As we approach the end of this year, I appreciate this prayer. It is found in the Sarum Missal, an 11th-century book of prayer and worship practices. I wasn’t thumbing through the Sarum Missal, however. I found this prayer in Elizabeth Goudge’s Diary of Prayer, a book I’ve come to appreciate. It has prayers for each day of the year. So today’s prayer is this one:
We beseech thee, O gracious Lord, let our hearts be enlightened by the holy radiance of thy Son’s Incarnation; that so we may escape the darkness of this world, and by his guidance attain to the country of everlasting clearness.
The country of everlasting clearness. What an expression of hope and recognition that we do see through a glass darkly, as Apostle Paul said.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly [in a riddle] but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)
…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
The darkness of this world is demonstrated daily in communities where we live. The atrocities of far away places have us shaking our heads; the violence that takes place within our villages stuns us. Only the light of the Son of God can provide illumination for the path out of the darkness.
We should long for a country of everlasting clearness. To be able to understand God’s plan and know His love with complete clarity – that blessing awaits us in another time. To share with others a fellowship untinged by mixed motives and doubtful questions will be pure joy. To be secure without consideration of what might happen or how to survive the things that do happen will be such a relief. To be in a country of everlasting clearness.
I’m hoping that our new year leads us closer to that place. I know only Jesus, light of the world, can show us the way.
And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim… Isaiah 32:3
YOU CAN READ THIS ENTIRE POST OR you can skip to the end where there are a giveaway and a free download! Merry Christmas!
Here we are at the end of 2017. How has 2017 been for you? You know how there are certain years that are just marked because of events that happened – whether happy or sad?
1963 was my mom’s favorite year because I was born. (This could be fake news, not fact checked!)
1987 was the year I married the bright and beautiful Margaret (Maggy, as she likes to be called these days) and became a father figure to the eclectic and engaging Niki (Nicole or Heather, as she likes to be called these days).
1989 was the year my son John Robert was born.
2005 was the year that Hurricane Katrina flooded our coastal community and ignited a two+ year recovery mission that still hovers in my mind.
2008 was the year I’d like to just carve out of my life and remove. It was the year we said goodbye to John Robert and my stepdad Harold. It was the year my mom had breast cancer (but she is a survivor!).
2017 is the year that my dad began an intense spiral into the devastation of Alzheimer’s Disease. The emotional and physical toll this took on me is still being hammered out in my own mind.
Then there’s 2018. Who knows? Only God.
Of course, those are not all the highlights and low places of my life. For every year that we can name something great, there were things that weren’t so great. For every year when it looked like a disaster, God was present to see us through and we can see blessings now we couldn’t see at the time.
Over the years OUT HERE HOPE REMAINS has taken different shapes as the internet and online experiences have changed. Facebook took over the entire internet. The things we used to blog about we now post in five seconds, take a picture, and before an hour passes we have friends (both known and unknown!) liking them. But nowadays personal blogs are mostly passe´, and that’s ok.
I’m grateful for everyone who takes a few minutes to scan anything I’ve written. Hopefully, it’s a blessing to you and in the coming year I will be able to share some more thoughts that remind us that out here, hope remains.
As a ‘Thank You’ to those who read, I’m going to give away a copy of TimothyKeller’s book of devotional thoughts through the Proverbs. To be entered into the giveaway, simply post a reply on the blog itself (not the Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media postings!). In your reply, indicate if you’d rather have hardback or kindle edition. That’s easy, right? Deadline to enter is midnight, December 27th.
Oh, and I promised a free download!For the past five years, I have participated in a summer blog tour. Those blog posts are written by an assortment of excellent thinkers. I can hardly believe they let me in the group! All five sets of those posts are available in ebooks in .pdf format for download at my friend Peter Horne’s blog HERE. This past summer’s theme was Faith Unshackled. With a .pdf you can read it on your computer, phone, or send it to your Kindle address and read it on any device with a free Kindle app. Hope you enjoy those! I do!
I appreciate you and hope you’ll have a great Christmas. Pray for those who are facing the first Christmas without a loved one, suffer from the pangs of depression and loneliness, or who have no one with them on special days. And whatever 2018 brings, I pray it will be one of those years marked by a joy that you can remember for the rest of your days.
Tonight I finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing. The West Wing ran from 1999-2006. I remember watching some of it but I didn’t stick with it. Politics is not my favorite world to inhabit anyway. But thanks to the tepid (and other unkind words) offerings of the networks for television, I decided to take a look at this old show and I’m so glad I did. The first five seasons were simply excellent viewing in every way. The acting, writing, and themes were all great. The sixth season a little less so, and the seventh season I made myself watch although I found it had outlived it’s story (and my interest). I’m mentioning this because there might be someone who hasn’t watched it who’s scanning across the channels looking for something … anything… with some substance and entertainment value to watch. But I’m mostly mentioning this because in some small way watching The West Wing gave me a reprieve from the distressing real-world of politics in which we live.
The fictional President in this series is a Democrat and some of the positions taken, some characterizations of Republicans, and a very few episodes that sounded kind of preachy are notable, but not frequent. But the reason I was so drawn in to this show were all the things that remind me of what I’m missing today. The imaginary Bartlet Administration wasn’t perfect but I did like the portrayal of a certain quality of life … a set of values that focused on the importance of people. There was a camaraderie of the cast in the presentation of the way they worked together through tough situations. There was, in a word, civility.
Civility has become a lost art … a relic of the past … a gaping hole in our society but also among our leaders in Washington. Civility has been replaced by a crass spirit of profanity and a vulgar display of accusation without restraint. Not just by one person or one party, but it pervades the landscape.
It’s almost as if voters in this country wanted such leaders. And if we did want those kind of leaders, what does that say about us?
So every time I see power-house party leaders who won’t sit at a table and do the right thing for the American people … who are just concerned with their party’s well being or making a name for themselves … I’d just rather watch President Josiah Bartlet and think about the America that could be.
I don’t write much about politics. I still think I should vote. I should and do pray for our leaders … and all world leaders. But mostly the blunders and tweets and positioning of the political world leaves me thirsty for that missing quality of civility.
All who give attention to prayer make an effort to grow in the practice of prayer. One area that I personally need to grow in is the expression of praise. I am convicted that if we consider the presence and majesty of God, then praise becomes more natural. Often I fall quickly into a long list of requests. While requesting of God is a part of prayer, the practice of praise should not be neglected.
When King Solomon dedicated the temple he gave some instruction to the people that I think will help us to grow in giving attention to praise. The temple was the physical manifestation of the presence and power of God. As a great celebration was held to bring it to completion, Solomon offered these thoughts about worship and prayer that relate to praise.
Praise God who keeps his covenant of love! “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ” (1 Kings 8:23)
Worship the God who Hears our Prayers! “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven,your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.”(1 Kings 8:29-30)
Entreat the God of Justice who sets things right! “Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.” (1 Kings 8:32)
Return to the God who Forgives “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel “(1 Kings 8:33-34)
Scripture records that, “When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. … May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors….so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” (1 Kings 8:51-64)
I pray that these reflections on the awesome presence of God may fuel prayers of praise for all of us.
Today is John Robert’s birthday. Our family remembers him every day, but especially on this day. Each one in our family has distinct memories and relationships with him. I remember not only John Robert but also the impact his death had on his sister, niece and nephew, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends… all of us.
He would have been 28 years old. Still, I can only see him as 18. Occasionally I drift into a daydream of wondering what he would be doing today but I do not really indulge this for long. The truth is whatever I can imagine falls far short of the eternal life he now experiences.
However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
I’ve looked back at some of the posts I’ve written on this date across the past years. I’ll link a few at the end of this post. Just as there are no new pictures to share, no new events to tell about, and no new updates to his life story … I have no new reflections. Just three words. We miss him. Beyond that, only faith and love have kept us moving on after this loss.
And this is what he promised us—eternal life. – 1 John 2:25
Living in the promise of God among the people of God has been our strength.
Exodus 3 and 4 contains one of the most familiar stories of the Bible. No doubt thousands of authors and writers, preachers and poets, painters and priests have tried to capture the amazing story contained in these chapters. Anyone my age or younger cannot help but picture this in terms of Charlton Heston hearing an eery voice of God coming from the burning bush. As an aside, there is an unsolvable mystery about who supplied the voice of God in The Ten Commandments. Many have claimed to be the voice, including director DeMille and actor Heston. It has been concluded that “only DeMille and his sound editor, Loren L. Ryder, who died in 1985, knew the truth-because the voice used in the film was run through mixers, changers and echo chambers.” (link)
Dramatic as it is, the mystery of the voice of God in a 1956 film is not nearly so intriguing as the account of God and Moses found in Exodus. It’s hard to read the story without pre-conceived pictures and pretending we do not know the end of the story.
It seems that Moses is the perfect person to go and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He was raised in Egypt, a survivor of an attempted genocide of the Hebrew people. He knew the Egyptian ways from the inside, in a way no other Hebrew could. When he walked into Pharaoh’s court, he was walking into familiar territory. And he knew what to expect and could prepare to respond when he encountered resistance. We know all of these things, but Moses didn’t seem to.
Because in some ways, Moses is exactly the wrong person to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He rejected the ones who rescued him from the river and raised him as a son. He turned away from those who gave him everything he could have wanted to live a life of luxury and power. He was a murderer who was running from Egyptian justice. It had been forty years since he had been in Egypt and one wonders if he had forgotten much of what he had known while he chased sheep around the desert. In addition, he had a long list of reasons why he was not a capable leader that he was willing to present to the Creator! If we didn’t know the rest of the story we might think that Moses wasn’t very smart, and not a great choice for this job. The negatives far outweigh the positives.
That might be exactly the point.
Who am I to do this job? I’ll be with you.
Who am I to say sent me to do this job? I Am.
But I’m not a good speaker. I am the maker of speech.
Send someone else. I’ll send YOU, and I’ll send Aaron with you.
I don’t know. Take the staff, you’ll be surprised what you can do with it.
Moses … the ungrateful to his benefactors, the murderer, the one who adopted an undercover life to survive, the one who would even excuse himself from
service while facing God at a burning bush that didn’t burn … was right. He couldn’t do it. There’s too much baggage, too little talent, and no desire. And if it weren’t for a Divine encounter, he would have spent another 40 years dodging sheep poop. Instead, we are shown clearly that while Moses couldn’t, God could. In God’s presence and blessing, Moses had everything he needed to accomplish the task.
We all know Moses is going to go, and do a bang up job as a deliverer. He’s going to perform his duties so well that eventually he thinks he’s not just being empowered by God he thinks he’s a partner with God. It’s a stumble that will keep him out of the Promised Land. But still the Prince became a Shepherd so he could lead God’s flock out of enslavement and into promise.
Moses reminds us that without God, we don’t have much of a mission. With God, however, we have everything we need to be arbiters of deliverance for the enslaved. Honestly, I feel a lot like Moses… inadequate, unequipped, overwhelmed. Jesus recognized that as a truth for all of us, but also reminds us that the power is not in us. The ability to throw light into the darkest places is not our brilliance, but His.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:5-8
When you wonder if you can make a difference, pay less attention to your own self-objections and more attention to the presence of God that goes with you. When you bear fruit for the Lord, never look in the mirror and congratulation yourself. Look inside and thank God for what He has done through a broken vessel. When you think that the work of the kingdom is about you, remember it is about I AM.
So while Moses is bigger than life, he seems to me like an ordinary guy who was successful in crazy circumstances in such a way that only God could get the credit. Only in God did he have everything he needed. Maybe we could all be so ‘ordinary’.