In The Margins {A Mystery of Grace}

woman umbrella

How are you, friends?   I’ve been slowly working my way through summer reading goals only because there’s a select group of books worth the extra time.  I’m not great at recall, so note taking is my best friend and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it!

If you’re anything like me, you find encouragement in the lives and stories of people who, even as they weather life’s storms, can say without duplicity: “You’re a good, good Father”.   These are the  Jobs of the world, seeking shelter in the never-changing faithfulness of God, knowing we don’t just set our sights on a desired outcome but rather on the promise that He is working everything for our good and for His glory (Romans 8:28).  Being convinced He uses all things, testing and blessing, as the mold by which we are “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29), these men and women are confident that through thick and thin, He will be faithful to complete His good work in them as they abide in Him.  (Phil. 1:6).  More than platitudes, this is the rock solid hope for every child of God.  Each of us is meant to follow in the footsteps of Job, unfaltering in trust and even worshipful in suffering (Job 1:21).

But, let’s be honest — it’s not always easy to embrace this upside-down thinking, especially when it’s so very different from what we’re told “living our best life” should look like.  It is a mystery of grace.

“We take comfort,

however, that mystery

is not a synonym

 for contradiction.”

{R.C. Sproul}

Turns out, these ordinary people show us with extraordinary example what it genuinely means to live, regardless of everything implied by comparison in those little squares on IG!  This beautiful life, showered in goodness and often visited by hard stuff, is far too layered and abstruse to ever really fit on our itty-bitty screens .

instagram logo

And so, meet William Cowper. But before you start reading and decide mid-way to stop because his story seems heavy, I want to say the purpose of this post is ultimately to introduce you (or re-introduce as may be the case) to poetic truth at its best!  So, keep reading — I think you’ll be glad you did.

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In The Margins {A Place of Rest}

woman in field of flowers

/Part II/

In my last post, we looked at a one-sentence prayer from John Owen, chock-full of encouragement and guidance.  It’s the kind of food for thought we’re drawn to here at Readplenish.   To find a permanent place of rest has been the longing of every human heart since we were driven from the garden (Genesis 3:24)  This desire for and promise of rest is a theme whose thread runs unbroken through Scripture, stitching its way along exile and covenant, flood and new beginnings, captivity and exodus, brokenness and restoration, waiting and fulfillment.  Sounds like a familiar pattern?  You may recognize it as our story too.  The cry of of His people throughout millennia has been “Come, Thou long expected Jesus!”  We’ve always known He is “the very Sabbath of our souls” (1).

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In Quotes

pencil sketch sea gull

“Affliction may be lasting,

but it is not everlasting;

a sting, but with a wing;

sorrow shall soon fly away.”

{Thomas Watson}

Hi, friends.  I’ve been thinking about this laconic reminder, written for those who wonder if the storm you’re weathering is ever going to relent.  From the pen of Thomas Watson (1652), it has captured my imagination — to know the Father’s providence established that any testing in the lives of His children will be bounded by time.  Now and again, hearing truth we believe expressed in a fresh new way animates our hearts to trust Him through the waiting.

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In Quotes

606px-Kuindzhi_After_a_rain_Rainbow

“We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s

love in happiness.  We should instead

look for them in his faithful and

persistent work to conform us to Christ.”*

{Jerry Bridges}


How like us to often confuse what is easy with what is best;  to settle for crumbs of fleeting felicity when we can instead feast at His table and, like Mary, sit at His feet choosing the “main course” (Luke 10:42, MSG), “the good part” (NASB).  But choosing the good part isn’t always a smooth path and our human bent naturally pulls away from embracing discipline or obedience or trust when it comes at the price of our happiness.  We are, after all, inclined to look for time saving, pain avoiding ways to do just about everything (spoken as someone who, when given the choice, is all about simplicity).  But I’m learning that, while this approach serves so well to effectively expedite a myriad of temporal tasks, in the holy work of heart work, there are no shortcuts, no alternate routes.  It’s a lifelong journey, and often one that uncomfortably stretches us and asks that we take the long view of things.

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In Quotes

640px-Constable_-_Seascape_Study_with_Rain_Cloud

“He who rides to be crowned

will not think much

of a rainy day. “

{John Trapp}


Can’t you just picture it?  Horse and rider are soaked to the bone; cold, muddy, and you would think, feeling downright miserable.  But for this traveler, the stormy day is nothing more than a side-note — he’s riding to receive his crown!  With destination and reward clearly in focus, somehow his blurry view takes on a whole new perspective.  Everything happening in the moment –  things he can touch and feel and see aren’t what fill his thoughts.  Rather, he knows the reason for the journey far outweighs the hardships all around him. Although his furrowed brow, rain soaked face, and squinting eyes betray the testing, he leans forward on his galloping horse, looking past the immediacy of the falling drops.

With an ever-so-faint smile

he rides on as the warm glow

of both hearth and crowning

play out in his mind.

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In Quotes

peony field

“And from my smitten heart

with tears

two wonders I confess;

the wonder of redeeming love

and my unworthiness.”

{E. Clephane}


Sitting in church listening to the beautiful hymn “Beneath the Cross of Jesus”, I couldn’t get past this one line.  No doubt, many find this lyric to be harsh at best.  “… my unworthiness”?  Did the writer really mean to sound so severe?  Ms. Clephane, you’re bringing us down!

RC Sproul helps us understand why this lyric presents such a disconnect in a day when fallen human nature is celebrated and our prideful disobedience placated to unimaginable lengths.  He wrote: “Without God man has no reference point to define himself. 20th century philosophy manifests the chaos of man seeking to understand himself as a creature with dignity while having no reference point for that dignity.”  And so, the language of this old hymn seems jarring to contemporary sensibilities and twenty-first century self-awareness and empowerment.  But, perhaps the unvarnished words of this hymn should give us pause.

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In Quotes

 morning dew

Good morning, friends! From the pen of Thomas Ken, here’s a song for hopeful hearts to sing as we step into a new day.  I’ve got to believe our lives will be enriched and our acts of service enlarged when these words mark our devotion, reflect our inclinations, and give rise to worship.  Because He is worthy.

Awake, My Soul, And With the Sun

Thomas Ken, 1674


Awake, my soul, and with the sun

Thy daily stage of duty run

Shake off fluff and joyful rise

To pay thy morning sacrifice.

 

Wake and lift thyself, my heart,

And with the angels bear thy part

Who all night long unwearied sing

High praise to the eternal king.

 

Direct, control, suggest this day

All I do, desire or say

That all my pow’rs with all their might

In thy glory may unite.

 

Praise God, praise God all creatures here below

Praise God, praise God from whom all blessings flow.