Longing for Peace

You called, You cried, You shattered my deafness, You sparkled, You blazed, You drove away my blindness, You shed Your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for You. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace.
Augustine in “Confessions”

Augustine’s prayer startles,
describing our burning desperation for God and His effort to restore us.
He calls out to us, engaging all our senses.
We hear His cries, see His sparkling glory, smell His fragrance, taste and feel Him.
And long for more.

Our weaknesses shattered, blazed, and driven away.
Our breathlessness eased, our exhaustion rested, our aching emptiness quenched.
Starving, dehydrated, panting, yearning for rescue.
He brings us peace,
Everlasting.

The Mystery of the Deep

Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw upon itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom.
N.T.Wright

Inundated by the overwhelmingly bad news of the world, blasted 24/7 from cable TV, highlighted in rapidly changing headlines online, and tweeted real time from every nook and cranny, we must cling to the mystery of His magnetism for our weaknesses and flaws. He willingly pulls our evil onto Himself, out of us. Hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness disappear into the vortex of His love and beauty, the dusty corners of our hearts vacuumed spotless.

We are let in on a secret: He is not sullied by absorbing the dirty messes of our lives. Instead, once we are safely within His depths, He washes us forever clean.

~E. Gibson

The Flooded Path

God of our life,
there are days when the burdens we carry
chafe our shoulders and weigh us down;
when the road seems dreary and endless,
the skies grey and threatening;
when our lives have no music in them,
and our hearts are lonely,
and our souls have lost their courage.

Flood the path with light,
run our eyes to where the skies are full of promise;
tune our hearts to brave music;
give us the sense of comradeship with heroes and saints of every age;
and so quicken our spirits
that we may be able to encourage the souls of all
who journey with us on the road of life,
to Your honour and glory.
Augustine

Those final few days may have been like this:
the sky oppressive with storm clouds,
the shouldered burden too painful,
the soul weighed down, discouraged, disheartened.
Each step brought Him closer
to a desperate loneliness borne of betrayal and rejection.

But the end of that dark walk was just the beginning
of a journey into new covenant.

Instead of rain, those clouds bore light, flooding the pathway so we can come together to lift the load.
Instead of loneliness, there arises community.
Instead of stillness, there is declaration of glory.
Instead of discouragement, He embodies hope for all hearts.
The promise fulfilled, spills over our path.
We are drenched.

~E. Gibson

No Fear

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear
1 John 4:18

The community of faith and community of life in the first love was marked by the risen Christ–the Christ who had said, “I am with you always.” Everything depends on seeing the mystery of the risen Christ as unconditional love. In Christ, God’s love is put into practice.
Eberhard Arnold

Of course there was plenty to fear. There had been a brutal arrest in a garden, facilitated by one of His own. The rest ran or actively denied involvement. There was a hasty hearing, and a trial of sorts, and then beatings and condemnation by acclamation. There was the impossible task of lugging a heavy cross up hill, then being attached by nails, hung, dehydrated, denigrated, left to die.

Plenty, plenty to fear. Those who loved Him were terrified.

When they returned after the Sabbath to care for His body, still concerned for their own safety, they heard again very familiar words: “Do not be afraid.” He was conceived and born under those words, and after His death, those were among the first words they heard the risen Christ say, and He repeated them as often as they needed to hear them, which was often.

Do not be afraid.

Perfect love casts out fear. As we are so flawed, so incapable of perfect-anything, we fear, and fear desperately. But because He is capable of perfect unconditional love, He demonstrates that love tangibly and palpably: breaking bread, breaking Himself, pouring wine, pouring out Himself. He creates an everlasting community of love by promising to be with us always. So we put it into practice with each other, and especially with those who are strangers and enemies.

Why fear any longer? He is walking alongside us illuminating our minds and filling our hearts, He is at the table feeding us, He is holding us as we pass into His arms.

Perfect
mysterious
unending
unprecedented
unconditional
love has no fear
forever.

Crying Out Loud

So much conspires to keep us silent~
faith as unfashionable,
a crutch for the weak,
outmoded, obsolete,
outrageous belief.

Far easier to worship the earth
or each other
or nothing at all
rather than exalt the
Living God Everlasting.

His name no longer spoken
at school or work,
mentioned one hour a week
by some,
forgotten by most.

Sing of His glory
out of joy and from deep gratitude.
Sincerely imperfect,
we must not be silenced
while we have tongues.

If we do not shout out loud,
nor spread branches at His feet,
if we worry what others might think,
the stones will cry out
and not stop,  as they know

He weeps at our silence.

~E. Gibson

He is Here

And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.
Augustine

30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32

I think often of the disciples walking to Emmaus on the evening of Resurrection Sunday, trying to make sense of all the events of the day. When another traveler joined them, they shared everything they knew, expressing their wonder and amazement. They spoke from the heart, and as He, in turn, shared insights from the gospel, He set their “hearts burning within” them as they listened to His words.

Then He revealed Himself during the meal as He spoke words of gratitude and broke the bread. In this simple every day action, they recognize Him, and so feel Him in their hearts. As He departs from their sight, they know where they may always look to find Him.

He is here. Deep in our beating hearts that He shared with us, deep in our every day activities of making and eating meals together, walking, sleeping, caring for one another, teaching, cleaning up, telling stories and simply saying thanks. He is here, so close, so accessible, so much part of our humanity, yet transcending His flesh and blood by giving it up for us. To find Him,we need provide no sacrifice, need make no pilgrimage, worship at no special shrine, pay no indulgences. As we eat, as we drink, as we express gratitude, we feel His Spirit, recognizing He offered Himself as the sacrifice made on our behalf.

No other God would. No other God has. No other God is here, dwelling within us.

~E. Gibson

The Invitation

When he takes it all away, will we love him more than things, more than health, more than family, and more than life? That’s the question. That’s the warning. That’s the wonderful invitation.
John Piper in “I Was Warned By Job This Morning”

The warning of the Book of Job is that it could happen to us too–everything we have strived for, cared about, loved and valued taken away. If we are stripped bare naked, nothing left but our love for God and His sovereign power over our lives, will we still worship His Name, inhale His Word like air itself, submit ourselves to His plan over our plan?

I know I fall far short of the mark. It takes only small obstacles or losses to trip me up so I stagger in my faith, trying futilely to not lose my balance, falling flat-faced and immobilized.

When I’ve seen people lose almost everything, either in a disaster, or an accident, or devastating illness, I’ve looked hard at myself and asked if I could sustain such loss in my life and still turn myself over to the will of God.

I would surely plead for reprieve and ask the horribly desperate question, “why me?”, girding myself for the response: “and why not you?”

The invitation, scary and radical as it is, is from God straight to my heart, asking that I trust His plan for my life and death, no matter what happens, no matter how much suffering, no matter how much, like Christ in the garden, I plead that it work out differently, more my own choosing that it not hurt so much.

The invitation to His plan for my life has been written, personally carried to me by His Son, and lies ready in my hands, although it has remained untouched for years. It is now up to me to open it, read it carefully, and with deep gratitude that I am even included, respond with an RSVP that says emphatically, “I’ll be there! Nothing could keep me away.”

Or I could leave it untouched, fearing it is too scary to open. Or even toss it away altogether, thinking it really wasn’t meant for me.

Even if, in my heart, I knew it was.

~E. Gibson

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ C. S. Lewis