thankful for the way God used Fanny Crosby!

I hope you are in the middle of an easy week. If not, I hope the quotes above, drawn from works by those who certainly knew the weight of difficulty, will lift your spirits, change your focus, and help bring you through whatever you are facing.

 

*Words: Stuart K. Hine Music: Swedish folk melody/adapt. and arr. Stuart K. Hine
© 1949, 1953 by The Stuart Hine Trust CIO. All rights in the USA its territories and possessions, except print rights, administered by Capitol CMG Publishing. USA, North and Central American print rights and all Canadian and South American rights administered by Hope Publishing Company. All other North and Central American rights administered by the Stuart Hine Trust CIO. Rest of the world rights administered by Integrity Music Europe. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Nutshell Sermons

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The power of a good hymn amazes me. It becomes a nutshell sermon, a few short lines running through my mind a dozen times in a day, teaching and re-teaching important truths from God’s Word. Consider for example “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” written by Charles Wesley to celebrate the first anniversary of his conversion to Christianity. (He described that day as the one on which his real, living life began.[1]) One of my favorite lines says,

Jesus! The name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease.”

Those twelve words, now nearly 300 years old, still answer the question of what to do with fear and sadness. Cry out to Jesus! He is always the answer.

I asked my Facebook friends to list their favorite hymns. They chose works by Charles Wesley more often than hymns by any other author. (No surprise, perhaps, since he wrote over 6000 pieces!) Let me share a few more lines from his works.

  • “My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” Those words from “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” are a wonderful description of conversion.
  • “My name is written on His hands.” In “Arise, My Soul Arise” Wesley reminds us of one of life’s greatest comforts.

While Charles Wesley did not write “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”—it was penned by Isaac Watts—he is credited with giving it this high compliment: “I would give up all my other hymns to have written this one.” That’s high praise from such a prolific songwriter. Here’s just a snippet from Watts’ beautiful piece.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so Devine, demands my soul, my life my all.”

My soul, my life, my all—are we giving that? The quotes from those four hymns are plenty to think about for this week. If time allows, please let me know how they change the way you go about this day. To God be the glory!

 

 

[1] Many thanks to cyberhymnal.org for providing the backstory information in this blog series.

Do Tell

 

80th party

It was a big weekend. In celebration of my mom’s upcoming 80th birthday, (yes, 80th!) four generations gathered for the weekend.

  • We told jokes. (What do you call Batman when he skips church? Christian Bale!)
  • We feasted. (If you live in Houston, check out Campioni on Cutten Road.)
  • We played games. (My nephews introduced us to Exploding Kittens and Nintendo Switch.)

And we marveled at the goodness of the Lord.

Four generations. How time flies! How family grows! Just a few days before our gathering, I came across this verse:

“We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord” (Psalm 78:4b).

I now have two “next generations” below me, and so I’m asking you, my readers, to help me finish this blog installment by answering a question:

How have you told the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord? (Or how did your parents, grandparents, friends, or mentors do so? Or how do you intend to tell of His goodness when you have the chance?) Remember, you don’t have to be a family member to give or receive the blessing of such a telling.

Please share your thoughts. Tell this new grandmother the creative ways in which she can pass the good news down to future generations. And as you do so, consider sharing your thanks with those who have done the telling before you.

Thank you, in advance, for the good advice I hope to receive!

Hakuna Matata

hakuna pixabayYesterday I saw a bumper sticker that said “Hakuna matata.” That’s it. No warthogs, no lions, just the phrase. (But, Iris, if you’re reading this, I can hear your voice singing in my head!) Perhaps that Swahili phrase, roughly translated “no worries,” should be singing in my head all the time.

“Hakuna” means “there is not here,” and “matata” is Swahili for “problems.” I don’t think we live lives free of problems. Worry, though, is another matter—the matter of what we do in our minds with our problems. I love this quote from The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (Zondervan 2002).

“When you think about a problem over and over in your mind, that’s called worry. When you think about God’s Word over and over in your mind, that’s meditation. If you know how to worry, you already know how to meditate! You just need to switch your attention from your problems to Bible verses. The more you meditate on God’s Word, the less you will have to worry about.”

I’d like to add that the more we think of our problems in light of God’s word, the more convinced we can become that we have no worries after all. Consider these four familiar passages:

  • “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
  • Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
  • So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

While not scripture, these wise words, attributed to Corrie ten Boom, call us all to peace and trust as well:

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”

And so, instead of losing any of your strength to worry today, I hope you will remember the awesome love and power of our God. Then you can shout within your soul, “Hakuna matata!”

 

Live Like You Were Movin’

moving
As I write this, I have been an Austinite for precisely one week. Here’s what I’ve been learning:

  • It’s nearly all small stuff. The worldly goods we chose to shed in this process would fill a small bedroom wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling. Astonishing how little I miss any of it! Soon I won’t even be able to recall what I left behind. In the future, as I ask myself that inevitable “buy or don’t buy” question, I’ll also be asking myself, “What would make it onto a moving truck?”
  • People are important. No brainer? Yes, but I’m not sure I’ve always acted on that fact. As I hugged friends and neighbors goodbye, I wished I had found small, frequent means by which to show my appreciation throughout my tenure in Houston. Moving to Austin means I get to hit the “reset” button on hospitality, neighborliness, and even friendship. As I write this, I’m praying that I will slow down and make people a greater priority in demonstrable ways.
  • A little discipline goes a long way. During the “house showing” phase of this adventure, we upgraded our home to nearly picture perfect condition. We enjoyed the improvements, but getting things fixed up right before we left seemed a bit of a shame. Perhaps the same goes for our spiritual life. Shouldn’t we be staying in shape all the time, enjoying the peace and joy that good spiritual habits afford us? There’s no good reason to wait!
  • Sometimes, accepting help is more important than giving it. We were too slow to say “yes” when offered help with the monumental task of packing. When we finally did accept an offer, it was a great relief. More surprising, though, was what I heard as my friend wrapped and boxed, “Now I feel better about you helping me!” Ah, two-way roads are nearly always better.

This place is already beginning to feel like home, so many thanks to those of you who prayed for our transition. I’m off to unpack a bit more now, so “see” you next week!