“You cannot prevent His loving you…”

Lydia tutu ribbon Guate 2004

Lydia full of wonder – Guatemala days…

 

In our age of evangelicalism and its emphasis on the “how-tos”, whether it is how to grow a church or how  to pray or how to conquer fear or how to run in faith, it becomes too easy for me to lose the true perspective – that I am not the  one carrying the brunt of my relationship with God.  It is HIS job, not mine.  Thank God for that.  If I believed in resolutions, which I don’t, my one resolution would be  to stop thinking that God will unfriend me because of my poor performance.  He can’t.  He may have been helpless while in the manger, but that was the last time we see Him helpless.  He isn’t in the manger anymore, and He has me covered.

“YOU, by your persistent adherence to the paltry present,

the material,

the visible,

the selfish,

have reared up a wall against the windows of your soul that look heavenwards;

and of God,

and all the lofty starry realities that cluster round Him,

you are as unconscious as the corpse upon its bier…

BUT…BUT…BUT…BUT

That Divine Love of the Divine Father

bends down over His dead children and cherishes them still.

Oh!  You can do much in separating yourselves from God

through selfishness, self-will, sensuality,

BUT THERE  IS ONE THING YOU CANNOT DO,

YOU CANNOT PREVENT HIS LOVING YOU…

Surely a mercy which refuses to be provoked seventy times seven transgressions in an hour, not to say a  day, is rich!!”

                                                                                                                                 Alexander Mac Laren, commentary on Ephesians

Isn’t that a great sentence? “…by your persistent adherence to the paltry present”??

I know what some of your “paltry presents” look like, which really are quite awful, and why it is so hard to tear your eyes and senses off that one little reality to this much bigger Reality.  This will keep you sane and breathing…and maybe help you even a bit to tap into the wonder of His Love and Mercy FOR YOU… He really does have the paltry present covered. You can let go of your worries about it, really you can.

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“God is in the Manger…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hung at age 39 as a spy, just ten days before German forces began to surrender.  If you haven’t read about his life, or read his writings, you are missing O so much.  Truly.  He wrote prolifically from  prison, many many letters and stories to his family and to  his fiance, Maria.  While in prison, there “was a helplessness in his situation that he recognized as a parallel to Advent, Christians’ time of waiting for redemption in Christ.” Bonhoeffer:  “Life in a prison cell may well be compared to  Advent…One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other – the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”

Well.  We all have areas or circumstances in our lives where either we or someone deeply loved by us have found themselves in that kind of a situation.  We can learn much from this real hero…

Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate runs the ongoing for the last Advent, when the work will be ‘see, I am making all things new‘ “(Rev. 21:5)

I am  just a bit undone when I read this excerpt from a letter he wrote to  his fiancee during the  Christmas season.  Please read this and re-read it a day or two  later – it really is quite profound, and once it is understood, so very encouraging.

“Be brave for my sake, dearest Maria, even if this letter is  your only token of my love this Christmas tide.  We shall both experience a few dark hours – why  should we disguise that from each other?  We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the  question of why, over and above the darkness enshrouding humanity, we should be subjected to  the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand…And then, just when everything is bearing down upon us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are  wrong, and that what  we take to  be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God.  Our eyes are at fault, that is all.  God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment.  No evil can befall us; whatever men may do  to  us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as  love and rules the world and our lives.”

letter to fiancee Maria von Wedemeyer from prison, December 13, 1943

If Bonhoeffer can say this…being, living right in the very depths of hell in a Nazi prison, watching his fellow prisoners daily be pulled out and hung, Hitler seemingly unstoppable…if he found solace from this, from the one and only one thing that is truly unshakable, that being the sovereignty of God…Bonhoeffer who is now reunited with his dear Maria, both cheering us on down here, while they watch from heaven as part of the great cloud of witnesses..surely this is worth meditating on and strengthening ones self in the midst of so many things “whose purpose we fail  to understand”.

God is in the manger….GOD is in the manger!!!

The illusion of security and Advent

“But we have stood on this earth in false pathos, in false security; in our spiritual insanity we really believed we could… avert the dangers and banish night, switch off and halt the internal quaking of the universe.  We believed we could harness everything and fit it into a final order that would stand.

Here is the message of Advent: faced with Him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake.  Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things

The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by Him, even if they are hounded from the earth….

This shocked awakening is definitely part of experiencing Advent…Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time.  These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts.  Being shattered, being awakened – only with these is life made capable of Advent…”

Alfred Delp, a Jesuit priest who wrote this in a Nazi prison shortly before he was hanged in 1945.  Advent???In a prison cell?

Our society fosters a false sense of security unequaled in any other place or time.  Children are raised to believe they have an inalienable right to live free of harm.  Precautions are taken to protect people from the most obscure and trite dangers…there is virtually no risk we are not warned against.  And yet our obsession with protectionism has not only become absurd but has proved futile.

I think Christians are often in greater denial of affliction than non-Christians because we almost feel we should be immune…”

-Palmer Chinchen, God Can’t Sleep: Waiting for Daylight

I have been thinking much on this: the illusion of security, and how undone we feel when we are “exposed”.  How affliction often feels, and seems, like an unwanted visitor who takes residence in our home, and you want him to leave even though you  know he was sent to your home by your Father, and you are asked to be hospitable to him.  How much better we feel when we have all our bases covered, and know not only the score but the outcome.

Is it possible that all these labors do keep us from doing some serious waiting and expecting of Him?   Is it spiritual insanity?  Is that why He said He came for those who are afflicted?  “Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things…”  Many of you are in the midst of affliction as you wait for Him to call your child who has wandered far from the fold…you have no illusion of security with their future with God…all you can do is wait.  Aren’t we all waiting for something?

Take heart!  “Being shattered, being awakened – only with these is life made capable of Advent…. Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time..”

The hidden happiness in a Nazi prison cell?  There MUST be a hidden happiness , then! O, how much of His first coming was hidden!  How much mystery continues to surround His people!  How can hidden be good?  We long for the Messiah to come strong and take charge, we long to be finished with this sorry old world, O Come, Lord Jesus!  Take heart as you wait, that He DID come and IS coming and WILL come again.  He KNOWS you!  He KNOWS your longings!  He UNDERSTANDS your weaknesses!  He rescued you when you were at your worst!

“The horror of these times would be unendurable unless we kept being cheered and set upright again by the promises that are spoken…Quiet, inconspicuous, they come into rooms and before hearts as they did then.  Quietly they bring God’s questions and proclaim to us the wonders of God, for whom nothing is impossible…

Understanding this world in the light of Advent means to endure in faith, waiting…for the abundance of the coming harvest…”

“Cheered by the promises that are spoken!”   Abundance!  The harvest!  Trust Him to be faithful with those desires of yours!  Rejoice that He CAME, and KNOWS the anguish of a mother’s heart, knows the hating of the afflictions after years of doctors, He knows and He CAME to take care of all those things!!!  He is Trustworthy!  O Come Emmanuel!