Sunday, December 19, 2010

Looking for the light...

The agony of 10 days of packing is growing near unbearable.  I cannot fathom unpacking everything on the other end, but I do believe this move is a good decision.  I do believe that I am walking forward instead of stepping backward or remaining entrenched in a place full of nettles and bracken.  Still, I am near desperate for the barest glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

How I will drive myself to Fort Wayne is a mystery to me.  Especially since I now have constant pain in my wrists, fingers, back, and neck and my right knee works only part time.  I am so weary that I think I could sleep for two or three days and hardly notice and then sleep at least two or three more.  Perhaps that is the why of the closing delay...God knows my need for rest between finishing the packing and setting out on the road.  Or perhaps this is another lesson in patience...lessons of which I surely need in great quantity.

Still, the pain is so very hard to bear.  More so, I think, because other trials have come of late.  Pain in and of itself is exhausting and darkens even the brightest of days.  Having other battle crop up has increased the burden.  I am not sure of my theology in this, but I do believe that God gave me a higher threshold of pain because He knew the measure of my days and the life that would unfold for me. 

Much of my time packing has been spent thinking on crosses and on hiding in the wounds of Christ.  Neither of these I understand, yet both engender a longing within me that drives nearly all other thought. 

I do not believe I should have been able to bear the past 10 days or the pain of the days that will come until I am there and unpacked and able to rest for a while without the Psalter.  The prayerbook of the bible has become even more precious to me, the Word that lingers in my heart and in my mind.  So very much I do not understand and long know the meaning thereof, yet I pray these words, this Word still.  I do, from time to time, wonder if I am neglecting other riches God has given me in the Living Word.  But I believe I could hunker down in the Psalter for the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface of the wealth and wisdom and forgiveness and freedom and healing and hope contained therein.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Words of the Word...

Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens
                       By: Anna Sophia

Speak, O Lord, your servant listens,
Let your Word to me come near;
Newborn life and spirit give me,
Let each promise still my fear.
Death’s dread power, its inward strife,
Wars against your Word of life;
Fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor
That I cling to your forever!

Oh, what blessing to be near you
And to listen to Your voice;
Let me ever love and hear You,
Let Your Word be now my choice!
Many hardened sinners, Lord,
Flee in terror at Your Word,
But to me, who know my burden,
Show me now our Word of pardon!

Lord, Your words are waters living,
When my thirsting spirit pleads;
Lord, Your words are bread life giving,
On Your words my spirit feeds.
Lord, Your words will be my light
Through death’s vale, its dreary night;
Yes, they are my sword prevailing,
And my cup of joy unfailing!

Precious Jesus, I entreat You,
Let Your words in me take root;
Let this gift of heaven enrich me
So that I bring generous fruit:
Never take them from my heart
Till I see You as You are,
When in heavenly bliss and glory
I will meet You and adore You!

Hymn # 330 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Johann Schop
Tune: Werde Munter
1st Published in: 1658

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prayers God gave us...

Incline Thy ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
Do preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O Thou my God, save Thy servant who trusts in Thee.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to Thee I cry all day long.
Make glad the soul of Thy servant,
For to Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
In the day of my trouble I shall call upon Thee,
For Thou wilt answer me.
There is no one like Thee among the gods, O Lord;
Nor are there are any works like Thine.
All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord;
And they shall glorify Thy name.
For Thou art great and doest wondrous deeds;
Thou alone art God.

Teach me Thy way, O Lord;
I will walk in Thy truth;
Unite my heart to fear Thy name.
I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Thy name forever.
For Thy lovingkindness toward me is great,
And Thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set Thee before them.
But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Thy strength to Thy servant,
And save the son of Thy handmaid.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it, and be ashamed,
Because Thou, O Lord, hast helped me and comforted me.

~Psalm 86
(NASB 1977)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lord, have mercy...

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

I am not rising to the occaision.  I am falling flat on my face, longing to remember the sweetness of the Gospel, wishing I were better at hiding in Christ's wounds.

Thank you, Bettina, for holding my heart this afternoon.  I could not have endured such without you singing hymns to me and praying the Psalter over me.  Thank you, for being Christ's mercy to me.

God raised Jesus from the dead; He is my yes and amen.
Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day.

God raised Jesus from the dead; He is my yes and amen.
Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

God raised Jesus from the dead; He is my yes and amen.
I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

what will tomorrow bring...

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.  Perhaps not the morrow that is coming, but the tomorrow that is just around the corner...hopefully.  I wonder.

Today, a hard day following a hard day, brought less than good news with another hard day on the morrow.  I faltered, coming home and downing Dr Pepper when I am restricted from them, from caffeine for another week and a half.  I know my blood work has been good.  I know it was stupid.  I know I need some sort of Dr Pepper anonymous group or something.

Tonight was Evening Prayer.  I have turned into a liturgy glutton.  Here I am missing Compline greatly and yet I was all ready to start over again when Pastor sang the benediction.  The Phos Hilaron is so very beautiful and the Litany stills my heart and mind before the One who shows such mercy.  Of course, we have not sung Vespers in a while and I long for the versicles that begin both Matins and Vespers.  But back to Compline...I  long for the Absolution, Responsory, and Prayer lines from that office...and the Nunc Dimittis carries me into the night with such comfort.

Of course...we are no longer using Divine Service Three on the Lord's Day. I miss singing the Agnus Dei on page 198 of the Lutheran Service Book!

I wish it were tomorrow evening already.  So weak am I.  So much do I long to be past the next hard thing.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, December 06, 2010

the riches of the Book of Concord...

As much as I oft feel the weight of trying to help others delve into the Book of Concord, I cannot deny what an utter blessing writing the Snippets has been for me.  Well, the dual blessing of studying our Confessions, crafting intros for each segment, and typing out the snippets from our Confessions coupled with typing out the Psalter, psalm by psalm.

The Living Word is being worked in me. 

Really...without my knowing it at seems.  Oh, I am as lost as ever sometimes, yet I know that I am also found.  Sound strange?  Makes no sense to me, either.

Yet God's ways are not our ways.  I prefer His.  Mine stink.

Want to hear something stranger?  When the psalm for the day is short, I find myself regretting not having chosen a longer one once my fingers reach the final verse.  It is an ineffable experience to be reading, speaking (I sub-vocalize as I work), hearing, and typing the Living Word all at once.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief! 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

hymn washing...

In my online sermon hunting, I have come across a fair amount of blog entries on hymns.  Now, I do not need any convincing as to the wonders of confessional Lutheran hymnody.  But I will say that I sometimes read those entries with a wee bit of fear and trepidation, since a common theme is questioning why don't the folk in the pew sing more.  A common pastoral lament if you will.

I am one of those folk in the pew who would most likely disappoint all those pastors; chief lamentee I would be.

The whys vary; they must.  They vary with me.  It would be easy to say that I oft do not sing because I do not know the tune, which would be true.  Although, some hymns have enough verses that after six or seven, I could at least join in on the last one.  It would also be easy to say that with all the liturgy singing that I do manage to warble, by the fourth or fifth hymn my asthma is bothering me and I wish not to trigger an attack during a Divine Service, which would be true.

When Sunshine comes on Sundays, we sometimes sing hymns together.  Not as often as she would like, nor I for that matter.  Although, if I were to ask her to sing a dozen to me, rather than with me, she would.  Manna will sing to me if I ask, and she will sing in German to boot.  Brother Goose has sung to me, though I need to get better at managing the brief time of our calls in order to squeeze in a couple more hymns.  This last call was glorious for all the Psalms we prayed together—oh the wonder of praying the Psalter with one who loves it as dearly as do I!  How about this one?  Sure, but then let's do that one!  Only all those psalms did mean just one hymn.  Bettina will; she sang Friday night when I was lost and scared and she couldn't yet get to a computer to Google Map where I was and guide me home.  I Am Jesus' Little Lamb.  All of them, not really questioning why.  The new pastor has really only sung once.  But, when I did dare to ask, he did not question either.  He just did.  Lord Jesus Think on Me.

You could think it makes no sense for someone who cherishes Lutheran hymnody to remain silent while others are singing hymns around her, especially after existing in the Sahara Desert of praise songs for far too long, praise songs lacking any depth of musical construction and chock full of personal pronouns and works righteousness thinly veiled with lots of "I love you, Lord!" or variations if that is what matters most in faith...the depth of our love, the breadth of our commitment.  [Balderdash!]  Maybe it doesn't.

The truth is that most of the time, when I am silent, I am basking in the washing of the hymn, the washing of my wounds, my hurts, my fatigue, my doubts, my illness with the sweet, sweet Gospel.  I suppose you could say that is selfish of me.  Maybe it is.

There are no good words for me to use to describe how it feels to be washed in the Gospel that way, at least how it feels to me.  I sit and revel as the Gospel is poured over me, soaking it in, finding comfort and peace and rest and refreshment and healing...and strength.

The strength is because, in addition to being washing in the sweet, sweet Gospel, I am joining in the confession swirling around me.  Much of the time, it is a confession I long to make boldly, but would stutter and stammer if left to my own, so acutely aware of my sin and my failure am I.  Yes, I am baptized!  I am baptized and forgiven!  But remembering that day to day is still a struggle, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too high to attain. Oh, how the psalmist wrote the words of my heart in 139!

So, even when I am weak, I am still able to make the confession I long to speak because it is being spoken on all sides.  Before and behind and beside the Word is being proclaimed and me, for me.   Gospel for me.  Faith for me.  Love for me.  Peace for me.  Mercy for me.  Given for me.  Shed for me.  For me.  For me.  For me.

I will pray the Psalter at the drop of a hat.  Many weeks ago, I found myself in a place with a bunch of hurting people.  I found an empty room and opened my bible and started praying the Psalter because I was hurt and confused myself.  First one came.  Then another.  And a third.  I ended with five listeners.  Three Catholics, one Protestant, and one curious unbeliever.  None had ever heard the words of their heart being spoken for them.  None of them had ever been taught the sweet, sweet Gospel that permeates the Psalter.  It was heady stuff for them as I prayed for each of them in turn, putting their name in the psalm, changing pronouns and verb tenses appropriately.  Every single one of them asked me to do it again and again.  I prayed with their names, because it is easier to pray for another than for myself.  I prayed with their names, but I longed to pray mine.

I also sang hymns to them.  I will sing the 27 Lutheran hymns I know at the drop of a hat...that is, I will sing them for someone with alacrity.  Often, when it comes to singing for me, I am silent.  I feel the fraud, not worthy enough to voice one word of the confession found in the wondrous treasury that is our heritage of hymns. 

So, why am I silent in church much of the time?  Well, it is probably a given that I do not know the tune.  But that really is the specious answer.  I am silent because I am savoring being washed by the hymns.  I am silent because I am basking in the sweet, sweet Gospel.  I am silent because I long to believe, but my ex-Protestant heart still finds itself ensnared in the crushing failure of works righteousness.

The Divine Service, I have been taught, has two parts: the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament.  For me, it has three parts:  the Service of the Word, the Service of Hymnody, and the Service of the Sacrament.  All three are laced with the sweet, sweet Gospel.  All three are laced with forgiveness.  All three are laced with healing.

Is it wrong of me to think that one of the ways God is coming to me in the Divine Service is having my brothers and sisters wash me with hymns?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

a simple thing from bible study this morning...

We were reading in the gospel of Luke, chapter 18, and a simple comment by the pastor astounded me.  He pointed out verse 27:

But He said, "The things impossible with men are possible with God."

So often has this previously taught to me as admonishment, that when I think I cannot do something, I should remember that with Christ on my side I can accomplish anything.

Yet...the pastor pointed us back to the context, the parable of the rich young ruler, especially the three verses just above:

And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

And they who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?"

Verse 27 is not about what I can do, but what Christ does for me:  save me!  Again, it is not about me doing, but Christ!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!