“the silence of faith”

I’m all out of words. 

This last week has been a complex circuit of hard conversations, empty explanations, and disappointing discoveries.  Do you ever feel like reality ushers in an uncomfortable silence?

I suppose it’s the tension we live with this side of heaven.  People are always going to disappoint us.  Circumstances will not stop being filled with all the frivolities and frustrations of sin.  Instead of dreams and desires giving us hope, they often fill us with a profound sense helplessness. 

As I look at my life and the situations I am encountering, I am just out of answers.  I can’t explain or make excuses anymore.  I’m really at the end of my understanding.  I am living in the silence of reason. 

…and I think this is exactly where God wants me.  For when reason fails to offer a compelling conviction, faith is pushed from the nest and forced to fly.  It is so clear that God has placed briers and thorns in my nest to get me to leave it and trust Him with the things that aside from His sovereign hand make no sense at all.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” Hebrews 11:1.  No volumes of explanation, no game-plan speculation, no words at all.  Just a work of God in my heart that is causing me to believe Him more and trust Him more than I ever have before…even though it makes less sense than it ever has.  The silence of faith–calm, quiet, peace-assured faith that God has everything under control.

How about you?  Are you still trying to find the right answers to pop-quiz questions of life or are you surrendering to the quiet whispers of faith?

“where is the Life we have lost in living?”

Choruses from The Rock

 

T.S. Eliot, 1934

 

The Eagle soars in the summit of Heaven,
The Hunter with his dogs pursues his circuit.

O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!

The endless cycle of idea and action,

Endless invention, endless experiment,

Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;

Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;

Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.

All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the Life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Brings us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.

The lot of man is ceaseless labor,

Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,

Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.

I have trodden the winepress alone, and I know

That it is hard to be really useful, resigning

The things that men count for happiness, seeking

The good deeds that lead to obscurity, accepting

With equal face those that bring ignominy,

The applause of all or the love of none.

All men are ready to invest their money

But most expect dividends.

I say to you: Make perfect your will.

I say: take no thought of the harvest,

But only of proper sowing.

The world turns and the world changes,
But one thing does not change.

In all of my years, one thing does not change,

However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

You neglect and belittle the desert. 

The desert is not remote in southern tropics

The desert is not only around the corner,

The desert is squeezed in the tube-train next to you,

The desert is in the heart of your brother.

Let me show you the work of the humble. Listen.

In the vacant places

We will build with new bricks

Where the bricks are fallen

We will build with new stone

Where the beams are rotten

We will build with new timbers

Where the word is unspoken

We will build with new speech

There is work together

A Church for all

And a job for each

Every man to his work.

What life have you, if you have not life together?

There is not life that is not in community,

And no community not lived in praise of GOD.

And now you live dispersed on ribbon roads,

And no man knows or cares who is his neighbor

Unless his neighbor makes too much disturbance,

But all dash to and fro in motor cars,

Familiar with the roads and settled nowhere.

Much to cast down, much to build, much to restore
 

 

I have given you the power of choice, and you only alternate
Between futile speculation and unconsidered action.

And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people:

Their only monument the asphalt road

And a thousand lost golf balls.”

When the Stranger says: “What is the meaning of this city ?

Do you huddle close together because you love each other?”

What will you answer? “We all dwell together

To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”?

Oh my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger.

Be prepared for him who knows how to ask questions.

There is one who remembers the way to your door:

Life you may evade, but Death you shall not.

You shall not deny the Stranger.

They constantly try to escape

From the darkness outside and within

By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.

But the man that is shall shadow

The man that pretends to be.

Then it seemed as if men must proceed from light to light, in the light of the Word,

Through the Passion and Sacrifice saved in spite of their negative being;

Bestial as always before, carnal, self seeking as always before, selfish and purblind as ever before,

Yet always struggling, always reaffirming, always resuming their march on the way that was lit by the light;

Often halting, loitering, straying, delaying, returning, yet following no other way.

But it seems that something has happened that has never happened before: though we know not just when, or why, or how, or where.

Men have left GOD not for other gods, they say, but for no God; and this has never happened before

That men both deny gods and worship gods, professing first Reason,

And then Money, and Power, and what they call Life, or Race, or Dialectic.
 
 
There came one who spoke of the shame of Jerusalem
 And the holy places defiled;

Peter the Hermit, scourging with words.

And among his hearers were a few good men,

Many who were evil,

And most who were neither,

Like all men in all places.

In spite of all the dishonour,

the broken standards, the broken lives,

The broken faith in one place or another,

There was something left that was more than the tales

Of old men on winter evenings.

Our age is an age of moderate virtue

And moderate vice

The soul of Man must quicken to creation.

Out of the meaningless practical shapes of all that is living or lifeless

Joined with the artist’s eye, new life, new form, new colour.

Out of the sea of sound the life of music,

Out of the slimy mud of words, out of the sleet and hail of verbal imprecisions,

Approximate thoughts and feelings, words that have taken the place of thoughts and feelings,

There spring the perfect order of speech, and the beauty of incantation.

The work of creation is never without travail

Light

Light

The visible reminder of Invisible Light.

O Light Invisible, we praise Thee!

Too bright for mortal vision.

What have we to do but stand with empty hands and palms turned upwards in an age which advances progressively backwards?

“leadership lessons from henny penny”

“The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!” We’re all familiar with the ridiculous antics of Henny Penny and the flurry of hysteria she created among her followers.  She’s a perfect picture of what every leader must avoid. 

I’ve been burdened in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake that many leaders within the Christian community have read Henny Penny’s leadership manual.  There is a lot of scurrying around, but not many matters of faith are getting worked out in practice. 

A crisis like Haiti is a good check-up for the soul, because a tragedy best reveals what beliefs our hearts most confidently practice.  In times of relative calm and ease, we can masquerade successfully as people of faith, but crisis betrays are true beliefs.

To what are you turning to in response to Haiti?

     Fear or faith?

     Technology or Truth?

     Pragmatics or prayer?

     People or God?

     Kingdoms of man or an Eternal King?

Watching the benefit concert on CNN last night I realized how anyone, Anderson Cooper or George Clooney, can raise money.  Only the people of God can pray.  God has never saved the day on anyone of man’s dimes.  He has always worked in the midst of faith.  Raising money or jumping the next plane to Haiti will not bring a movement of God.  Every movement of God I see in the Scriptures finds the people of God at rest in His sufficient sovereignty and waiting (and beseeching) Him to save the day.  Certainly, God will call some–hopefully many–to be His hands and feet of love, compassion, and redemption in Haiti.  However, He calls us ALL to pray.  The actions that will have sustaining power in Haiti will only be those that are bathed in prayer…quiet, persistent, fearless, fervent prayer!

If we find ourselves running Henny Penny–trying with all our sleepless strength to save the day ourselves–we should at least recall that even Henny Penny knew she needed to tell the king. 

Are you finding that Haiti is making you a stronger person of faith and prayer?

“who not what”

I love a good game plan.  Especially in a time of great need, a solution that holds possibility energizes me to action.

However, a bad strategy… Oh my!  Within seconds I find myself with a knot in my stomach the size of Kansas and a headache more persistent than a precocious five-year old.   It is insufferable to me, especially if I am asked to be a part of it.

I have to think  Moses shared this sentiment when God described His strategy for getting the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 4).  Having been raised an Egyptian, Moses received the plan with cynicism.  Signs or no signs, Moses most assuredly had seen spectacular signs in the House of Pharoah.   Moses knew that the Egyptians would require more than staff turned to a snake to convince them that he represented a God with whom to reckon.

I easily identify with Moses.  My first response to a call is to wallow in self-doubt (see yesterday’s post), only to overcome it and become overwhelmed by what other’s will think of my call. Will they believe it?  Will they listen to me?  Will I be ignored, discredited, or dismissed?  However, I am most significantly paralyzed by analyzing if something will work.  How many times I’ve concluded it won’t and declared, “Oh no, Lord, send someone else.”

God makes it clear to Moses he is to trust the Sovereign Planner, not the plan, not himself, not another’s response. “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind?  Is it not I, the LORD?” (Exodus 4:11) Simply trust God.   The life of faith is always settled in the “Who?” question, not the “What?” question.   

Many “What now?” questions riddle my life.  Today I will answer them with the”Who?” question.  How about you?

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong.” Deuteronomy 32:4

“circumstantial evidence”

The circumstances in Haiti have me living with my heart outside of my chest.  What I see is too much for me.

I can’t understand why these people must have their suffering prolonged by the rest of the world’s inability to get them the help they need.  Like most people who are removed from a position of ability, I have a thousand solutions discovered on my cozy couch.  To those who have the least information, the solutions are always elementary.

As with so many other things in life, there is more to what is going on in Haiti than what is visible to the eye.   In fact, the more we rely on our eyes to define a situation, faith escapes us.  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Hebrews 11:1.

Haiti requires we look beyond the circumstantial evidence and pull up our bootstraps of faith. 

Haiti requires a faith that is assured God is present in Haiti–He sees the suffering and He is close to the broken-hearted.

Haiti requires a faith that is convinced we are completely helpless–but we are hoping in One who is not.

Haiti requires a faith that is assured God is who God has always been.  It’s easy at times like this to put our faith in what God is (or seemingly, is not) doing.  But that’s not the faith of which the Scriptures speak.  Instead, we draw deep from wells of conviction that God is not what He does.  When God met up with Moses at the burning bush, He didn’t give Moses a time capsule report of all the things He planned to do.  Instead, He told Moses who He was, “I AM,” and the one thing Moses could take to the bank, “I will be with you.”  No Genie-in-a- bottle tricks, just a pronouncement and a promise.  “By faith…for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” Hebrews 11:27. 

Haiti forces us to ask ourselves, “Who do I really believe God to be?”  Once we’ve answered the question, we have to consider if our answer is enough to call forth the kind of faith for which this moment calls.

What about you?  What do you see when you look at Haiti?

“the reality of brokenness”

I’m sure it seemed like just an ordinary day…until the earthquake struck and the walls crumbled,  the dust rose, and life was forever changed by everything getting broken–buildings, bodies, and hearts.

Watching from afar the devastating destruction in Haiti, I am confronted with my callousness and business-as-usual mentality to life that has kept me from seeing my own brokenness.   It’s so easy for apathy to skew your reality…until you find yourself trapped beneath the rubble of sin that has collided in on you.

I am broken and crushed today by Matthew 9.

And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins have been forgiven.”  And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”  But Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he then said to the paralytic–“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  And he rose and went home.  When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Sin is paralyzing. 

What a punch in the gut to my hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and jugdmentalism.  I fumed at what Pat Robertson said about the earthquake, while giving myself a ‘pass’ on all the uncharitable, presumptive, and just plain inaccurate things I have said this week.  Whether it is corporate sin, whose effect upon humanity is inescapable, or if it’s unavoidable personal sin; sin always traps people in their condition and sucks the life out of them that Jesus intended them to have.  

I always read the story of the paralytic and focuse on the people who brought the man to Jesus; how noble they are for their random act of kindness.  I moralize, I will be more kind today, too.  Or, I read it and focus on Jesus; He is so wonderful to heal the man and I thank Him for healing others.

But today…I realized that all the years of reading this story and I have never glanced at the ‘me’ in the story–the paralytic on the mat.  I am that person.  Do you notice that the text says nothing about the man wanting to go to Jesus?   He doesn’t ask; the people just take him.  Might it be because they are so stinking tired of him sitting there on his mat–stuck?  They need this man to get on with life.  On with the healed life–the forgiven life.  The people need to get the man to Jesus to do what they could never do for him.  Set him free and get him walking.

I need to get to Jesus.  I need to find the healed life…the forgiven life.  My mat of pride has rendered me disabled for too long.  Today I recognize anew how stuck I am without His touch.  How dependant I am on Him to bring any glory to God.  Without a touch from Jesus, I’m just helplessly stuck.  

As I cry out for forgiveness and mercy, I am reminded God always enters the broken places with mercy and healing.  He tells us to “Rise and walk.”  Walk as one who has been touched–seen, healed, and released to life–by Jesus. 

A Haitian woman, upon being recovered from the rubble declared, “I know that God loves me.”   Amen, sister, He does love us so!  We who ‘walk living’ among the dead do so only by His mercy.

“the pits we dig”

Have you noticed in the life of Joseph how often he ends up in a pit or prison? 

First his brothers fear his favor with their father.  Later Potiphar fears the safety of his home after the false allegations of his wife.  After his death,  Pharoah would fear the number of Joseph’s descendants and would create a pit of slavery for them to bolster his power and control.

Fear does that…it leads us to oppress and trap others to find security for ourselves.  Rarely does humanity sink so low as to lock up people in physical pits, but we are certainly skilled at scapegoating, maligning, and reputation rumoring to make others be viewed in their worst light.  Digging pits to bury them…so we can look better than we know ourselves to be.

The apostle John tells us, “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love”  I John 4:18. 

This truth is changing how I see people and situations.  It’s changing how I pray for them.  It’s changing how I treat them.  God’s perfect love is driving out my fear! 

How about you?  Is there anyone that you need to rescue from a pit you’ve dug for them?  Have the courage to love today!

“quitting is not surrender”

Nearly ten days into the new year and I can’t come up with any new goals or resolutions.  This isn’t like me at all.  Usually, I start recording potential items in August for the upcoming year.  I have no idea why I don’t have a vision for the new year.

For someone like me, this is terribly unsettling…like waking up and not being able to see your face.

Today was different.  I’m starting to get some clarity.

For about a month now, the Lord has spoken to me about surrender.  I confess, I have a quitter’s streak in me.  I reach a capacity level in my emotional world where I just can’t do a certain thing anymore.  It’s not filled with high-drama, but the switch just gets flipped and I check out. Quit. 

One of the things the Lord has revealed to me is that I don’t always keep ‘quitting’ and ‘surrender’ in their own respective corners.  I mix them up to make ‘quitting’ look like I’m being noble to surrender and ‘trust the Lord.’   But He and I both know, I’m not trusting…I’m just refusing to allow the situation to be a part of my reality anymore.  I’m not laying it down to let God have His way with the situation, I am laying it down as a burial. 

Genesis 22 tells of God’s testing of Abraham on the promise He had made to him.  In the unimaginably uncomfortable retelling of Abraham’s journey up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his son of promise,  God has taught me how I am to be a living the surrendered life.   Had I been required to walk up Mt. Moriah, I would have said goodbye and good riddance to all my dreams, aspirations, and checking-out on God’s promises.  I would have quit.  Second guessing I had heard God correctly about His promise. 

Abraham did not do this.  Instead, we see a man who despite the weight of laying down his son’s life is fully motivated by hope.  Hope that they will both return after worshipping God.  Hope that God will provide an alternative.  Hope that God will be a life-saver.

Abraham’s not only motivated by hope.

But also, conviction.  Abraham is not doubting that God will provide another way.  He doesn’t short-change his own need for obedience because God is apparently waiting until the last second.  Abraham is convinced, with raised knife in hand that the God who appeared to him and passed through the covenant pieces alone, will be the God who is present on that mount and will appear in time to safe-guard His promise.  Abraham is convinced that the covenant is not in jeopardy.  God has crossed His heart on the matter.

And belief.  Belief that God will still accomplish what He has promised.   There is no questioning of God.  Abraham knows that the God he has trusted up to this moment is a God still worthy of trust.   

Abraham’s surrendering of Isaac is filled with the vibrancy of life.   Abraham knows that this moment does not represent death, but a walking, breathing, active  trust in the Life-Giver.   Abraham is not quitting on God’s promises to Him; he is giving himself over to them!   

In this truth, I see how I have not been able set goals for 2010 because all the things I know God has asked me to do involves surrender and I don’t want to make goals to quit.  I see now God is asking just the opposite of me.  He is asking me to surrender more of me to Him so that I might have greater trust, conviction, and life in Him and in His promises. 

So, 2010 will be about surrender…being a living sacrifice…surrendering myself to live to the plans, purposes, and glory of the One Who Provides.  May the year close out and it be said of me that she was a woman who was motivated by hope, filled with conviction, believed unswervingly, and gave herself fully to the surrendered life.