Saturday, January 31, 2009

American dreams

There is something in me that simply cannot be expressed, but comes welling up whenever I read stories like Tang Xiaozhao's. There is something about every story of people saying, "This is wrong, and that is right, and I'm willing to fight for it." There is something about every story of people yearning to break the chains of tyranny and have freedom. There is, in short, something about the American story and the way that it continues to prove a model - however broken - for millions around the world.

People love America. Plenty of people hate America's actions. Very few hate the idea of America. Tyrants do, of course. But the people? People love the idea of America.

America as it was meant to be, you understand: not this self-consumed and bloated picture of consumerism, but the land of noble people who will put others ahead of themselves and the good of their country above their own advancement. It's never really been that. But it has been the hope of that.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride form land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, you rpoor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Emma Lazarus' Statue of Liberty-seated words still move me, and deeply. Not because America is any of those things. But rather because there is something in the image painted in them that is far deeper than America. There is, you see, a promise of a better country - a really better country, where every man is every other's equal, where freedom is more than an unvoiced dream, where every man is every other's brother as well as neighbor, where justice is actually done, where pasts are washed away and every man has another chance.

America has never been that - not in its best moments, and certainly not in its worsts.

But people keep dreaming of America as what it dreams of being.

I figured out why.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in my heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11.28-30

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to reeive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. Hebrews 11.8-10

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a temptest and the sound of a trumpet a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them... But you hve come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gather, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel... Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12.18-19,22-24,28-29

For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create;
for behold, I create Jerusalem to e a joy,
and her people to be a gladness.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and be glad in my people;
nor more shall be heard it in the sound of weeping
and the cry of distress.
Nor more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who doe snot fill out his days
for the young men shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.
They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for liek the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
the wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,"
says the Lord.
Isaiah 65.17-25

People are dreaming of a city with foundations. They're hoping for a kingdom that cannot be shaken. They're looking for heaven. People love America because in the dream of America - only in the dream, but very deeply in that dream - there is a taste of heaven, a taste of what we long for, what we were made for.

All we dream of in America will be so far surpassed by heaven that we shall look back on it as but the shadow of an echo of a quickly fading dream.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. An dI will be their God, and they shall be my people. Jeremiah 31.33

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Ezekiel 37.27

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Sometimes I ache in the dark. I'm not someone who lays awake pondering this or that. I spend enough of my time in the day doing that. But sometimes, I ache in the dark of a soul's night, wondering. Not the dark of depression or anxiety. The dark of night. The dark that broods of hope. Night is not a time of fear, for me, though I still sometimes have nightmares. Night speaks of dawn to come, of the overcoming of the darkness by that first shimmer in the east. The moment, imperceptible but somehow discernible all the same, when the sky begins shade by shade to lighten, hours before the sun actually breaks in a splash of blinding light over the horizon, night is conquered. And the shadows never truly reined supreme. In every night, no matter how dark, starlight glimmers, high above any wrack of obscuring cloud, and though we cannot see it, conquers the darkness.

And so when I ache in the dark, it is a blackness that has been tinged already by the echoes of a dawn to come, pricked apart by needles of light that speak of a greater light of like kind but far greater. I ache for dawn. When it comes, with fanfare immortal, it will once and for all end the grip of darkness.

I ache because there is much to be done in preparation for the dawn. I ache because all around, unconcerned, sleep those who were called to wait beside me for the dawn. I ache because the coming sunrise will be more glorious than anyone can imagine. I ache because instead of wakeful, the watchers-called lie slumbering. I ache because the wakeful ones all too often wait alone. I ache because I yearn to see it break awesome over the edge of the world and forever banish night.

The dark itself troubles me not at all. My sorrow is for the pitied ones who think this darkness light, who think it bright enough. The dark will pass away, and those who have called it light will by the light be blinded. The night will be no more, and those who call it day will have their faith rewarded.

All will have their faith rewarded. A faith in night will night receive. A faith in light will light receive. The light makes all clear, exposes every lie, searches out the depths in every eye, eliminates forever fear.

The light of the world is coming. And I ache in the dark... to see it come.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo blog, week 1

I'm going to try to blog photos once a week through the rest of the year. A chance to appreciate the beauty of all that God has made!

Here's how I'm going to do this. Each week, I will upload the pictures to facebook, in a distinct album specifically for them. Then, I will post a link here, with the picture I think characterizes the album the best, imbedding a link to the album in that picture. Click the picture, and you'll see the rest of the album. You won't need a facebook account to see them; don't worry.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In retrospect, and looking forward —

In retrospect, and glancing forward —
I find myself at edge of precipice
With endless fall below and
Crumbling cliff beneath my feet
But no fear

For I have leapt from jagged face before
With nothing 'neath my feet but faith
And ever certain, ever true
The hand of God has carried me through

The glory of a free-fall step
The glory given to the King of Kings
Whose grace and strength become my wings
And there is no greater prospect
Than falling fully, truly on His word
For truer, surer than the dawn
Is all that we have heard
Is all that He has said

Pursuing Him together

A life of corporate worship can be born only where lives are devoted to private worship; but private worship can thrive only where corporate worship is practiced faithfully. The two are utterly inseparable. We are individually called to follow God, but we do not follow Him except that we do so together. Corporate worship is the overflow of private worship, and private worship the fruit of corporate worship. And worship is more than song!

Worship is the ascribing of worth to God in everything: in song, yes, but also in plumbing and writing software and cleaning bathrooms and grieving and sex and mountain climbing and falling ill and praying and hearing God's word faithfully taught and fasting corporately and feating together! Worship is living for the glory of God, and that can no more be done alone than it can be done without doing it oneself. Glory!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jeremiah, Lamentations, and prayers

Jeremiah (the book) can perhaps be summed up thus: God redeems through judgment and ransoms through suffering. The rhetorical questions posed in chapter 3 resonate through the entire book: their quiet but powerful statement that, all reasons so far as man can see aside, He will redeem and restore and forgive His people. There are both quiet foreshadowing (like anticipatory echoes) and forthright proclamation of Messiah to come. Glory!

In Lamentations there is a frightful but rightful weeping over all that transpired up to the fall of Jerusalem. Great grief, terrible in its depth - for God's temporary and temporal judgment was fierce indeed. (How much more so - and thus, how much greater the suffering of those subjecting themselves to it by willful sin - the unending, everlasting torment of Hell! This is a fearful thought indeed!)

[Oh God, let me grasp how grievous that punishment, and how glorious Your life, that my heart might rightly appraise the task of spreading the Gospel! Let me know both how terrible the bad news is and how very great (both of itself and in contrast) is the Good news! Let me live my life thus in light of Light and Life!l]

[Make my life a sacrifice to You.]

[Make my life a pleasing incense to You.]

[May my prayers accord ever with Your will. May they be bold and filled with power. May the change this fallen world!]

[May my words, spoken and written, and the testimony of my deeds, be a compelling and fitting call to Life: to a proper understanding and appropriation thereof by the redeemed, and to the attaining thereof by the lost.]

[Make my influence great, and make me nothing, for the sake of Your name, that Your glory be known in all the earth!]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A few thoughts...

I'm in Fort Worth, now; I was in Lubbock on Wednesday; I was in Colorado before that; tomorrow I will be in Norman again.

Christmas break has been a whirlwind. Time with family, time to catch up with a few friends, time with Jaimie, time with her family. It has been incredibly good, refreshing, encouraging, and I'm very much looking forward to the coming semester. Not least, I'm looking forward to seeing all that God will accomplish. Every time I go into a new season of life, I find myself more expectant about His work and more excited about seeing Him glorified in that season.

There are interesting days ahead, to be certain. We live in days of uncertainty. There has perhaps been no worse time in my life to be seeking employment, and I am coming quickly to the close of college. Interestingly, I find myself not at all troubled by this. I know not what form God's provision will take, but that is of little consequence. Why? A moment ago I momentarily made a typo, writing "Good" instead of "God," and in that typo is a shadow of the truth on which our hope is pinned: God is indeed good. He is the source of all good; indeed, He is the very definition of good. And on that truth I rest all my hope. I have a wedding coming in July (yes, July!), and a family to support from that wonderful day forward. I rest, though, in knowing that it is not I who will ultimately provide; my source of provision as ever is my great King. All that is made is His; He is not troubled by struggling economies or by...

any of our circumstances. Why the pause? Because there was 24 hours or so between the writing of the beginning of that sentence and its finish.

I sit now in my dorm room in Norman, having completed the final leg of the trip I spoke of above. I sit here, missing Jaimie, but looking forward to seeing her in a few days. I sit here, frankly not looking forward to RA training this week - that is another post, or no post at all - but excited about the semester ahead as an RA. I sit here, not ready for classes to begin, but yet very much anticipating them and expectant that I will enjoy all of them. I am, it seems, something of a mess of contradictions. Then again, as I have reflected with friends, so are we all, and so we will remain until perfected.

I will be posting at least once a day the rest of this week, or such is my goal, and if God willing I will meet it. I look expectantly to the rest of this hour, of this day, of this week, of this month, of this year, knowing that all that God has in store will be far better than anything I might plan. May His grace fill you and keep you in perfect peace; may His glory be your one passion!