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LORD, draw my dross up to the surface
purifying me for Your eternal purpose.
As You turn refining heat up higher
please set my love for You on fire!
Wait on the Rock Who is your strength
and on His all-sufficient grace rely.
Each body-ailing, pain-prevailing,
stamina-failing groan or sigh
consider now at greater length
in light of heaven’s eternal stock.

"I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
~ 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."
~ Romans 8:18

"The Struggle for Love"
"The Longing for Home"
So desperate to prove
That our hearts aren't alone

While death looms wherewith
To make dust of our flesh
We seek in a myth
Our souls to enmesh

With a hero of hope
A rescuing source
To widen our scope
And give pith to our course

An unshakable tie
An attachment at core
Which might silence the cry
That our hearts are at war

With a pure set of eyes
Full of fire and proficient
To dispel all the lies
That our souls aren't deficient

But it's not our mere lack
Which causes most dread
It's the earth-shattering fact
That our spirits are dead

Cut off from their Source
In a black alienation
Humanity's curse
For its rank ins'bordination

We just want our own way
And to write our own story
So we plunge on astray
To seek our own glory

To play artist or muse
Or idol or chief
Any self-styled ruse
To assuage us of grief

Any measure to show
A lasting signif'cance
So that someone would know
Our unique magnif'cence

For our beauty's been marred
And we crave a redemption
Of souls twisted and scarred
By fulfillment's exemption

But, alas, we will find
That search hard as we may
There's not one of our kind
Who can carry the tray

Upon which the weight
Of our souls has been laid
For who can e'er tolerate
Its gross debts unpaid?

Such suff'cating mass
Of defects and ills
Pressed 'gainst delicate glass
Of egos and wills

Still more ghastly to bear
Is devotion unbound
For with millstone to wear
Its master is drowned

'Neath a sea of foul yeast
And becomes the enslaved
To a hungering beast
To a worship depraved

For the heart is a tiger
And must have its fill
So it raises a man higher
With a kiss before the ****

Not intentionally, of course,
Does it slaughter its idol
But of hurricane force
Is this longing so vital

And as pedestal turns
So quickly to altar
Our wounded pride burns
When our gods and alms falter

And the fire of its rage
Turns upon its obsession
Tiger breaks out of cage
To reclaim self-possession

It bites and it tears
What it once so adored
And pride no longer cares
If it kills its false lord

But upon such demise
The soul screams in terror
For it's broken its prize
And can't take back its error

It begs and it pleads
To restore what's been lost
But at end knows it needs
To consider the cost

Of the damage untold
It has left in the wake
For hearts can't be controlled
With a gush or a shake

No, men's hearts are like bombs
Which so easily explode
Once the pin is removed
All past wrongs will re-load

So the prey becomes hunter
When the tiger attacks
For he does not want her
To see what he lacks

As he, too, had put
Her up in wrong place
But now steps his foot
Upon her shamed face

To now pulverize
As his own heart's been crushed
To blind out her eyes
And to see her lips hushed

For with words idly spoken
She'd stabbed at his soul
And had left his pride broken
By her judgments so cold

She had not meant to harm
Knew not e'en that he heard
But one cannot disarm
A thought put to word

Worse than not knowing this
She no longer knew him
And her once imagined bliss
Proved a nullified whim

Oh, what games and delusions
We play and we build
Upon empty illusions
And dreams unfulfilled

Yet strangely it's when
Our worst fears come true
We can finally transcend
All those old tales we grew

Out of ego and void
Out of sorrow and pain
When our nerves felt annoyed
And our hearts felt too vain

'Cause when ego is puffed
It is primed, too, to pop
And with pinprick is snuffed
Like a pest-blighted crop

So imagine much more
When a venom's injected
Right into its core
And its heart is rejected

But can you also not see
How it needs such a burst
To begin to get free
From its self-absorbed curse?

Except now feels the matter
Of our soul's isolation
Fiercer still with the shatter
Of our pet consolation

So we wait and we wonder
If we've missed the true meaning
Of the frightening thunder
In our heart's constant screaming

Whether homesick or lost
Whether lonely or grieved
Locked in bleak Winter's frost
We find little reprieve

Yet we know we've been made
For the glory of Spring
Some card's still to be played
Some grand song still to sing

Inexpressible yearning
For some secret we know
But can't speak for the burning
Repercussions of woe

Not some mere melancholy
Nor nostalgic forlorn
Not the musings of folly
But a sense that we're torn

From primordial root
And from headwaters fresh
Yet much deeper to boot
From our spiritual breath

'Tis an ache not for wares,
Appreciation or fame
But a fight just for air
Against strangling shame

For we're naked, we know
And with all we devise
Our most flawed parts still show
To a pure set of eyes

Like we're walking around
With no covering intact
But thin hospital gown
With wide split up the back

So we hide our true face
Aim to be what we're not
Work our blots to erase
Lest our schemes should be caught

Be 't by friend or by foe
We dare not risk the pain
Of humiliation's blow
On top of our stain

But instead of relief
Anguish grows louder till
This life's loneliest grief
Paralyzes the will

And last hope all but dies
On doubt's bed of despair
While embittered heart cries
That its lot's too unfair

Yet on outside we play
Through our unconscious mind
Man's collective charade
That everything's fine

Like some pact we'd all sworn
To uphold and obey
To protect from the scorn
Of society's sway

If we run with the flow
'Stead of strive 'gainst the tide
We might make enough show
To salvage our pride

We forget that conceit
Is what caused all the mess
Through a serpent's deceit
And a couple's wrong guess

'Twas they first tasted shame
And then hid in a garden
Sewing fig leaves as claim
To secure their own pardon

Yet in horror they knew
They had squandered the Prize
And must flee from the view
Of a pure set of eyes

Now same state of awry
Runs through each of their seed
Inborn and borne by
Like the thorniest ****

Whose nettles pierce deep
And infect every part
While roots tangle and sweep
Through the mind and the heart

It mocks what we've lost
Torments every dim hope
To constrict and accost
Like a noose-tightening rope

Still, hope won't be decayed
Smold'ring fires yet burn
Sparking hints that we're made
For bright Eden's return

This redemption we crave
Is no phantom's false plea
But as crestfallen wave
Hides itself in the sea

It's been veiled in plain sight
Big as all of our stories
Deep as mankind's full plight
And as high as its glories

Cloaked in every ambition
That we have to get in
To some exclusive coalition
For its favors to win

Lurks a bleeding predilection
Frustrated from birth
A desire for election
To bestow on us worth

Lured by scent of a promise
To be chosen and known
Like the warmth of a mom's kiss
Given only to her own

We search tree after tree
For sweet intimacy's nectar
From a fruit that will be
Our secret connecter

To hope's nourishing breast
To life's honey from comb
To an undying rest
To a straight way toward home

One to wipe away tears
And allay deepest doubt
Which proceeds from worst fears
Of our being locked out

Of a garden again
Cast from pure tree of life
Dim remembrance of when
Mankind first entered strife

All our conflicts, comp'tition,
Confusion and blame
Find first cause in perdition
That's invaded our frame

Like the foulest disease
The most cankerous rot
Grown by monstrous degrees
Hatched by Lucifer's plot

This story's no ****'s attack
Nor archaic folklore
But the earth-shattering fact
That our hearts are at war

With a pure set of eyes
Full of fire and proficient
To dispel all the lies
That our souls aren't deficient

And it's not our mere lack
which causes most dread
But the earth-shattering fact
That our spirits are dead

Cut off from their Source
In a black alienation
Humanity's curse
For it's rank ins'bordination

And yet...

This is also the story
Of how those same eyes
The Possessor of Glory
Looked with love and heart cries

On the crown of creation
His reflection of Self
Made His own treasured nation
The heirs of His wealth

Now broken and lost
All banished from Garden
And He knew the full cost
To grant them His pardon

Had known long before
He had e'er even made
That first man of yore
Yet handcrafts anyway

For His love is so strong
And He wanted to share
His intimacy with a throng
His own children to bear

So with souls in convulsion
From their rebellious misdeed
Just before their expulsion
He promised a Seed

One untainted from sin
Who could take its great boulder
And the weight of His kin
Upon His own shoulder

A Hero of hope
A rescuing Source
To widen our scope
And give pith to our course

An unshakable tie
An attachment at core
Who would silence the cry
That our hearts are at war

With a pure set of eyes
Full of fire and proficient
To dispel all the lies
That our souls aren't deficient

For those eyes are His own
And He'd pay the full fee
By His body alone
To set our hearts free

He's hope's nourishing breast
He's life's honey from comb
He's our undying rest
He's our straight way toward home

He will wipe away tears
And allay deepest doubt
Which proceeds from worst fears
Of our being locked out

Of the Garden again
Cast from pure Tree of Life
Dim remembrance of when
Mankind first entered strife

But 'twas on another tree
That sweet intimacy's nectar
Was secured tight when He
Became sacred Connector

And the thorns of our curse
Were pressed onto His head
With not one there to nurse
As the Son of Man bled

Then the wrath for our sin
Was absorbed as He cried
And the foul curse was broken
When the Son of God died

But death couldn't keep Him long
Nor His glory dispose
And we found our lost song
When the King of kings rose!

The debt had been paid
He had finished the work
The tide 'gainst us was swayed
We weren't left in our lurk

And we've only to now
Just repent and believe
To open and allow
Our hearts to receive

Our Divine Fountainhead
Our covering complete
To sup from His bread
And to sit at His feet

To worship the One
For Whom we were made
By Whom we've been won
Whom forever we've craved

The One Who can bear
Our hearts' full devotion
The One Who won't tear
At our souls' raw emotion

The One Who will be
Sweet eternity's song
Who with lasting decree

First two lines taken from Timothy Keller sermon titles;
also inspired by his other sermons:
"The Breastplate of Righteousness"
"Blessed Self-Forgetfulness"
"The Sandals of Peace"
"The Wounded Spirit"


for more on this:

My depraved soul's unearthed
By the Holy Ghost's breath
And given new birth
Out of spiritual death

This wretch is turned 'round
Fit with eyes to believe
A lost sheep is found
And her Shepherd received

My blots are each edited
Out in Christ's fount
His righteousness credited
To my bankrupt account

A prisoner's been pardoned
No debt left to pay
A heart which was hardened
Becomes pliable clay

My life's set apart
Now from worldly regression
Picked out from the start
Made for Christ's own possession

I'm purchased with blood
Shed on Golgotha's tree
A slave bought by God
And fully set free

My sins were all laid
On the head of a Scapegoat
Who carried their weight
To a desert remote

Once an object of wrath
And deserving hell's fire
But Jesus took my bath—
Conflagration of God's ire

So an enemy no more
I'm brought into God's fold
Carried through His door
And out of night's cold

He calls me His child
His heir and His bride
Though once an orphan wild
Now seated at Christ's side

And soon He'll return
When salvation's complete
When no longer I'll yearn
For His own face I'll meet!
When all of worldly beauty's lost
When form and face have borne the cost
Of life's sojourn upon this earth
A greater glory then springs forth

When vanity is cast aside
With long-dashed dreams and fallen pride
At last a better hope I see
One anchored in eternity

When no one gives a second glance
Or offers promise of romance
I know the One whose love is true
Who looks beyond what most men do

When wit and charm have fled from thought
And company's no longer sought
There's still One friend who longs to hear
My every word, desire and fear

When awkwardness is more the rule
Than competence and being cool
His words I hear so gently spoken,
"Come, poor in spirit and all who are broken."

When those around me criticize
With disapproval in their eyes
He spreads His arms with full embrace
And wears acceptance on His face

When kindred spirit can't be found
And understanding's wayward bound
The One who knows me best will be
Thinking precious thoughts toward me

When foot is slipping, mind astray
From trying to fix things my own way
He rescues me with hourly grace
And sets me in a spacious place

When economic tailwinds stall
While monetary riches fall
He calibrates my heart's due trust
Toward treasure that can't rot or rust

When all my naught attempts at fame
Lie crushed beneath a weight of shame
I seek the fame of Him instead
Who calls my name and lifts my head

When youth and vigor fade away
And triumph seems an ancient day
My strength can rest in One who brings
Fresh power to soar on eagle's wings

When my last breath some day I take
Death's shadowed crossing, hence, to make
Upon Christ's nail-scarred feet I'll fall
To kiss that One who is my ALL

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Evil will always invite us to a feast of retaliation—that seductive chance to pay an offender back with more evil, disguised under the pretense of protecting what is rightfully ours and of defending our dignity. Reciprocated malice is what it craves most of us, as it thrives on infecting us with its slimy, slithery, leprous self. It seeks voraciously, insatiably to ensnare, enslave and devour us, for it's a hideously monstrous creature sent from deepest caverns of hell. Its predatory intent is to extinguish our light with its darkness, and if we open the door to it (even a crack) it will reach around with long, lecherous fingers to grab us by the throat and choke the life out of us with such force and speed that we won't even see it coming.

But goodness has an invitation of its own, an invitation both to us and to our offender, an invitation to drive out the infection of evil and illuminate the darkness. It invites us, when offended, into the precarious but glorious adventure of turning the other cheek. But first we must understand clearly that this turning of the cheek should never be mistaken for turning a blind eye to continual sin. It is NOT ignoring the hurt or diminishing the harm done to us so that we might spare ourselves the dreaded inconvenience of rocking the boat and disrupting our own greater interests, nor is it foolishly submitting to evil's unhindered presence around us and control over us while cowering in the face of it. It is not attempting to self-righteously shrug off that which feels to us like a serrated knife twisting in our belly or burying, beneath the layers of an ever toughening heart, the fallout from an ongoing betrayal which mocks all that is decent and sacred. It is not weakly accommodating habitual, sinful behavior in the name of peacemaking, giving up the good fight of faith in order to give in and just live with it while our soul suffocates in the meantime. It is not saying that it doesn't matter, that it's okay or no big deal. To do so (and I have surely done them all) is to deny the powerful truth of the gospel, the truth of the serious and highly offensive nature of all sin, the truth that God absolutely hates it, is greatly angered by it, calls it what it is and that He desires (and has made provision through Jesus Christ) to set sinners free from it, not simply overlook it and leave them entangled in it.

So we too ought to have a righteous anger toward the destructive nature of sin, both in ourselves and in others, seeing it as God sees it and calling it what He calls it by humbly speaking the truth in love and pointing them to Christ. And once we have removed (or are willingly, honestly engaged in the process of removing) the obvious plank(s) from our own eye (including a crouching fear of uncomfortable but necessary confrontation), we are supposed to do what we can (whenever and however the Holy Spirit leads us...that part is most essential) to help others (with mercy, meekness and wisdom from God) remove the speck from theirs. We are called to 'restore gently' (Galatians 6:1) and '****** others from the fire and save them' (Jude 23) as the Lord enables us by His sovereign and saving grace to do it, to enter fully into His kingdom work in this dark world and into the risky business of loving even our worst enemies. It is our high privilege and duty as followers of Jesus Christ and those who bear His name on this earth to participate with Him in His work of redemption. He alone can save and deliver from sin, but we are called to be some of the instruments He providentially uses in the process.

Turning the other cheek (as Jesus taught it, commanded it and lived it out) is a shrewd, deliberate and Spirit-led extending of extravagant grace and unselfish blessing to our offender, along with a daringly tactical invitation to him to show his true colors and his true intentions, whatever they may be. Exactly how this looks and plays out will vary greatly depending on the unique circumstance or relationship, and we must always rely fully on the Lord (on His word and through communion with Him in prayer, His perfect example and His prompting) to give us wisdom and creativity in carrying out our part with humility and discernment, never forgetting that we too are in want of much deliverance from our own sins and besetting habits and therefore in desperate need of others to graciously do the same for us.

We must ask and believe God for His step-by-step direction in all of these things and be willing to follow Him no matter what it might cost us, even if the price is the seemingly unbearable discovery that our offender does not and will not love us—a possibility which may feel worse to us than death. The paralyzing fear of such a devastating revelation can easily become one of our greatest stumbling blocks to giving truly wise and beneficial gifts to those who hurt us, especially if they are among those from whom we desire a particular intimacy and acceptance.

Are we willing to face even more rejection? Are we willing to set aside our own 'need' to be loved by them in order to courageously, unconditionally love them as Jesus loves them and as He loves us—with a yearning for deliverance from sin and restoration to intimacy with God that requires the laying down of oneself for the sake of the other, the spending of oneself on behalf of the spiritually captive, naked, hungry and oppressed? And if not for their sake, are we willing to do it for the sake of our own intimacy with Christ and our own soul's hunger? Are we willing to rest completely in and rely only on His perfect and never-ending love to fill us so full that it cannot help but spill over to them? Are we willing to trust that He is enough for us in all things and at all times through all situations?

However complicated the situation may be, offering the other cheek is meant to be a sacrificially loving and boldly open invitation for our offender to make a clear and definite choice between repentance or continued and greater evil. It gives him the freedom, the responsibility and the obvious opportunity to decide exactly what he will do with our 'other cheek.' Will he 'kiss' it with genuine kindness this time (as a pledge toward true restoration) or strike us once again? The choice and responsibility are his alone, but either way it will eventually expose him for what he really is and his intentions for what they actually are and, perhaps, by the mercy of God bring him to see his need and desire for true reconciliation and healing. Our part is simply to hunger for him to hunger after God and to do what we can to cunningly provoke such an appetite.

But even if that never happens, even if he chooses to remain in captivity to sin, evil will no longer have a safe place to hide in the shadows. And once it is out in the open we can look it fully in the face with our dignity intact and without backing down or shrinking from our call to always be the aroma of Christ, and we can overcome it with the power of good through the strength of Jesus and the praise of His name (even when the situation and the Spirit dictate that it is wisest to keep our mouth shut and 'not cast our pearls...'). And because of Christ's satisfying love and all-sufficient grace, we can do it again and again and again, not with reluctance and resentment but with overwhelming compassion and unexplainable peace flooding our soul, even in the midst of earth-shattering pain. We can defeat evil by our very refusal to give into it or become part of it and by our determination to rest in the Lord and His promise to defend us in His perfect time and in His perfect way. And that is the heart's ultimate 'vengeance' against evil, for surely it cries out resoundingly for it.

So rather than taking our desired revenge on the evildoer (our offender), we can take it straight out upon the evil one (the devil), upon our real enemy and on his evil schemes. One of the weapons which the Lord has given us to carry out this precise form of tactical warfare is forgiveness, and we must learn to use it regularly, skillfully and lavishly without giving way to fearful intimidation or self-serving cowardice. 'And who is equal to such a task?' Only the Spirit of Christ living in us! We are utterly dependent on Him to do it in and through us and, unless we yield to His grace and power, it will be an impossible undertaking.

Dear wounded and hurting ones, we have been issued distinct invitations to two mutually exclusive feasts, and it is time now for us to choose which one we will be attending. There is much at stake in our decision, and so we must journey to the foot of the cross to make it...
Alyssa Underwood Jul 2019
Through drift of days
comes rest in space and silence.
What’s past is ours to release,
God’s to redeem.
Scattered seeds of truth,
once sown in love or violence,
when yielded to His hands
may bloom in glorious gleam.
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