Monthly Archives: January 2013

Overflow

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Yesterday morning before I scurried off to the church service, I sat down in my hammock and asked Jesus to give me clarity. “The word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Heb 4:12. I needed my “innermost thoughts and desires” revealed.

Over the past 2+ weeks, I’ve been following the YouTube channel of a woman named Amena. An Indian woman born and raised in Leicester, England, her perspectives and passions have been the subject matter of much of my inward thought lately. You see, she’s also a practicing Muslim.

I was concerned that all the time and thought I was putting into her videos was wrongly shifting my focus. What started as a desire to further prepare my heart and mind to work with other Muslims could easily transform into an unhealthy fixation. And, knowing how deceptive my heart can be, that transformation of motive could happen without me even noticing. At the deepest level, I want Christ to be my all in all. The center. So I prayed, “Lord, reveal my heart to me. Show me if this isn’t what’s best, what’s wisest.  Make this obvious, Lord. I want You to be my focus.” And I pulled on my coat and drove off to the service.

And minutes later I felt His answer. The sermon was based on Ephesians 1, all about grace. How grace is God’s very nature. That He is in no way obligated to bless me, but He still does. Because that’s just who He is. That God has put me “in Christ”, everything true of Him is (miraculously) true of me as well!

As I listened, my mind kept replaying a phrase Amena had said in a video I’d watched just an hour earlier:

“If you work hard to sincerely rid yourself of all of the diseases in the heart that sort of act as veils between you and God — if you really work hard to confront them, to work through them, and to cure them as best you can, that’s the only way you can draw close to Allah.”

I just kept thinking of how she expressed it. Veils. Sheer will power and undying devotion or she won’t get close to God. The ball’s entirely in her court. No help, no pursuit, no intercession.

Contrast that with the grace of the Gospel. I had goosebumps, shivers running down my spine. After  looking at a broken perception of God, I found myself moved and humbled when I reexamined Him in His true form. Gracious. Grace itself, really. I could hardly even sing in praise as tears of worship overflowed from within my heart. What could have been a distraction away from God actually pulled me closer to Him. I’m more in love with Jesus now than I was before.

It’s kind of amazing to me how God uses every aspect of my life and ties them all together back to Him. And it all overflows into worship.

Let Me Get Home Before Dark

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During my brief week in Florida in October I had the great privilege of meeting Phil and Julie Parshall, missionaries among Muslims for  over 40 years. When Mr. Parshall heard that I believe God to be leading me in a similar direction, he gave me one of the nine books he’s written about ministering among these people: The Cross and the Crescent: Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind

Over Christmas break I practically inhaled this book (finished it in 4 days). In his chapter comparing and contrasting Christians’ and Muslims perspectives on sin and holiness, he includes this poem written by solid believer Roberston McQuilkin, at the end of his life (what mother names her child “Robertson”? Harsh.)

“It’s sundown, Lord

The shadows of my life stretch back

into the dimness of years long spent

I fear not death, for that grim for betrays himself at last,

thrusting me forever into life

life with You, unsoiled and free.

 

But I do fear.

I fear the Dark Spectre may come too soon —

or do I mean too late?

That I should end before I finish

or finish, but not end well.

 

That I should stain Your honor, shame Your name

grieve Your loving heart

Few, they tell me, finish well…

Lord, let me get home before dark.

 

The darkness of a spirit

grown mean and small

fruit shriveled on the vine, bitter to the taste of my companions

a burden to be borne by those brave few who love me still.

No, Lord. Let the fruit grow lush and sweet

a joy to all who taste;

a Spirit-sign of God at work

stronger, fuller, brighter at the end.

Lord, let me get home before dark.

 

The darkness of tattered gifts

rust-locked, half-spent or ill-spent.

A life that was once used of God

now set aside.

Grief for glories gone

or fretting for a task God never gave.

Mourning in the hollow chambers of memory.

Gazing on the faded banners of victories long gone

Cannot I run well unto the end?

Lord, let me get home before dark.

 

The outer me decays–

I do not fret or ask for repreive.

The ebbing strength weans me from mother earth

and grows me up for Heaven.

I do not cling to shadows cast by immortality.

I do not patch the scaffold lent to build the real, eternal me.

I do not clutch my cocoon about me,

vainly struggling to hold hostage a free spirit pressing to be born.

 

But will I reach the gate

in lingering pain, body distorted, grotesque?

Or will it be a mind wandering

untethered among light fantasies or grim terrors?

Of Your grace, Father, I humbly ask…

Let me get home before dark.”

Parshall ends the section in saying, “May this be our prayer as well.”

At first, as I read this poem, considering its context as the finale of a parade of the lives of Christian heroes, I found myself getting inspired.But as I continued, the inspiration was quickly challenged by a powerful feeling of defeat. I just kept thinking, “How could I ever end up like this? How could I finish my life with such solid faith? Such unshakable determination? So fixed on Jesus? How could I remain faithful to the end? Who am I kidding?”

Pretty nasty thoughts. Soon my mind flashed to a scene years back in a local coffee shop with my mentor. I was explaining to her how frustrated I was with myself; once I again I was thick in the battle with my most constant enemy: pride.

“It’s like there’s no middle ground! I’m either the greatest thing to ever grace the planet, or I’m absolute garbage.”

And this was definitely a garbage moment.

The Holy Spirit has been convicting me these past few months about my insecurity. I am not seeing myself as Jesus sees me; I’m not allowing my identity to be in Christ. Instead, I base my security on my performance, on my acceptance from those I most dearly admire and love, on my “faith” and “righteousness”. What I’ve noticed is… it’s all on me. So when I do “well”, I’m proud and flying high. But when I fall short of my set standards, gravity takes over. I’m flat on my back, knocked breathless. Both astonished that I fell and mystified that I ever thought I could be anywhere but face down in the dirt. Covered in feelings of worthlessness and shame; thinking, “How can God stand to be with me?”

My deepest desire this year (call it my New Year’s Resolution) is to be transformed down to the roots of my struggle with insecurity. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I’ve chosen to write this moment down. I want to be able to remember and, Lord willing, identify change and growth when further along in my journey towards Christ-centered identity.

Jesus, help me to see myself as You see me. Help me to take You at Your Word and walk in it. Help me to believe You. And Lord, let me get home before dark.