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)