Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blessings of the Lord's Day

Another week has gone, and I have been preserved
in my going out,
in my coming in.

Day and night are thine;
they are also mine from thee-
the night to rid me of the cares of the day,
to refresh my weary body,
to renew my natural strength;
the day to summon me to new activities,
to give me opportunity to glorify thee,
to serve my generation,
to acquire knowledge, holiness, eternal life.

Thine has been the vigilance that has turned threatened evils aside;
Thine the supplies that have nourished me;
Thine the comforts that have indulged me;
Thine the relations and friends that have delighted me;
Thine the means of grace which have edified me;
Thine the Book, which, amidst all my enjoyments,
has told me that this is not my rest,
that in all successes one thing alone is needful,
to love my Saviour.

But one day above all days is made especially for thy honour
and my improvement;
The sabbath reminds me of thy rest from creation,
of the resurrection of my saviour,
of his entering into repose.

I long for that blissful communion of thy people
in thy eternal house in the perfect kingdom;
These are they that follow the Lamb;
May I be of their company!

Give me in rich abundance
the blessings the Lord's Day was designed to impart;
May my heart be fast bound against worldly thoughts or cares;
Flood my mind with peace beyond understanding;
may my meditations be sweet,
my acts of worship life, liberty, joy,
my drink the streams that flow from thy throne,
my food the precious Word,
my defence the shield of faith,
and may my heart be more knit to Jesus.

~ The Valley of Vision, excerpts from the Lord's Day Morning, the Lord's Day Prayer, and the Lord's Day Evening

Very few people seem to follow the Sabbath rest pattern anymore. Set aside an entire day to NOT work?! How dare we even think of such a thing. Life is too busy for that. Yet if the Ruler of the Universe can rest, maybe a human could benefit from following His example. Refreshment for the week ahead, sweet peace from the work of the week past, reflection and meditation for the state of my soul, prayer and worship and love for the Keeper.

Sunday seems like a good time to gather up gratitudes of the week prior. May the day lift up my heart to see myself, needy, hopeful, tired as I am, in the light of the Light-Dweller.

~ Harmony's twelve-month doctor's appointment going well

~ Tomatoes on my plants

~ No more coughing from anyone; the sickness finally defeated

~ The first watermelon of the season

~ Thrashing around with the book of James, eager for insight

~ Beginning the book of Psalms once more

~ Lovely lunch date with my mom 

~ Misunderstandings smoothed over without arguments or discord occurring

~ Discipline to get up early

~ The start of the Love Notes project 

~ Water play on the apartment patio

~ Art time with Chris after Harmony goes to bed

~ Spring thunderstorms

Following the Path Where It Leads

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Thy will is supreme in heaven and earth,
and all beings are creatures of thy power.

There is no blessing we implore but thou art able to give,
hast promised to give,
hast given already to countless multitudes,
all unworthy and guilty like ourselves;
Make us willing to receive the supply of our need from thy bounty.

Thou art the inviting one, may we hearken to thee;
the almighty instructor, teach us to live to thee;
the light-dweller, inaccessible to man and angels,
hiding thyself behind the elements of creation,
but known to us in Jesus,
Possess our minds with the grandeur of thy perfections.

~ The Valley of Vision, Seventh Day Morning and Evening excerpts

The end of the week. Saturdays always feel like the end of the week to me, yet Mondays feel like the beginning. Sunday is an amorphous day that shines a wonderful color I can't describe. By the time Saturday comes around, my soul is tired, my body is tired, the things of God have begun to fade in my mind. So Saturday is for wrapping up loose ends. 

On Saturday, after the toils of the week, my heart is usually at its most ungrateful point. 

But the blessing of renewal is at hand. My eyes will be refreshed to see blessings anew. It is a mindset of being open to grace, to approach the throne with bowed head. "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; prone to leave the God I love," says one of my favorite hymns. Sometimes in relief, sometimes hesitating through selfishness, sometimes reluctant because of guilt, sometimes eager in joy, Sunday is the time to place my straying soul once more in the Keeper's hands. 

Looking back at the week, how much I have stumbled. But how generously I have been lifted up, blessed beyond belief by the Inviting One! I have fallen into old sins; but the more I give up my own desires, the more the Almighty Instructor gently gives me His strength to stand firm. When my sight is fixed on the perfect radiance of the Light-Dweller, my body moves in obedience to a beautiful love, knowing peace, finding patience, growing in faith.

Looking back at the week, how much I have been blessed. 

Looking ahead to the next week, how much will I choose to focus on the blessings, to let my life rest with the Keeper instead of trying to do things my way? 

Following the Path Where It Leads

Friday, June 21, 2013

Grateful, or the Opposite

We thank thee for thy unspeakable gift.

We are lost: but in it thou hast presented to us

a full, free and eternal salvation;
weak; but here we learn that help is found in one that is mighty,
poor: but in him we discover unsearchable riches,
blind: but we find he has treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

We hope in thy Word.

There we see thee, not on a fearful throne of judgement
But on a throne of grace
waiting to be gracious, and exalted in mercy.
There we hear thee saying, not "Depart ye cursed,"
but "look unto me and be ye saved,
for I am God and there is none else".

~ The Valley of Vision, Day Six Morning and Evening excerpts

One of the biggest decisions I have had to make lately is the choice to either be grateful or be the opposite: resentful, angry at the hard situations that occur, grumbling, annoyed, frustrated, worried, frantic. 

The baby won't go to sleep for hours past her bedtime? I can either throw her pacifier across the room and swear under my breath, or I can cuddle her close, breathing in the soft baby smell, love that I can spend time with my daughter, and gently soothe her into dreamland. (Both scenarios have occurred recently.)

Come home from a long evening of teaching to find that nothing was accomplished on the short list of to-do's I'd begged them to complete so that dinner could be quick to prepare? I can exchange sharp words, ignoring their arguments of why the tasks were not completed, or I can give a little grace, accepting their help to cook dinner and eat together happily a little later than usual.

Find out that we've spent more on groceries this month than we realized, and our bank account is suffering because of it? I can play the blame game and lie in bed awake all night worrying, or I can simply set better boundaries with our money, pulling the belt a little tighter to keep from making the same mistake again. 

Hard things happen. What matters is how we view them. What matters is how we handle the troubles, whether we choose to accept peace, knowing that we are in possession of the greatest gift of all that can never be taken, or choose to push God away, rejecting blessings because the hard things engulf our eyesight. 

Each situation in life is an opportunity to be grateful or be the opposite. Each moment is a chance to see God as either a harsh force ready to hurl mishap and judgement haphazardly, or the loving, holy, exalted Keeper of my soul sitting on the throne with grace in his nail-pierced hands. 

How are you choosing to see today?

Following the Path Where It Leads

The Start

The First Day: There was Evening, and There was Morning

The Second Day: Thy Bounty is Seen

The Third Day: Peace from the Keeper

The Fourth Day: Blessed be Thy Name

The Fifth Day: Faith for the Thousandth Time

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Faith for the Thousandth Time

Thou hast witnessed to us thy grace and mercy
in the bounties of nature,
in the fullness of thy providence,
in the revelations of Scripture,
in the gift of thy Son,
in the proclamation of the gospel.

Bring us into that state which attracts thine eye,
and prepare us to receive the proofs of thy love.

May we be rich in faith,
strong in faith,
live by faith,
walk by faith,
experience the joy of faith,
do the work of faith,
hope through faith.

Perceiving nothing in ourselves,
may we find in the Saviour
wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption.

~ The Valley of Vision, Fifth Day Morning and Evening excerpts

Talking with a friend last night, late late late over frozen custard, we pondered what it meant to stand strong in the face of any kind of temptation. "I'm pretty confident that my beliefs are firm," said my friend. "Even in the middle of a situation that would test my resolve, I would hope that I'd follow my moral convictions and overcome temptation."

"But what about the tenth time the temptation happened? The twentieth? What happens when our convictions are worn down, when we start justifying slip-ups in thought, then in deed?" was the next question.

We were silent, thinking about how weak we individually knew ourselves to be. Our conversation was about one aspect of character, but the greater implications affect my whole existence. When the going gets tough, will I stand faithful the tenth time I'm tested? The twentieth? The hundredth? Do I really have faith that can move a mole-hill, let alone a mountain?

Let's not count the past moments when my courage to stand up for what I believe has already been oh-too-easily cast aside out of fear, the desire for approval, uncertainty, laziness, selfishness.

This human mind-body of mine is frail.

The older I get, the more I realize that I am already more than worn down: I need wisdom; need strength; need hope; need change. I lean on the Spirit like the arm of a helping friend throughout the day, because my own spirit fails me too often.

I guess that's faith?

Today I am grateful for the Keeper, who gives faith to stand strong even the thousandth time I am tested.

Following the Path Where It Leads
The Start

The First Day: There was Evening, and There was Morning

The Second Day: Thy Bounty is Seen

The Third Day: Peace from the Keeper

The Fourth Day: Blessed be Thy Name

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Blessed be Thy Name

Every perfection adorns thy nature and sustains thy throne;
The heavens and earth are thine,
The world is thine and its fullness.
Thy power created the universe from nothing;
Thy wisdom has managed all its multiple concerns,
presiding over nations, families, individuals.
Thy goodness is boundless;
all creatures wait on thee
are supplied by thee,
are satisfied in thee.

Teach us to place our happiness in thee, the blessed God...
Thou hast attended to our happiness more than we can do;
Though we are fallen creatures thou hast not neglected us.

Let us judge our Christianity, not only by our dependence upon Jesus,
but by our love to him,
our conformity to him,
our knowledge of him...

knowing that thou hast said,
'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee'.

Blessed be thy name!

~ The Valley of Vision, Fourth Day Morning and Evening excerpts

I will be the first to admit that in the throne of my heart almost anything else EXCEPT Christ reigns on any given day. My own needs usually hold the rule; sometimes music is worshiped, other times my family, my career, the opinion of others. But why do I run after what cannot fill me or save me? If I try to rest my full weight on these things, they collapse, of course.

In the end, everything will fail. All that I've tried to wrap up my identity in will be broken, gone. Naked we came into this world. Naked we will leave.

Unless my identity is in Christ.

The One who holds the power of the stars also holds my soul. Frail, fallen, temporary being that I am, my life is his! There is eternal hope in those eight words: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." What blessings of hope come from this assurance!

Blessed be Thy name!

Following the Path Where It Leads

The Start

The First Day: There was Evening, and There was Morning

The Second Day: Thy Bounty is Seen

The Third Day: Peace from the Keeper

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Peace from the Keeper

The universe with all its myriad creatures is thine,
made by thy word,
upheld by thy power,
governed by thy will.
But thou art also the Father of mercies,
the God of all grace,
the bestower of all comfort,
the protector of the saved.

Thy greatness is unsearchable,
Thy name most excellent,
Thy glory above the heavens...

We bless thee for preservation, supplies, mercies,
and to thee, keeper of souls, we commit all we are and have.

~ The Valley of Vision, Third Morning and Evening excerpts

At the end of a long day, my daughter relaxes her body completely in my arms when I put her to bed. She trusts me to hold her, sing to her, nurse her, sit with her as she drifts into sleep. Then it clicks: just as she finds peace in knowing that I am her protector, her comforter, so I can rest my soul in the hands of the Keeper.

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives; do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." The song-verse that we learned with the children in church this Sunday rings through my head. Today I wish to find this simple peace in knowing that the Keeper of my soul, the Keeper of the Universe, is in charge.

Peace for my soul.

Rest in His plan.

Mercy and grace.

Life daily sustained.

So many gifts.

Following the Path Where It Leads

The Start

The First Day: There was Evening, and There was Morning

The Second Day: Thy Bounty is Seen

Monday, June 17, 2013

Thy Bounty is Seen

Infinitely great and glorious art thou.
We are thy offspring and thy care.
Thy hands have made and fashioned us.
Thou hast watched over us with more than parental love,
more than maternal tenderness.

Thou hast made summer and winter, day and night;
each of these revolutions serves our welfare
and is full of thy care and kindness.
Thy bounty is seen
in the relations that train us,
the laws that defend us,
the homes that shelter us,
the raiment that comforts us,
the continuance of our health, members, senses,
understanding, memory, affection, will.

But as stars fade before the rising sun,
thou hast eclipsed all these benefits
in the wisdom and grace that purposed
redemption by Jesus thy Son.

~ The Valley of Vision, Second Day Morning and Evening excerpts

So many blessings. So much to be grateful for in my life; truly my cup overflows with good things. If only I could hold onto this feeling, this present knowledge, of how very blessed I am, so that whenever I have the desire to complain or grumble then those ugly thoughts will crumble under the weight of gratitude.

The Bible says that perfect love drives away fears. Perhaps gratitude drives away worry. And stress, apprehension, tension, and unrest. Pride too, maybe, because when I am honest, the realization comes that everything good I have is a gift, not made by me, not because of anything I deserved, but a beautiful blessing of grace by the eternal Gift-Giver, the Holy-Redeemer, the One who loves more than a father and cares for us more tenderly than a mother.

So many blessings.

Following the Path Where It Leads

The Start

The First Day: There was Evening, and there was Morning

Sunday, June 16, 2013

There Was Evening, and There Was Morning

O Lord, we commune with thee every day,
but week days are worldly days,
and secular concerns reduce heavenly impressions.
We bless thee therefore for the day sacred to our souls
when we can wait upon thee and be refreshed...

O God, we bless thee, our creator, preserver, benefactor, teacher,
for opening to us the volume of nature
where we may read and consider thy works.

Let us not live uncertain of what we are, of where we are going.
Bear witness with our spirit that we are thy children;
And enable each one to say, 'I know my redeemer'.
Bless us with a growing sense of this salvation.
If already enlightened in Christ, may we see greater things;
If quickened, may we have more abundant life;
If renewed, let us go on from strength to strength.

~ The Valley of Vision, First Day Morning and Evening excerpts

How many times do I feel piety on Sunday morning, then wake up on Monday to snap at my husband, sigh over the dirty dishes, grumble about changing diapers, and complain as I anticipate the challenges of the week ahead? How I desperately need to learn how to live each day, all day, confident in who God truly is and who I am truly meant to be.

Religion can be an outward show at a prescribed time, a forced way of behaving for others to see. I don't want to just be a Sunday morning believer. Real love for God is keeping the mind and soul fixed on him when it is most difficult, when I most want to serve myself. It is letting Him be my every-minute Teacher. The Spirit whispers, "is this love?" and the walls crumble, leaving my heart tender and defenseless.

What am I?

A child.


Looking for greater things.



Following the Path Where It Leads

Here is how it Started. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Start

Thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day.
Vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace,
increase in knowledge,
ripen for spiritual harvest.
Let me this day know thee as thou art,
love thee supremely,
serve thee wholly,
admire thee fully.
Through grace let my will respond to thee,
knowing that power to obey is not in me,
but that thy free love alone enables me to serve thee.

Here then is my empty heart, overflow it with thy choicest gifts;
Here is my blind understanding,
chase away its mists of ignorance.
O ever watchful Shepherd,
lead, guide, tend me this day.

~ The Valley of Vision, Morning

~ My first Mother's day

~ Peace with enemies for those whose ways seek to please the Lord (Prov. 16:7)

~ If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31b)

~ Pentecost, the most beautiful Sunday of the year, hearing the Word spoken in many languages during church

~ Visiting my favorite Missouri State Park, Elephant Rocks

~ A visit from Nick before he is deployed

~ Harmony walking and running

~ Sister moving in with us

~ Listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit

~ Keeping my temper

~ Learning humility when I need to apologize for wrongdoing

~ Finding a favorite CD that I thought had been lost

~ The best dinner I've ever had the Melting Pot

~ The joy of sharing a popsicle with Harmony and Chris at the Farmer's Market

~ Sweet forgiveness from my family when I stumble