Thursday, May 13, 2010

I have long neglected telling of Bettina's asparagus brilliance.  To be fair, I believe it is her mother Bonnie's brilliance.  But for me it is Bettina's.

Back just following the Great Snow, she came to visit me, to sit with me, to let me not be alone for a while.  Given that all the grocery stores in the area were bare of shelf, she packed her vehicle full to brimming with tasty things for me to eat, including sating my strange, sudden addiction to asparagus.

No, her brilliance was not in merely bringing me many bundles of that vegetable that makes me tremble with anticipation of the first bite and sorrow at the last.  Truly her brilliance lay in how she brought it:  standing it up in containers with water in the bottom!  What a marvelous idea!  Did you know that asparagus stays fresher much, much, much longer when treated like fresh cut flowers?  I didn't!

Two nights ago, I had the last of my just-off-the-farm baby asparagus (did I mention some of it was blue?) and it was genuinely just as tasty that night as it was two weeks before when I brought it home.  Tasty because of Bettina's brilliance!

She is that way...thoughtful and creative in the most fundamental manner...working out solutions to life's bothersome little issues.  Would that it were I had her brain!  Alas, that is not possible, but she is ever merciful enough to put it to work helping me...solving those things in my life that make hard days harder...or merely bringing simple joys such as fresh asparagus for days on end!

This day, as each one lately has been, was terribly long.  We are completely not ready for this festival that is now a mere 22 days away.  The very thought overwhelms me.  But the not being ready does not bring the despair over the thought of what will happen that day.

I cannot be outside in the heat.  Period.

Even if it were to be a balmy 40 degrees outside, I cannot be out and about for more than about 90 minutes...two hours if I grit my teeth and bear it.  Not on my feet.  Not walking about.  Not moving this way and that.  I cannot.

I cannot.

Yet I must.

Back and forth I consider two scenarios:  1) I simply do not go.  2) I go, faint, disrupt the entire festival, and get hauled off to some country hospital that knows little of MS-related heat exhaustion.

I know that God is the Creator of the universe.  I know that my life is held in His hands.  I know this.  But I also know there will be no good outcomes that day.  And the only thing worse than the thought of June 5th is June 6th...and the 7th...and the 8th...and every day after that.

Perceived "disloyalty" from two years ago, moments when I didn't do things correctly, are flung in my face even now by my boss.  Oh...I cannot imagine how I will be punished for the failure I will certainly become June 5th.  Such a thought terrifies me for I know how weak I am just now.

I am not sure I can understand and not understand at the same time, but that it how it seems.  Some fleeting bit of Gospel that is ever just outside my reach.

When sin awakens, when an old guilt preys upon the conscience and simply will not be dislodged from the mind, when constant sinning, which is ever a part of us, when our wicked, corrupt heart causes us to be fearful and to potter about, at that very moment one needs the consolation: Christ has also redeemed me by His precious blood; His blood and merit cover up my sins. Jesus, my Savior! But we cannot seize this comfort out of our own breast. Our own heart and conscience bear witness only to our sin and guilt, to nothing else. Nor are we able of ourselves to put this comfort into our heart and conscience. Heart and conscience resist, saying: I have sinned too grievously, too long. I am incorrigible; I am not worthy of any mercy. But then comes the Holy Spirit from heaven, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, and bears witness to Christ and testifies loudly and clearly: Your sins are forgiven! Christ has purchased and won you too! You are God's dear child! And this voice of the Holy Spirit, this voice of God, drowns out and silences the voice of one's own conscience.

The Holy Spirit inscribes and engraves this testimony of God's grace in Christ into our heart so that we give assent to this testimony and rely totally on this Lord. The Holy Spirit illuminates Christ in our soul and paints the comforting picture of the crucified Christ so distinctly, so brightly and clearly before our eyes that the gloomy thoughts of one's heart disappear and vanish, as night and mist before the rising sun.

To be sure, we often do not perceive, feel, experience this light of knowledge. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that lies hidden. Amid the pressure of carnal thoughts and lusts, in the hustle and bustle of temporal affairs, amid the burden of the cross and anxiety comes this treasure which the Holy Spirit lays into the heart. We search within ourselves for this new light and life, for this new creation, look into, search our own heart and mind and do not find what we are looking for, find nothing good. We think that faith has died. But, dear Christian, you ought to know this: God has set up eternal, visible, tangible means through which He gives His Spirit and strengthens your faith. It is true, the Holy Spirit has His workshop within the depths of our heart. But you should never seek the Spirit within you and draw Him out of yourself and your heart, but you have been pointed to the Word, to the outward Word that you can see with your eyes and hear with your ears. The Holy Spirit testifies through the Word, through the Gospel. Simply listen to the preaching of the Gospel, with or without feeling and emotion. Listen to what is being said about Christ the Savior, and do not look and search and rummage within yourself but within Scriptures, within the Bible, which on every page testifies of Christ.

Through the hearing, reading, learning the Holy Spirit comes to you and seizes and moves your heart even though you don't feel it. Just at the time you are bemoaning your poverty, sterility, impotence, and weakness, He is making you rich and strong. When you are unable to find any counsel and know not where to turn, He enlightens your soul. While you are lying prostrate, despondent and dejected, quietly and unnoticed the Spirit strengthens your faith through the Word. Only one thing is asked and required of you and that is that you diligently hear and learn God's Word, the Gospel of Christ. All else the Holy Spirit has reserved for Himself. Through the Word He leads you to Christ, through the Word He fastens your soul to Christ's easy yoke [
George Stoeckhardt, Unending Grace (Gnade um Gnade), p. 221-222].

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

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