O Love That Will Not Let Me Go

My Luve Is Like

Later this afternoon you will find our house filled with friends celebrating the day with a high tea complete with eccentric finery, delectable goodies, and poetry reading.

Somewhat in jest, one of the invited guests recently sent me a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer somberly titled “Death” as a possible reading for the tea. Chuckle. But…you see the power of Love that can transform even Death into something wonderful.

Coincidentally, for a while now I’ve been enamored by a poem/hymn of John Newton’s called “Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart” that is a paraphrase of Isaiah 54. The Scripture and the song tell of God’s faithful, redemptive, Love that abounds and triumphs in the midst of our desolation and seemingly forsaken-ness. Below is the Indelible Grace version to ponder if you like. (However, I’d even more strongly suggest digging into the even better source material of the Isaiah chapter!)

My favorite line in the hymn is the last one: “All thy walls I will repair, thou shalt be rebuilt anew; and in thee it shall appear, what a God of love can do.” In the Bible verses we find that God doesn’t just restore our walls (our life, soul, relationships etc.), but, adorns them with rubies, sapphires, and precious stones. He doesn’t just revive us, He makes us beautiful reflections of Himself!

“This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the Lord.”         ~ Isaiah 54:17

 Aren’t you glad that the God we belong to doesn’t have the fluffy, weak, sentimentality that usually passes for Love around Valentine’s Day? His Love is mighty, enduring, renewing, and redemptive!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

An Incident of Meticulous, Unmerited Goodness

Lone Pine

Isn’t God good? Isn’t His grace inconceivably, flabbergastingly lavish?

Isn’t it worth reveling in, shouting, singing…retelling?

Here’s a little, recent tale of a wink of His goodness in my life:

Some friends of mine were off to Uganda this January and kindly offered a corner of their suitcases for sending a little something to a few of the dear souls I’d encountered there last year. Merrily I assembled a few seemingly suitable odds-and-ends and scrawled out letters to be tucked in. Happy, little, easy Service that would more fittingly be named Joy.

February now and the hometown friends have returned to their firesides and handed off to me responding notes from the Ugandan friends. Honey-sweet words of how The Lord had taken my meager, pitiful bundles and turned them into His lovely, precise, timely, blessings. Tears seep into the crinkles of my eyes and dance steps take hold of my heels.

This particular account is so exquisitely The Provider I must share its details: one of the Recipient Families had recently taken in an precious girl who is an Orphan No Longer. That poem of the Father’s heart having recently captivated me I wanted to send Her something specific. The Spirit jolted into my memory the box of donated fabric I had started turning into dresses for the Ugandan young ladies. Life’s fullness had impeded the progress of that project, but, there was a slim row of finished frocks hanging expectantly in the Upstairs Spare Bedroom. Now what size do you suppose a fourteen year old girl I’ve never met wears? “Lord, let it be a blessing; Lord, let it fit.”, I silently pleaded as the dress disappeared in white tissue wrapping. A month and God’s incomprehensible working later I’m staring at the inky testimony of a Girl wanting a dress, the counsel of “Ask Jesus”, and a purple frock that was “just her size”.

Isn’t He a God worthy of trust and praise? To reiterate the verse from Isaiah I sent one of the missionaries: “Lord, You will establish peace for us. For You have also done all our works in us.” (Is. 26:12) The wonder isn’t just that He’s good, but, that He (the infinite, Universe-breathing God) works into our weak, minuscule frames His dazzling, holy, goodness. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us”. (2 Cor. 4:7)

“Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

~ Psalm 107:8,9

Treasuries of Snow

Around the Bend

Trekking

Cool Defined

Top of the Line

Little Hope

CR

Boarders

“Great is our Lord, and mighty in power…

He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool; He scatters frost like ashes; He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow…

Praise the Lord!”

~ Psalm 147

All Glory Be To Christ!

Clear Blue Sky

Through the Trees

Gateway

Snow Shovel

Madame Blueberry

Overhead Still

Christmas Cupboard

Snow: In & Out

Candles + Cards

Snow on Snow

Tannebaum

Holiday Home

Silent Night

Unseasonably mild weather lulled me into an incredulous complacency about the increasing acceleration of Christmas’ arrival this year. Meanwhile with work, festivities, relationships, and just plain living, my attention to blogging has been minimal…so, do forgive the flurry of catch-up photos from the last month.

Below is a song that has been currently running through my mind and out my mouth. Seems a particularly good one to reflect on at the turning of the years. Reminds me of Peter’s comment to Jesus, “Who else can we go to? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68), and of a preacher I heard once say, “Jesus isn’t all you need….Jesus is all you have”. 

“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your Name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth.”     ~ Psalm 115:1

May your 2015 be overflowing with the joy and presence of the One who is The Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Life, and King of the Universe!

Harvest Home

Welcome Home

Despite an unusually early September snowfall, we’ve had a beautifully mellow Autumn. Makes me feel much more hearty about the oncoming snow and ice of Winter!

As a new month steadies its legs, a month that contains Thanksgiving, I’ve been considering God’s limitless faithfulness, sovereignty, and provision. How worthy of trust and praise He is! We are so, so, blessed and even if He were to take back all the material and relational gifts He’s bestowed – yet, He would still be good. He would still be enough. His grace the air in my lungs.

Consequently I’ve also been meditating on Zechariah. Don’t know where my head was the last time I read this book of the Bible. I seem to have forgotten all the glorious imagery of Christ that it contains. I suppose that just goes to show how the Lord always has MORE of Himself to reveal to us in His Word! In Chapter 3, Zechariah has a vision of the high priest, Joshua, standing before the Lord. He is clothed in filthy garments and Satan is accusing him. God’s response is to take away Joshua’s dirty rags and clothe him in rich robes. And it goes on to tell of the coming BRANCH, Jesus, whose righteousness is our perfect covering. Behold God’s ultimate Provision!

Music : Lately I’ve been finding myself entranced by John Mark McMillan’s Borderland album. It’s the sort of album that necessitates unearthing anyhow. More poetry than prose, the lyrics demand excavating, but, reward you with their uncommon treasure. Musically, it’s slightly different than my usual fare, but, somehow I rather like the pulsing beats, mournful saxophone, and gravely voice of McMillan. Give the first track, Holy Ghost, a listen. Guessing you’ll either be inspired or conclude I’ve lost my marbles.

In contrast, are the gentle, earnest, heart-songs of The Hedgerow Folk. Scripture-imprinted calls to abide in Christ. Their new album, Come Close, is currently available for free download over on Noise Trade. Below, is one of their songs that dwells on the utter completeness of what we owe to Christ:

 

 

 

When Life is Rosy

Polka Dot

This melody has been following my brain around lately, so, I decided to attempt recording a snippet of it on my phone.

It’s an old, French, love song, called La Vie En Rose – which essentially means “looking at life through rose-colored glasses”.

Rather the sort of thing to accompany Autumn, I think…

 

 

 

Sunday Stroll

LindaAmong the TreesSummitThe VistaLight and ShadowThe Autumn LeavesPainting

Actually, (as my mum can attest) this wasn’t a stroll – it was a six mile hike up a local peak with a group of church friends. Nevertheless, it was a delightful, afternoon’s trek through the lavishly fall-garbed woods.

Also, what an astounding thought that the God who imagined mountains and seasons should also have shed His own blood that we might be reconciled to Him and thus to His Creation!

Roadtrip!

To the Lonely Mt.

Last weekend, found our family (Mum, Dad, Brother, Sister-in-Law, and I) venturing off to Colorado. The impetus for the trip was my brother’s birthday present tickets to the Minnesota Twins/Colorado Rockies game, but, it was also an excellent opportunity to spend time with my Aunt E. and Uncle K. in Denver.

Traveling across the Wyoming plains:

The RelictRailroad TrackSagebrush & SkyRiver What

Aunt and Uncle’s hospitable Home:

Homestead

Upon arrival a delicious supper was prepared for us on the back patio complete with balloons to celebrate!

Candy Rubber

Morning Light in my darling, guest bedroom:

Morning Light

Our relations had to work Friday morning, so, we lolled about the house enjoying the refreshing peace and relaxation.
Breakfast on the patio (we ate outdoors a lot):

Breakfast Chow

Auntie is always an absolute dear about letting me play her piano when I’m visiting:

This Piano

Naturally we had to spend some time shopping. I’m foolishly proud of the fact that I had a grand time and only spent $18. :)

BelMar

The Stadium

So a little confession: despite the fact that my usual attitude toward sports is one of cheerful obliviousness to their existence, I do rather enjoy a good baseball game. It seems so quintessentially, summertime American. Besides, as my brother played it growing up, I have a decent understanding of what’s going on. So, Friday night, I ate crackerjacks and an enormous foot-long bratwurst, belted out Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh-inning stretch, enthusiastically cheered for both teams and had heaps of fun with my family. For the record, the Rockies won 9-2. There were several home runs.

The DiamondBatter UpGolden Game

A goodly portion of Saturday was spent exploring the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The wonder of God’s design as shown through the intriguing stripes of the animals, the gorgeously geometric shapes of crystals, and the vast empires of history is astounding. I was particularly amazed at the model of the vasculature system of the arm. Wow. Just wow.
Oh! And we also watched a very good, 3D, documentary on D-Day at the Museum’s IMAX theater.

Explorors WeDay at the MuseumOutside AfricaStill LifeSea Flotsam

For supper, we feasted at P.F. Changs. Back at the house, it was time for another card tournament. I don’t seem to have taken any photos of any of the several card games played over the weekend. Must’ve been too concentrated on winning…

Let's Drop by China for Supper

What a treat it was to get to enjoy such rich, unhurried time with family. What a grand way to spend some of the golden hours of Summer!

So Long June

Sackville-BagginsSit A SpellMagentaSweet Rocket
Poppy seeWatercolorFish TalkDaisy FaceWhat's So Rare?
Strawberry Goo

Our garden seems to have taken over the vast majority of my photography at present. At least it will be well documented when cooler temps set in, right?

Life has been excessively sweet of late. Not to say that there aren’t struggles and sin to deal with, but, I’m constantly being overwhelmed by the abundant ways – both big and small – the Lord has chosen to reveal His goodness to our family. It’s as if we’ve been in the wilderness for a long time and now, all of sudden, there are blooms and flowing streams in the desert!

Part of this is because God led us to a new church the beginning of this year, and we’ve been blown away by the love and welcome of the believers there and all the ministry opportunities that have arisen from that. I hadn’t known we were starving for that nor how vital fellowship with the Body of Christ is. Last Sunday in church I very nearly started to bawl in the middle of singing Great is Thy Faithfulness as I suddenly realized how very precious all these dear people surrounding me have become. Isn’t God GOOD?!!

One of the new ministry things we’ve been starting up this summer is a group for college/career age young people from the church and area. We’ve been meeting every other Saturday to share a meal, play games, laugh (a lot), discuss, pray, dig into the Word, and worship Jesus together. (Isn’t together a great word?) There was really a need there as so many of us were feeling like we were on our own and that there were no other young people around that were passionate about knowing Jesus too. It’s great watching the relationships start to build and to see what God is going to do with it!

The Fourth of July was a bit different than usual around here.  Independence Day is the highlight of the small, Midwestern town we live in. I have sincerely never seen the day celebrated more enthusiastically anywhere. The place simply bursts with patriotism and Americana. As we live on the parade route, our home has always been a central hub for friends, family, and acquaintances. This year, however, we couldn’t even hang up the red-white-and-blue bunting as our porch is under renovation. In addition my mom has expanded her duties with the Museum/Visitor Center and so was heavily involved with planning and execution of various events. All of this lead to a very laid-back, play-it-by-ear Fourth, which, in my opinion, ended up making it less stressful. We just felt free to go with whatever happened! We had a horde of people over to watch the parade. (Always fun catching-up!) Had a quick, music, practice/jam session with two dear chums (one of whom is back in town for the weekend) afterwards. Ended up having the pastor and his large, exuberant family, along with two, sweet, Korean, foreign-exchange students stay for lunch. This was a picnic on the sidewalk (where the shade was). A little quiet, restful time in the afternoon and then we  headed off to the home of a young couple from church for an evening party replete with smores, wiffle ball, and fireworks. Definitely a fun day!

Something else that will keep me occupied until the beginning of August: The local, community theater is putting on Oscar Wilde’s deliciously ridiculous play The Importance of Being Earnest. As that has always been a favorite of mine, I thought I’d give tryouts a go. I really had no expectations and just prayed God’s good will would be done with it. Turns out they offered me the part of Gwendolen Fairfax. A chance to be poshly aristocratic and pour forth a stream of witty nonsense in a plummy British accent! Also, (and more importantly) to be a light to the rest of the cast who are pleasant but, definitely of worldly hearts and minds.

Some books I’ve read lately:
Village School & Village Diary by Miss Read. Warmly humorous recollections of a village schoolteacher in 1950’s England. Makes me smile how people are the same the world over!
The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton is brilliant, sometimes, admittedly above my head so.
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. A retelling of the biblical story of Hosea and Gomer set in California during the Gold Rush. The darkness made it hard to read at points, but, the depiction of the unrelenting, faithful love of God amazed me.
Lamentations – The Bible. Despite brokenness, despair, and loneliness, God remains merciful, gracious, and faithful. He doesn’t take delight in the suffering of people, but, is present, redeeming and working His mighty plans behind the hurt.

Trust Me for I am Faithful. Wait on Me for I am the Redeemer and Creator. Delight in Me for I am good. That’s what the Father has been speaking to my heart lately. For so long, I wanted God to change my circumstances and fill my life with excitement. Instead, He’s filling me with Himself and causing me to find great joy and contentment in Him in the midst of this seemingly ordinary, prosaic life. I repeat, isn’t He Good?

“This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!”
~ Lamentations 3:21-24

Blossom

May Day, May Day!

Mint Tulip

Almond Blossom Time

Bicycle Built For Two

Doubled Up
Go Down to Kew (It Isn't Far from Devon)

The Winter (more than usually frigid) has, at long last, released it’s clutches on us. Summer is apparently over-eager, already pushing in its 90 degree weather and evening thunderstorms. Alas, for gracious, retiring Spring. At least, I have a few snapshots of the Season’s flowers left.

I love the promise of Spring and the way it refreshes one’s hope after the long, weariness of Winter. I love the way it echoes the promise in the Bible that God is making all things new – not just the weather for a temporary time, but all of Creation including the hearts of the people He’s redeemed for all of eternity!

There’s a great song by the Gray Havens, (off their soon-to-be-released, new, album) called “Far Kingdom” that glimpses the wonder and joy of the New Heavens and the New Earth. In the song is a line that has been running through my mind a lot lately: “Still there is more gladness/Longing for the Sight/Than to behold or be filled, by anything”. I love that because it reminds me that as amazing and full of splendor as this world can be, it’s still only a broken, hazy, reflection of the greater joys of Heaven and its King.