Monday, 13 February 2012

An Excerpt by Oswald Chambers

I have a soft spot for Oswald Chambers (Or am I just a sucker for a good ol' godly British man when I see one!?). Anything I have ever picked up by him has pierced right to the heart of whatever season I've been tramping through at the time... While home, I often root through my mom's book shelves and this time I fell upon a little gem by Chambers called, quite simply, "The Love of God". Using Jude 1:21, Chambers expounds on my God's love in a way that challenges me to be "driven further and further out into the ocean fullness of the love of God", and I can't help but share it with you!

"Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
--Jude 1:21

"We know how to keep ourselves in health. how to keep ourselves in knowledge, and so on; but to keep ourselves in the love of God is a big order, and our minds are exercised to know what Jude means by this exhortation. Does relaxing all stringency and carefulness mean that we slip out into a broad, humanitarian spirit that says, 'God is love,' and 'God's in His heaven; all's right with the world'? No, it cannot mean anything so natural as that, otherwise we had no need of an inspired writer to tell us to do it, and besides, Jude strikes terrible notes of warning (see vv.17-19). 'Keep yourselves in the love of God' refers very clearly to something distinct and special, something revealed in the direct will of God; a spiritual endeavor that we must consider and consider carefully with the Holy Spirit's help.
'Keep' means work. It is not a lazy floating, it is work. Work, or you will depart from the love of God [I need to stress here that he is not taking about earning God's love here, but about the work it takes to keep ourselves aware of it, to remind ourselves, and to choose to live in the knowledge of it!]. Begin to trace the finger of God and the love of God in the great calamities of earth, and in the calamities that have befallen you. In sweat of brain and spirit, work, agonizing at times, to keep yourself in the love of God. It is our wisdom, our happiness, our security to keep ourselves in the love of God. How do I keep myself in any sphere but by using every means to abide in it? If I wish to keep in the spiritual sphere of the love of God I must use the great organ of the spiritual realm, faith. 'God loves me'. Say it over and over and over, heedless of your feelings that come and go. Do not live at a distance from God, live near Him, delighting yourself in Him. Remove all barriers of selfishness and fear and plunge into the fathomless love of God.
'Keep yourselves in the love of God,' not 'keep on loving God.' None can do that. When once you have understood the truth about your own heart's sinfulness, think not again of it, but look at the great, vast, illimitable magnificence of the love of God. Oh, may we be driven-- driven further and further out into the ocean fullness of the love of God, taking care that nothing entices us out of that fullness again.
'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?' (Romans 8:35). Oh, the fullness of peace and joy and gladness when we are persuaded that nothing 'shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

I want to be driven further and further out into the ocean fullness of the love of God. I want to take care that nothing entices me out of that fullness again. I want to trust that every single day-- even if those days include horrid and hard goodbyes with dear ones I love, and long journeys back to lonely and discouraging places-- He is inviting me to know more of His love. And from that place of receiving it, to every day give and reflect more and more of it. To watch Him transform this world with my own little piece of the mirror reflecting the truth of His love and mercy.

Let's keep ourselves in this love til our every decision, every action, every word, even every hope reflects it out to a dying world...

Thanks again, dear Oswald :)

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Beauty on a Bus

“Excuse me?”

I swung my head around back toward the bus I’d just exited and took in the image of the man approaching me. He wasn’t the kind of gent I’d hope to meet on a dark alley. Baggy pants, over-sized winter coat, the hoodie underneath it worn up, keeping the dark skin of his face in shadows. Whatever it is you’d call a grown boy of the inner-city ghetto, he looked and sounded it as he sauntered up beside me.

“I wanted to tell you back in Chicago,” He spoke when I responded to his ‘excuse me’ with slowing my walk and turning to him, “You are beautiful. Very, very beautiful.”

Of anything that I might have been expecting to hear, that was not it. I smiled, a bit taken aback, and squeezed out a timid, “Thank you!” with a bit of a nervous laugh.

“Very beautiful,” he repeated. 

I braced myself for what would follow, thinking briefly how I would navigate the uncomfortable come-ons gracefully and politely. I knew for a fact that I looked anything but beautiful that day. I had rolled out of bed at 6am, tossed on some comfy clothes, threw my hair up in a messy bun, and neglected all forms of make-up in anticipation of the 8 hour bus ride I would be making from Chicago to Minneapolis. I had just woken up from napping in a crumpled ball in my restrictive bus seat. It was surely an empty compliment delivered in hopes that he might achieve something with it… 

But as we continued to walk towards the station where our bus stopped somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin, he said nothing more. I held the door open for him, feeling obliged, and he waved it off, stopping outside for a smoke instead. 

I didn’t see him again the rest of the bus journey. He seemingly wanted nothing more than just to tell me that he found me beautiful; no strings attached... 

And as the fact of his random kindness sunk in, I was puzzled and touched.

For the first time in perhaps 8 or 9 years, I was in the Chicago area for longer than an airport layover. I had had the last few relaxed and pampering days with my dear dear Auntie Melissa. We had existed in an on-going soul-giving conversation of depth and laughter and tears-- while cooking, while going on walks through the neighbourhood, while having facials, while doing yoga at the gym, while driving, while enjoying a glass of sweet white wine. I cannot quite explain the beauty of such friendships as this. A few nights before my long bus ride home, I had the delightful opportunity of facing one of my many fears and speaking to my Aunt Melissa’s 8th grade youth group girls about the journey God has me on, and His faithfulness in my life. I had spoken to them about self-worth, about the lies we believe as young girls and the truth of how He assigns to us our worth; how our beauty is intrinsic. Speaking to those girls, remembering being in 8th grade myself, looking back over the years of His plan for me unfolding, was a powerful reminder to me of what it means to belong to this God.

And as I walked back out to board the bus and finish my journey, I could only look up at him with a smile. His beauty covers me. There is no striving in this beauty, there is no manufacturing it. It is Him, giving His gift of grace, regardless of what I do. 

And suddenly I am reminded again to rest on this journey of life. I am reminded again to stand before Him with open hands, receiving all that He has planned-- what I'd considered difficult as well as what I would consider sweet-- knowing that He is inherently trustworthy (and "why should the heart not dance" in all of it?), and He is all I need. Realizing that this is what Grace is-- His offering me His trustworthiness through every season, through every circumstance!

Somehow, it’s His beauty and grace which invites me to trust again and again and again as I walk on in all the unknown...
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