All the Way

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I held the hand of an elderly friend after she learned her disease was in the final stages. She asked me to sing for her.

“What would you like me to sing?” I asked.

All the Way My Saviour Leads Me,” she answered, without hesitation. I sang.

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

After the second verse she said, “It’s true, you know.”
She smiled. “Sing that verse again.”
I did.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

As I looked through a cache of photos I took of a winding country road near Turner Valley, Alberta a little while ago, I thought of her. It wasn’t until her home-going celebration that I included the last verse. With tears rolling down my cheeks I sang:

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

It was as if all nature was proclaiming with her, “It’s true, you know.”

 

All the Way My Saviour Leads Me, lyrics by Fanny Crosby

Stepping into Freedom

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Have you ever assembled your paints and brushes and canvas, or sharpened your carving knife and fondled that perfect piece of wood, or pulled the new fabric out of the shopping bag, and then asked yourself the question, “What should I make?”

For me, deciding on subject matter is the hardest part of creativity. I collect potential. It’s easier to spend time imagining possibilities and gathering materials in arts and craft stores, or stationery stores, or fabric stores, or writing app stores, than it is to decide what I want to say. Always there is the fear deep down somewhere, What if it’s not good enough? What if I waste time and materials and create disappointment that doesn’t measure up to what other people are doing?

Sometimes I need a nudge to just do it already. Painting as a form of creative worship moves me out of my comfort zone. Way out of my comfort zone. People are watching. Time is limited. I’m an amateur. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The musicians at most Sunday services play for less than thirty minutes. In the circle my friends have invited me to hang out in, a weekend conference with a guest speaker provides three sessions with a total of about one and a half hours in which to paint something.

I don’t even have as much time trying to decide what to paint as I usually spend trying to pick a Netflix show. Sometimes I have ideas before I get there. Sometimes nothing.

This past weekend, as I prayed about it while the band did their sound check, I remembered a picture I had in my head as I listened to people worshiping God one morning recently. I saw a pretty scene with an inviting path. Then it was as though the camera pulled back and I realized my point of view was behind barbed wire. An gate opened. When I looked up I saw the words written over many prison camps in Europe in World War II: Arbeit macht frei. Work makes free.

But I saw them in reverse. I saw them from the point of view of someone inside the prison camp who knew too much, someone who knew those words were not true. Arbeit macht frei was a ruse meant to placate people who were anything but frei.  I understood. I had worked and worked for years and still didn’t feel good enough — and definitely not free.

I asked the Lord what this was about. I understood it was an invitation to step out of the captivity of believing the lie that if we work hard enough, if we prove ourselves invaluable to God, if we perform well enough to impress him, he will notice us and accept us into his kingdom.

In my vision the gates were open, not only for me, but for everyone who responds to his call to come away with him. We are free to step out of imprisoning thoughts of having to earn his love. We are free to step into all the beauty he has for us. We are free to walk with him now, knowing the Creator of the Universe as the Lover of Our Souls.

So this is what I painted, imperfect as it is. I choose to step into freedom. I choose to step into all he has for me. Jesus Christ sets the captives free.

Then we cried out, “Lord, help us! Rescue us!” And he did!
His light broke through the darkness and
he led us out in freedom from death’s dark shadow
and snapped every one of our chains.
So lift your hands and give thanks to God for his marvelous kindness
and for his miracles of mercy for those he loves!
For he smashed through heavy prison doors and
shattered the steel bars that held us back, just to set us free!

Psalm 107: 13-16 TPT

In Black and White

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I like black and white photos because I am easily distracted. Images without a myriad of colour lack the yeah-but variations that take me in multiple directions, but monochrome states basic value.

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Sometimes I need to get back to basic values — basic values like this one:

“… O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8 NLT

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As One

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Your mercy and your truth have married each other.
Your righteousness and peace have kissed.

(Psalm 85:10 TPT)

A quick read-through of the social media sites I participate in reminds me that thinking the way God does about truthandmercy and righteousnessandpeace does not come naturally to the unrenewed mind.

Sometimes I am confused when a couple has a combined name on a Facebook account. Who am I talking to? One such couple answered my query with, “Us. We tag team.”

I don’t get it. My man and I will have been married 46 years this autumn, and we have never perfectly agreed on anything for more than a few minutes. How could we speak as one?

I love the classic joke from an old episode of All In the Family. Malory tells her brother, Alex, that it’s like she and her boyfriend “have one mind.” After the perfectly timed pause he asks, “Which one of you is using it tonight?”

The only way my husband and I could tag team and trust each other to give the exact same response would be if one of us was redundant – or taken over by drugs or cyborgs or something. I’m the artsy feeling one. He’s the logical scientific one. We have to discuss everything. For hours.

Maybe that’s the point. Maybe it’s the diversity and the broader perspective of seeing more than one side and still being in unity that creates a bigger definition of a concept.

God is multifaceted and sees many sides at the same time. Being totally One there is no polarity, no gap, no need to choose between his concept of mercy and his understanding of perfect truth or his definition of righteousness and his experience of peace.

There is more.

 

Mercy Poured

Go warn the children of God of the terrible speed of mercy.

~Flannery O’Connor

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“Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy grain and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost [simply accept it as a gift from God].

“Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,
And your earnings for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight in abundance.

“Incline your ear [to listen] and come to Me;
Hear, so that your soul may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you…

(Isaiah 55:1-3a Amplified)

For Grace to be Grace

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“For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go. As we stumble through the crazily altered landscape of our lives, we find that God is enjoying our attention as never before.”

– Kathleen Norris

Mercy is great, but mercy is not grace. Mercy unhooks whatever barb we have caught ourselves on. Mercy disengages the power of expected consequences that make us pay for our naivety or stupidity or even outright rebellion.

Grace engages the power to become more than our naivety or stupidity or rebellion would allow. Grace empowers us to become something entirely new, entirely different – entirely holy. Grace draws us into the Presence of the Holy where nothing will ever be the same.

Without grace frontiers are formidable walls. With grace we can say with the Psalmist:

For by You I can run upon a troop;
And by my God I can leap over a wall.

(Psalm 18:29)

A light in the hall

Photo: Light arises in the dark

“Nana, leave the door open a little bit.”

My little granddaughter always reminds me, when I have the joy of tucking her in bed, that part of the ritual is adjusting the door to her specifications. She doesn’t like darkness. Who does?

When the door is shut and light is blocked out the things we fear the most begin to stir under the bed. We hear them stretch and yawn in the closet. They slip out from behind the curtains. They tap against the window.

My husband, brilliant scientist that he is, reminded me this week that darkness has no power over light. You cannot aim darkness at light and see the light dim. There is no such thing as a flashdark.

The only way we can create total darkness is to intentionally block out every source of light.

I remember visiting the Lewis and Clark caverns when I was a child. Deep in the earth the guide turned off the lights to demonstrate real darkness. Even this was not total darkness since my dad had glow-in-the-dark hands on the watch on his wrist.

I hear people talk about how we need to be aware of dark times approaching, how we need to be aware of dark spirits where we least expect them, how we need to be aware of the lies and secrets hiding in the dark corners of our hearts. As they focus on these things I see fear stirring under the bed; I hear hopelessness yawning in the closet; I see despair slip out from behind the curtains; I sense paranoia tapping on the window.

Every Sunday we begin our service by having a child light a candle and say, “Jesus is the light of the world.” Every Sunday, because we need to be reminded not to shut out the light.

Psalm 112 tells us how to leave the door open enough to remind us that Abba Father never sleeps and keeps watch over us.

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,

who greatly delights in his commandments!

 His offspring will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

 Wealth and riches are in his house,

and his righteousness endures forever.

 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright;

he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

 It is well with the man who deals generously and lends;

who conducts his affairs with justice.

 For the righteous will never be moved;

he will be remembered forever.

 He is not afraid of bad news;

his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.

 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,

until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.

 He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever;

his horn is exalted in honor.

 The wicked man sees it and is angry;

he gnashes his teeth and melts away;

the desire of the wicked will perish!

Psalm 112

When we remain constantly aware of  Holy Spirit’s presence and the riches of  His goodness and faithfulness we can afford to be gracious, merciful and righteous.We give out of the overflow of our hearts.

We can be a source of light in the world.