Those Puritans had it goin’ on

“Help me to hold out a little longer

until that happy hour of deliverance comes

for I cannot lift my soul to thee

if thou of thy goodness bring me not nigh.”

– From “Need of Grace” in The Valley of Vision

I love reading and praying the prayers of saints who have gone before me. The Psalms, for example. Another one of my favorite books is The Valley of Vision, which is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. The beautiful language of the prayers illuminates truth to my soul and inspires me to pray and write deeply. The Puritans had faults—no doubt. But the writers of these prayers also had the Spirit. For anyone, but especially for my fellow Christian writers, I highly recommend you get this book.

What books (or articles) do you recommend on Christian art, poetry, or prayer?

(I also just got Awed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth by Walter Brueggemann, but I haven’t read as many of the prayers yet.)

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Prepare My Heart to Praise You Then

I’ve said and heard many times in Bible studies before “It’s so much easier to praise God when life is going well for us.” It’s true. A few days ago I was feeling unusually joyful and happy about life. As I was singing worship songs in the two-hour drive I was taking that day, I prayed, “Prepare my heart to praise you then.” In the other times. In the less-easy-to-praise-God times. In the less-easy-but-immensely-important times.

I think of it as an infinite pattern of praise—praising God today for today and praising Him today for tomorrow. “Lord, I praise you today. And I praise You that when hard times come tomorrow, You will be with me. And I praise You because when you get me through the hard times of tomorrow, and I’m tempted to ignore You and boast in myself, You will be with me. And I praise You that when I’ve been humbled from that boasting that follows the hard time following the goodness of today, You will still be with me!”

And so this is what I’ve written over the past week:

Prepare my heart to praise You then
When darker days do come.
When earth gives way and mountains move,
Recall to me Your love.
Steadfast, I know it never leaves.
Each morning it is new.
I trust You for the coming doubt
That You will see me through.

The woes of earth surprise me not.
Already I rejoice.
I hide Your word within my heart
To always know Your voice.
With truth in hand, I’ll face the trials.
My double-edged sword
Cuts down the lies that pull me far
Away from Christ my Lord.

With eager heart, expect great things,
His glory coming soon,
A story of His faithfulness
To never-changing tune.
Steadfast, I know You never leave,
Each morning grace anew.
I trust You for the coming doubt
That you will see me through.

Some verses referenced:
Lamentations 3:21-22; Psalm 46:1-3; 1 Peter 4:12; James 1:2; Psalm 119:11; Psalm 105:5; John 10:3-5, 14-16; Hebrews 4:12; Romans 8:18

Thank You, Father

Sometimes God amazes me. Oftentimes God amazes me.

This week started off with an off-the-charts “meh” level. I was stressed about school, anxious about life, and feeling very lonely. A few days ago I thought to myself: I cannot live like this. I could not make it through this semester if nothing changes. I need more of God.

I don’t always like to draw a direct cause and effect link between these things, but last week I was not spending enough time with the Lord, especially in the Word. I’m fairly sure that had some effect ton why I was feeling so down and anxious. While I was praying about my anxieties, I wasn’t listening to God’s words in Scripture.

So the next morning I woke up and put aside the excuses. It didn’t matter if the house was burning down, I was going to read the Bible. I don’t think it was really the checking of the “read Bible” box, but it was the turning toward God and relying on Him that changed my outlook—saying, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

Perhaps what amazes me most is how God prepares me and refines me through trials. A week ago I posted about how God always holds my hand. It was inspired, as I mentioned, by someone else’s hardship, and yet even as I posted it to my blog, I was beginning to realize how much my heart needed to hear that message. I believe God is always with me, holding my hand in the valley of the shadow of death which is this life. But I want to share a couple ways God “squeezed” my hand to remind me of this in the last 24 hours.

  1. Financially – There’s a good chance I will have a free place to stay when I’m traveling for a wedding in a few weeks. I was getting a little worried as I was searching for hotels earlier this week, but I think I now have another option. It’s not 100% settled yet, so I’m continuing to pray through this, but it was the greatest relief.
  2. Relationally (a) – I was sad that a particular friendship seemed to have ended, and I was praying for some sort of reconciliation, and yesterday, I saw concrete progress in that direction.
  3. Relationally (b) – I am absolutely overjoyed right now because I just learned that at aforesaid wedding, I will get to see a dear friend whom I’ve not seen in over a year!

And now, I’m off to finish my writing assignment for what I’m sure will be a long night (early morning), and yet, even in this, I’m encouraged as I was reminded today about where my identity is (not in academics):

Thank you, Father,
That whatever I do,
To the heights I’ll reach,
To the lows I’ll fall,
When the As become Cs or the Cs become As
When the undesirable becomes desired,
Then returns to ugly again,
My identity is secure above
As beloved, child of the Most High God.

Let Me See (a hymn?)

For several years now I’ve had an interest in hymn writing. I haven’t quite mastered the art like I seek to, but I’ve dabbled. A little over a year ago, I gave it a go with the inspiration in an artistic Bible study. We were given a Bible passage (Mark 10:46-52) to meditate on for the week to see if it inspired us to create any form of art. So many things stood out to me in the passage, most all of which are addressed in my attempt at a hymn. My friend later helped me add chords to the words, though the current melody I use does not sound like a traditional hymn. I’m very open to others adding different melodies as one benefit of hymns is that with their consistent meters it can be easier to apply different tunes.

Speak, oh weak one, cry for mercy
Shout in faith that God will come
For the Lord so loves to listen
And restore the broken one

“Give me eyes and let me see you!
Make my body whole again
Give me eyes and let me see you!
Make my spirit well within.”

Let the world not overpower
Let the many back away
Jesus longs to hear the humble
Let the weak one have his say

“Give me eyes and let me see you!”
Cries the weak one to the Lord.
“Give me eyes and let me see you!
Make me pure forevermore.”

Come, oh weak one, run to Jesus
Throw aside the weight of sin
Faith has healed the blind man, jumping
Faith will let you live again

“Give me eyes and let me see you!”
Eager trusting in His name
“Give me eyes and let me see you,
Healer God, who cures the maimed.”

Go, and follow after Jesus
Eyes now open, watch His way
With His mercy, heart rejoicing
Always trust Him and obey

“Give me eyes and let me see you!
Make my body whole again.
Give me eyes and let me see you!
Make my spirit well within.”

He always holds my hand

I know God promises to never leave me or forsake me. Yet sometimes, I want a reminder. The doubt becomes too much. The struggle becomes too much. And I ask God to make His love real to me. I ask Him to show His face to me.

The other day a Facebook friend was struggling and posted on Facebook asking for prayer. So many people responded with genuine comments and prayers. Those things—little things—prayers, verses, sermons, songs, or uplifting words of a friend can be the beautiful signs of love God shares with us.

~~~

He always holds my hand,
But sometimes I need a squeeze
To remind me that He’s there
While looking after me

Promise still enduring
To be with me to the end
My ever-present Savior
My ever-faithful friend

He always holds my hand,
But sometimes I need a squeeze
To remind me that He’s kind,
And tenderly He sees.

His love still effecting,
To relieve my restless heart
My ever-gentle Savior,
I know, will not depart.

He always holds my hand
But sometimes I need a squeeze
To remind me that He reigns
Sovereign o’er my needs.

His hope still persisting
To subdue my mind’s despair.
My ever-winning Savior
Still holds my hand with care.

Psalm 27

A poem inspired by Psalm 27.

Fearless is defined by Him,
The stronghold of my life.
Trials increase day by day,
But in the Lord I hide.

One thing I do ask and seek
To dwell within His house.
To gaze upon His radiance—
What beauty all around.

Carefully conceal my soul.
Lift me onto the rock.
Safe, I sing with joy to Him
For He forsakes me not.

Earnestly, I seek Your face.
Forgive me for my sins.
Undeserving, even still,
The Lord will take me in.

Waiting heart, courageous heart,
I know His good shall come.
Life will be the epilogue—
Eternal home with God

Palace Plans

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity