Like a River Glorious

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Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

-Frances Ridley Havergal

Today I am thankful for female hymn writers of the past, women who, like Miriam the prophet, found a way to raise their voices in praise through song.

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Immersion

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“Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use.

 Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.”
(Paul’s first letter to Timothy 4:10 – 16 MSG)

Four of my grandchildren are in French Immersion schools. They all speak better French than I do, even the five-year-old.

I attended a school where French was taught conversationally and where only French was allowed to be spoken in French class. The experimental “immersion” method tested on us turned out to be much more effective than the traditional memorization of conjugation tables. I’ve used the words learned in that class to sing and to teach singing, but not as a part of regular conversation. Most of it has slipped away like the names of people from the past with vaguely familiar faces. I couldn’t assemble a grammatically correct essay en français if my life depended on it, not without supernatural intervention anyway.

When my granddaughter was only six, and in her second year of speaking only French all day at school, she asked me not to speak to her in my broken second language anymore. Part of the problem was the difference between my Parisian pronunciation and her Quebecois teacher’s accent, but more than that, she was simply more proficient.

“Grammie, do you mind not speaking French to me?” she said one day as I drove her to school. “I’m only a little kid and it’s embarrassing for me to correct a grown-up.”

She’s in high school now, writing short stories, giving speeches, and mastering courses in biology and mathematics, all in French. She has been immersed in the culture for ten years and doesn’t need to translate her thoughts like I do. She thinks in French as well as she thinks English. Perhaps better.

Last year I asked the Lord for a word that would show me where he was taking me now. In a dream, I saw the word “instill.” It means “to cause to enter, drop by drop.” I read and study as much as I am able. The quest for knowledge still provokes me to leave smoking pots of food on the stove while I look something up.

I believe the concepts the Lord has been teaching me about himself but, at times, they feel awkward and foreign. Effort is required to sit still as he instills a language of grace, love, and trust at a level where I can think differently and respond more automatically. (The delete key is the most worn key on my keyboard, I think.) I am learning a new language in which my actions are motivated by God’s love and not fear of condemnation. I’m learning to live in the freedom Jesus gave his life to get back for me.

This year, beyond the concept of instilling something into me, I realize there is more: the concept of instilling myself into the depths of his love. An immersion into his heart. A stepping into deeper experiences of his grace. Abiding in the place of rest he has prepared right in the middle of trying circumstances.

Standing on the familiar shore of rugged debate, theoretical platitudes, and pebbly doctrinal pickiness feels comfortably normal. What if I stop trying to understand everything and give up the need to prove myself “right” and instead trust Him to surround me and lift me up. What if I step into God’s culture and totally immerse myself in his grace. Will he hold me up? Teach me to breathe under water? Send a boat?

Sometimes I float. Sometimes I thrash about in a panic when I realize I’m in over my head and I don’t have all the answers. Then I remember Paul’s advice to Tim. “Just keep at it. Stay at your post. Read the scriptures. Don’t neglect the gifts God has given you.”

Maturity is something he brings about as I yield to his ways. For a person learning to let go of the baggage of a lifetime of trust issues, this is deep water.

This part of the journey is about more than the occasional Bible study class. This is about living, all day, with a new language, in a different culture than the one more familiar to me. At the moment I feel more quasi-lingual than bi-lingual. I’m trying not to compare myself to much younger people who are more advanced in understanding than I.

But I am learning.

And it’s true, you know. God is love.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

– -Isaac Watts

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Outflow

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I read somewhere that the Koine Greek word translated as “head” (as in Christ is head of the church) in most English versions of the Bible, carries the connotation of head as in headwaters.

This thought came to me as I came across a photo I took at the south end of Columbia Lake. These are the headwaters the mighty Columbia River that eventually supplies water for irrigation and shipping systems for much of the western USA.

What’s behind that mighty river is a beautiful lake in our backyard that collects the abundant run-off from the mountains.

Christ taught servant leadership.

Jesus: You know that among the nations of the world the great ones lord it over the little people and act like tyrants. But that is not the way it will be among you. Whoever would be great among you must serve and minister.  Whoever wants to be great among you must be slave of all.  Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to be a servant—to offer His life as a ransom for others. (Mark 10: 42-45 The Voice)

It is what flows out of a person that makes them a great leader. If they are in alignment with Christ as their living head, Christ’s love can flow through them. As others join in unity of the Spirit a confluence grows that pours out in an increasingly deeper and wider outflow, providing for many downstream.

When a leader, any leader, demands homage and lords power over others the direction of flow is reversed. When it becomes all about respect for titles and offices and need for recognition coming his or her way the stream dries up. Submission to the type of leadership Jesus demonstrated is cooperation and confluence, not slavery. It produces much fruit.

We love Christ because he first loved us. Our love and worship is a response to him. Love must be voluntary or it is not love at all. It is something else entirely devoid of freedom.

Freely you have received. Freely give.

Look

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But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them sing joyful praises forever.
Spread your protection over them,
that all who love your name may be filled with joy.

For you bless the godly, O Lord;
you surround them with your shield of love.

(Psalm 5:11,12 NLT)

When I looked out my window I saw a dull gloomy day. Landscape photographers are dependent on the weather. Fog and rain can make interesting lighting conditions but in the autumn when the trees are in colour I wanted bright light. I didn’t feel like it, I decided to go anyway. Once I was on the road I saw a small patch of blue in the sky to the north.

I simply followed the light and  came to the end of the road at a small lake at the foot of a mountain. I parked and waited, enjoying God’s presence and soaked in the warm breeze and the song of the birds.

Then the sun broke through.

Sometimes it takes some effort to follow the light and look for the positive and beautiful around us. I’m not ignoring alarming stories of fear and evil. I care very much. But when I stay in the gloom too long my eyes become dim. I stop looking to the horizon for hope and begin to add my own sad you-think-that’s-bad stories.

It’s not so much a matter of avoiding negativity as actively pursuing the positive – things for which we are thankful.

John, who recorded his experiences in the book of Revelation, began by saying he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day when he looked. And then he looked, and then he looked some more. Seeing things from God’s perspective requires active participation on our part.

For me on that day, hope started by getting out of the driveway, looking to the sky, and heading toward the light.

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Love Never Dies

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Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

(1 Corinthians 13 The Message)

For the whole law can be summed up in this one command:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

(Galatians 5:14 NLT)

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