Saturday, December 29, 2012

Slow to Anger, Abounding in Love

     A conversation God and I had yesterday gave birth to today's reflections. God's words to me yesterday triggered a lot of reflection on what I call the "golden thread of God's goodness" in the Old Testament, a repeated phrase that describes God as "the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness..." (NIV) Nine times in the Old Testament we catch a glimpse of this shimmering expression of the true character of our Father (Exodus 34:6,  Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15, 103:8 and 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2 and Nahum 1:2.). The New Living Translation renders it well. Exodus 34:6 reads, "Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness." 
     I am not sure why this is so hard for me/us to grasp. Maybe it isn't for you. But even though I have had this worked into me for many years now, even though I have written similar words to what I write today (see, for example, the following previous blogs by clicking here or here.), I still tend to forget that God's basic nature is one of patient, unfailing, endless love (the settled commitment to do what is best for me, no matter what it costs Him along with deep affection for me and much more). 
     I smile as I write this, though, because God's patience with us is why He keeps reminding us that He is patient! And God's love for us is why He keeps reminding us and showing us (in thousands of ways) that He loves us! We find ourselves in a beautiful quandary: no matter which way we turn, we run into His love!
     But does His patience with us give us permission to take advantage of Him or to continue to wallow in self-focus or engage in harmful things? Of course not. God's love for us is what leads us to transformation and gives us the power to get there (both in choosing and in doing). What His patience does is give us an always-present, safe Person to run to, no matter what. Father knows that He alone is our refuge, He alone can lead us to wholeness and purposeful living. He alone gives fruitfulness and life, not as some sort of Heavenly Santa Claus but as a loving Parent who guides His children to mature partnership with Him in His purposes. So it is that He will pursue us with His patience and chase us down with His love neither to leave us in a mess nor to "make things magically easy" but to bring us once again into the sphere of His transforming love and power. 
     So what about you? Do you need a reminder of Papa's patience and love for you today? I feel like I am still a toddler in terms of really understanding intimacy with Him and/or how to partner with Him in His purposes, yet if I don't lean on His patience I become discouraged and disabled. Perhaps that's why He and I had the following interchange yesterday as He once again reminded me of the "golden strand of His goodness." Now I invite you to step into the inner sanctuary of my heart as He and I converse. Perhaps something in our conversation will speak to you as well. I close with this excerpt from my journal.
     (Excerpted from my journal, December 28, 2012). "I am making progress, Papa, as you lead and shape me. Forgive me for complaining along the way. I suppose I would do that less if I would just let you love me. I realized afresh this morning (or was it last night) how little I truly understand intimacy with you and how I have tended to view even the journey into intimacy as a series of things to be checked off a list! Show me your ways, bring me into your heart, I pray, Papa. I can’t even understand this, and certainly can’t live this, unless you aid me all along the way.
    'It’s not that hard, little one. Just keep listening and allowing me to love you! I won’t lose track of you nor will I run out of love and patience.'
     Ah, Father. That last line especially gets to me: you never run out of patience! I need to remember that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 really is a description of who you always are." 

Marveling at His abounding love,

Tom, one of His little children

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Wonder And A Marvel

     "Season of Wonder" has for me always been one of the best descriptions of Christmas. The marvel of the incarnation has captured me for as long as I can remember. Perhaps that's why my favorite Christmas passages to read to my sons when they were little--something we did every Christmas before opening any gifts--were John 1:1-18 and Philippians 2:5-11. Yes, we read the other Christmas passages as well from time to time, but these two incarnation passages were, I think, the most popular by far, even with my sons.
     My sons both caught the wonder and marvel in the same way, I think, and I can't describe the joy that I have as a Father to see that my sons "caught" the same wonder that their daddy did! Josh even wrote a song about it a few years back, entitled "A Wonder and A Marvel." The words to his song capture many of the high points of this amazing season, so I paste them here in the hope that they will aid you in seeing the wonder. You can also download a rather low quality MP3 of the song by going here

A Wonder and A Marvel
© copyright by Josh Wymore.
Wonder of wonders: eternity entered time.
Marvel of marvels: the Word became flesh.
And I wonder, and I marvel how he came and dwelt among his own.
And I wonder, and I marvel how his own knew him not.
Wonder of wonders: majesty clothed with humility.
Marvel of marvels: the Word became flesh.

And I wonder, and I marvel that the light stepped into the darkness.
And I wonder, and I marvel that men loved the darkness instead of the light.
Wonder of wonders: God the Son became the Son of Man.
Marvel of marvels: the Word became flesh.

And I wonder, and I marvel that he came not to condemn but to save.
And I wonder, and I marvel that he made those who received him the very children of God.

And I wonder, and I marvel how the light broke through into the darkness.
And I glory, and I glory that the darkness could not overcome the light!

Wonder of wonders.
Marvel of marvels.
Glory of glories.
That God became a man.

Lost in wonder that God became a man!

Tom, one of Abba's wonder-filled children

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Running Towards His Smile

      It started with a footnote. Two little lines at the end of Psalm 16 as translated by Brian Simmons in the Passion Translation. Here's what it said: "There is no Hebrew word for 'presence.' When the psalmist wanted to speak of God's presence he used the word for 'face.'"
     It's hard to describe what happened to me when I read those words, but one thing for sure is that I was drawn into a deeper place of intimacy with Papa as I meditated on the difference between the rather impersonal sounding "presence of God" and the much more intimate sounding "face of God." I thought of one of the theme passages of my life, Exodus 33:14-15 and how different it sounds to read it when we hear God saying, "My face will go with you, and I will give you rest," and to read Moses' response as "If we can't see your face, don't send us up from here." I thought of the lyrics to the Paul Wilbur song, "Show Me Your Face." (Which you can view by clicking here.) And I thought of the chorus to a worship song I wrote a few years back, "Face to Face."
          So we will run, we will hide, we will rest in your grace.
          We will laugh, we will dance in your loving embrace.
          For you are willing, and you are waiting
          To meet us face to face.
     I thought, too, of the amazing truth that as a believer my spirit is constantly gazing upon God's face through the Holy Spirit. We really do live in the constant state of meeting God face to face!
     Papa showed me part of the significance of this yesterday as I watched our newest grandson, Kai, show me how he can walk. I noticed something I'd never caught before: as Kai walked into his daddy's arms, he was looking intently at his daddy's smiling face the entire time. Not once did he look at his feet, not once did look at me to see if I was watching. He simply ran towards his daddy's smile.
     I wonder what it would look like to look at Daddy's face and run towards Daddy's smile....

Looking at His face, running towards His smile, even while deeply aware today of how broken our world is and how so many today need our prayers and not our explanations.

Tom, one of Abba's little children

Saturday, December 8, 2012

His Tender Mercies

     I was in Brazil last week, and we were quite busy most of the time, hence no blog entry for last week.     
     Today, in continuing my writing on intimacy with God, I choose to give you yet another glimpse of my conversations with Papa as I reflect on His remarkable tenderness with us. I wrote these words in my journal this morning.
    "I am glad, Papa, that you have healed me up a lot compared to 2 years ago. The poignant and gripping words from this date in my journal there let me know that you are healing me, Father. If nothing else, of course, I have seen through this journey just how amazing you are, how patient, how kind, how infinitely good." 
     As some of you know, two years ago I was deep in the throes of grief and wrestling with all kinds of emotions as I looked at the ruins of my life. For some reason, even back then, though, I found myself expecting God to tell me to "suck it up" and be tough. I am not sure why that was the case--that's pretty much how I was raised, I guess--but whatever the reason, I kept being blown away by God's kindness and by His tender yet relentless pursuit of my heart. At every point I found myself in His embrace, no matter what my frame of mind or emotional state. Whether I was in the depths of despair, feeling like a miserable failure, trying hard to be strong, or whatever, I kept "bumping into" my Father's love. He was and continues to be infinitely patient and tender with me, and I am convinced that His "tender mercies approach" is what brought me to my current state of strength and wholeness. The following is from my journal on December 8, 2010.
    "I keep expecting you to tell me to 'suck it up' like my dad tended to do. Somehow it rarely occurs to me that you don’t do that when someone is 'bleeding all over the floor,' or even that I would never, ever do that to anyone. Do I think I am kinder than you are???? Where on earth did we get this notion that telling wounded people to be tough is best for them? Who would go to a doctor who gave that advice? And this is a wound far deeper than any physical wound."
     But wait, you say! Surely there is a place for toughness and pressing in and on. Yes, of course there is. But timing and context determine how the encouragement to be strong is given. God is perfectly attuned to where you are and what your circumstances are, dear one. So when you are "bleeding all over the floor" because of tragedy, you will find His tender mercies inviting you to be healed, not cruelly telling you to get over it! When you are starting to recover but still walking with a limp, you will find His tender mercies urging you forward: "I am with you. Don't be afraid. Keep pressing on. In your weakness you will be made strong." And even when you are feeling on top of the world, you will discover His tender mercies! This time they will be there to remind you to live in gratitude and graciousness, to fiercely enjoy the feeling of the wind beneath your wings while also preparing for the inevitable trials ahead. Everywhere you turn: His tender mercies! It's not like He runs out of grace, eh? I think I read something somewhere about His mercies being renewed every morning..... 
     Not sure why I wrote about this today. I am still fuzzy from a virus I've been fighting, so maybe this is the best I can do! I truly do wish, though, that I could convey what's in my heart--what I saw this morning as I peered into God's heart and saw His kindness. Yes, He will stretch us, challenge us, exhort us, but I marvel at how He does all of this with such grace and gentleness as His first resort!

Marveling at His mercy,

Tom, one of Abba's little children