The joyful heart is the buoyant heart
empowered to rise above its circumstances
unweighted, unburdened, unbound
tied only to that which would lift it higher
untethered from anything which would
pull it down, pull it under or suffocate it.
It's the free heart, quiet and at rest
yet jubilant and uncontained
the celebrating heart, the praising heart
the thankful heart, the heart set on pilgrimage
bent on adventure, journey and romance.
All the while it's a waiting heart
because it's a yielded, led heart—
a heart which doesn't run ahead of the LORD
but willingly, quickly to the LORD—
a heart that though eagerly anticipating each
twisting turn, next horizon and changing path
keeps its eyes fixed not on the scenery
but on the Shepherd, because it's a heart
persuaded that He alone is the Great Reward
for which it has always been looking.
True joy is only ours when we find an endless
source of satisfaction, and of these I know only One!
The secret to all joy is to crave Him above all else.
The joyful heart is the one addicted fully to Him
desperate for Him to the expense of all else
willing to sacrifice everything to have that craving satisfied.
Joy and idols, I have learned,
do not easily reside together in the same heart.
So if I find that joy is chased away
the most likely culprits are my own desires.
What am I wanting more than Jesus?
For if intimacy with Him is the supreme goal of my life
then nothing can arise which I'm not enabled to bear with joy.
There is, I suppose, nothing so reliable as suffering and loss
to expose all of the hidden idols within me.
It's surely those who have suffered the greatest
and most frequent losses for Christ who are also
the most capable of knowing the deepest and most abiding joy.
For it's when we've been stripped bare of everything else
that we begin to know for certain that our joy is based
not on the temporary blessings of our circumstances
but only on the presence of the Eternal Blesser Himself.
Sometimes He offers to us all that is in His right hand,
but for any with eyes truly opened to see
the most precious of times may be those
when He offers to us only the intimacy of His right hand.
Rivers of sadness can open up
into wide gulfs of endless delight and
are often the very courses needed to carry us there.
When all is lost, we find to our amazement
that, even so, we still have ALL
and no one can rob us of it.
When He takes everything from us
He proves Himself to be EVERYTHING to us.
this is the core
of my prayer to You:
all I have is a scrap
deeply wounded faith
darkness tries to swallow me whole
the devil & his demons flay me
Throughout my trials and tribulations
the Lord has wounded me greatly
as I have also wounded myself
& been wounded by life
Still the Lord carries me daily
as He carried me on a Cross one Passover Day
I am slain daily by things within and without my control
the pain too burdensome to bear
Yet He gifted me stubbornness of spirit
to not give up in spite of the hurt
I thank Him for the gift of making me a warrior
to fight in this brutal spiritual war
His Spirit renews me daily
even when I turn away
lost amongst carnalities of life
until I am broken again
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear[ when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit...
There are times when the Lord will take from us every familiar thing and send all the others away to have us to Himself, uprooting and dismantling our earthly anchors until we find no safe place of attachment but to Him alone. And though we search feverishly to secure another, He will faithfully cut off our efforts at every pass and every attempted by-pass, almost as though we could see them being escorted out the door, marching one after the other in file and possibly taking our sanity with them. “No, not another one! Where are they all going and why am I not invited?” But it is His alone to give or not to give, to give and take away.
The One Who took up the cross and took the cup of the Father’s wrath for us has the absolute right to take anything and everything from us at any time for whatever reasons might please Him. But know this for certain: concerning His redeemed, those reasons will always involve two things—glory and intimacy. They are the overriding answers to every lingering question of “Why?”.
But if we fail to understand His glorious and intimate intentions we may misconstrue our losses to be a sign that He is actually withdrawing His affection from us. The very things which He is doing for love’s sake to perfect our pathway to intimacy might be taken instead for obstacles blocking it, causing us to doubt His love. We could not be more wrong, but sometimes it is so hard to see through the veil of pain.
For it is a strange and bewildering thing to feel that you belong to no place and no person in this world, to have nowhere to call home and no one to share it with if you did. A severe untethering indeed that though meant to prepare us for flying can seem to us more like drowning. The sobering truth is that none of us belong to this life or the things of this earth; all sense of it is only an illusion, and pain and loss are simply the dispelling of the myth—the rude awakening from a bewitching dream we once had. But oh how we fight the disillusionment.
Perhaps we remember a time when we had prayed to be refined, to be made more like Jesus, but we didn’t know it would have to hurt so bad and take so long and look so dark and feel so lonely. Even if we have understood and embraced His call to deeper intimacy we may after a while, when nothing seems improved either around us or in us, start to resent our belonging to such a determined and jealous Lover, though He is doing exactly what we had once asked Him to. We may start to think we can no longer bear anything except that which superficially distracts us from our grief. We may even start to give up hope, for if not anchored exclusively “behind the curtain” and if repeatedly crushed it threatens to kill our hearts for good should we have to face one more disappointment.
We may feel very much like we are flailing around in a deep and darkening ocean, repeatedly pulled under by the powerful tow and thrashing waves of overwhelming emotion and continuously knocked back by the brutal winds of confusion. Yet we can still see the unshakable boat of faith and truth standing solidly only a small distance away. We know it is real and that if we could just reach it we would be safe. We hear someone shouting through the din, “Just hold onto the boat! The boat will save you. Look beyond your feelings and walk by faith. Hold onto truth!” But can’t they see that as hard as we may try we have no strength to swim to the boat? Can’t they see that we are sinking?
And so we are left with nothing but to cry out to Jesus, to cry out to Him to bring the boat to us, to come Himself and rescue us. Do we have that much faith? Enough to just say, “Jesus, help me! I’m drowning!”? Enough to see that He is our only hope and nothing else matters apart from Him?
Because when we do, we will understand that this hope in Him alone is the very lifeline by which He will pull us to safety—back to faith, back to truth, back into His intimate arms of love, back into a peace which passes all understanding and into a joy that gives us strength for the journey.
As difficult as it can be in our grief to hear the Lord whispering truth to our hearts above the constant clanging of our feelings, we must now more than ever choose to take the time to be still and seek our soul’s rest in Him and in His promises. But how amidst such clamor and confusion?
Simply decide to cast your cares on Him, if only for the moment, by climbing into His Shepherd’s lap to look and loiter and listen. And if you have no energy to climb up, then just lift your arms and ask Him to pick you up. And if you haven’t the strength even for that, only raise your eyes toward Him and you will soon find your sanity restored as you behold His love for you. Ask Him earnestly to let you see it afresh, for perhaps you have been temporarily blinded from recognizing it.
Stop everything; cease just for this minute from all worry, anxiety, fear and anger. Forget the past and do not look toward the future. Focus only on this moment right now, as if you knew it would be your last, as if it were the very one to lead you into eternity. Inhale like fresh air the powerful promises of God’s Word. Soak in their grace and drink in their healing, keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus’ face. Can you see Him longing for you? Exhale every distraction, conflict and uncertainty of this world. Then listen... What is He saying to you right now? Wait for it, then let your soul rest in it, and let go of everything else. Rest in the grace of this present moment and in His strong, sure arms. Let Him take care of you, wounded one, for you are His beloved, and He longs to tend your broken and needy heart.
As the redeemed of Jesus Christ, if we are ever to find true refreshment in our desert wanderings, it will be as we choose to dwell in God’s presence and in the newness of His daily mercies through faith. Our trials tend to force us, like pushy but invaluable friends, to learn hands-on what it is to live in the grace of the moment.
We live in the grace of the moment by continually recognizing both the immense need and the immense blessing of each moment (by developing a conscious and habitual attitude that says, “I am so desperately needy AND I am so abundantly blessed.”) and by relying on the Holy Spirit to teach us exactly how to reconcile the two. This happens as we first learn to live in the reality of the eternal, for it's an ever-present awareness of eternity that liberates us to receive every present moment with thankfulness and live it to the fullest, without setting up false expectations for it or worrying about the next.
When we are convinced that our life is hidden with Christ and He alone is the Prize, that this world is not our home and we are simply on assignment here, and that our pain and failures are only temporary but, with His redemption, the beauty and wisdom to be gained from them are eternal, we are set free from living in the regret of yesterday or in the fear of tomorrow. We can instead live in the blessing of the right now which fully meets the need of the right now because both need and blessing are gifts from the Father to get us ready for eternity and to meet our Bridegroom face to face. We have need of nothing but Him and His grace, and His fullness dwells in us.
The life lived in the grace of the moment is the life absolutely surrendered to the reality of God’s wisdom, God’s character and God’s sovereignty over it, for in entrusting ourselves to those, we acknowledge that He has a set and planned purpose for our lives, that it is good, and that He is powerful enough to carry it to completion. His wisdom assures us that He has always had in mind, down to the smallest details, exactly what He is doing with us; His character, that His heart is ever faithful toward us; and His sovereignty, that His directing arm cannot be shaken or thwarted. They reveal to us explicitly that He loves us with all of His mind and heart and strength, and in that knowledge we find perfect rest. As beloved children we know that we will be taken care of without having to know how it will happen or what it will look like.
In our helplessness we can simply look up to Him, reach out for Him and cry to Him in humility and thanksgiving, for our God cannot resist eyes and arms and hearts doing that. He always picks up and holds close to Himself those who long for Him. We may think that what we most desire are answers and perfectly successful plans and reasonable control over our lives, but what our souls crave is comfort and intimacy and love, and we can have those the instant we fully surrender to His embrace. He may sometimes hide His face from our “Why?”s but never from our “Hold me!” cries.
If we mistakenly suppose this life to be about this life, we will miss the present grace for fretting over and fighting for all the blessings we don’t have or fearing that those we do will be lost, until we find that they have become an unbearable millstone around our necks. If we pin our hope on anything in this temporary world it will be no stronger than that—a mere pin, easily pulled out and easily broken when life weighs too heavily upon it.
Enduring hope can only be based on God’s absolute promises given to us in His Word, not on our own expectations or wishes or impressions of how things ought to be. Enduring hope lets go of everything that can be lost to take hold of everything that cannot, and in doing so is actually able to squeeze the sweetest nectar out of those released and perishable blessings so that even their losses, though painful, do not leave a bitter aftertaste. For it’s often in the loss of a thing that its worth to us becomes most precious, and by letting it go with grace we can best savor its purest delights.
Realizing that the pain runs so deep only because the beauty ran so deep and that without it having once touched us we wouldn’t now know the emptiness of its loss, our grief will eventually turn to thankfulness that it ever touched us at all, and we will be left awed by the mystery of its haunting. There's a peculiar kind of beauty that can only be experienced with the innate knowledge that the moment is fleeting, and the most intense beauty can only be seen in the presence of both light and shadows.
The ability to enjoy our tangible blessings is surely heightened by the conviction that they are not ours to possess, by the acceptance that their loss is inevitable, and by the understanding that they were never meant to satisfy. For the enjoyment, then, will be absent the tainting dread, the taking for granted, and the twisted expectations which so easily and often mar our earthly pleasures. We will relish what we’ve been given today but recognize it may very well be gone tomorrow, and even in that uncertainty we will find a contented peace, for in every loss there lurks a hidden blessing, and all that really matters can never be lost to us. It is just as important to be a good steward of our losses as it is of our more obvious blessings, for the beauty that comes from nobly and graciously accepting loss far exceeds any tangible beauty that can be taken.
Knowing that we belong to another time and place and that this one is only meant to lead us there, like the charming towns one passes through on the way to a better destination, we will take in the sights with wonder and delight but keep traveling on toward our true home. For these sights, though tantalizing, are like mere slivers of light from a crack under the door compared to the glory to be found in God’s Presence. But when received as personal gifts of His grace, they become to us a stage precisely and delicately set by a Lover to attract the attention of His beloved, to show off His greatness and show forth His beauty to win her heart, and our hearts indeed are won.
To live in the grace of the moment is to keep looking to Jesus—to Jesus’ feet to lay our burdens down, to Jesus’ arms to be held securely, to Jesus’ hands to receive all we need, and to Jesus’ face to know our only sure hope and hearts’ true desire.
Lord Jesus, merciful and all-sufficient One, in every need, small or great, tangible or intangible, give me the discernment to discover Your extravagant gifts of grace, the wisdom to receive them, the eagerness to open them and the passion to cherish them well. Give me eyes to see and a heart to fully enjoy with gratitude each blessing You have prepared for me today, for this very moment, and may I thrill to Your every advance of love.
Eating and drinking, to excess
is an insalubrious proposition;
our gluttony greatly epitomizes
the selfishness that consumes us
when we’re blinded… by our lust.
Our poor behavior demonstrates
the foolishness of our flesh; if
we’re failing to ultimately trust
Him, then we’ll sow the seeds of
destruction and reap the ungodly
results, which may include death.
Despite our mistakes, His Love
covers us, as He patiently waits
for us to respond with the prayers
of a repentant heart; therefore,
let’s resume a way that’s straight
and narrow- the path towards Christ!
With a proper attitude of humility,
we can die to ourselves daily, as
Christ leads us on our path of Faith.
In a repentant state, we will see
that it becomes much easier to love
others- as we should! Our actions,
before men, allow His Light to shine
through us; His Word countermoves
against enemy attacks, when we speak
His Truth over Life’s circumstances.
We can overcome, knowing that Christ
gives us strength, when we’re weak.
I'm sorry he eats dinner without bowing his head to pray.
I'm sorry he presses snooze and sleeps in every Sunday.
I'm sorry he thinks the Bible is a book of fairytales.
I'm sorry he thinks mass can be measured with a scale.
I'm sorry he doesn't understand the ashes or the palms.
I'm sorry he can't spell Ecclesiastes, or recite Psalms.
I'm sorry he forgets not to use His name in vain.
I'm sorry he can't fathom forty days and nights of rain.
I'm sorry he knows Mary as the girl who had a lamb.
I'm sorry he can't distinguish Abram from Abraham.
I'm sorry you can't bring yourself to see his loving heart.
I'm sorry you think I'll forget him if you keep us far apart.
I'm sorry your little daughter has found a pagan man.
I'm sorry your heart breaks when you see him hold my hand.
I'm sorry he's not Catholic, but with apologies I'm through.
Because I'm not, nor will I ever be, sorry that he's not you.
- p. winter
you can spot a fallen-away Catholic
by the language they use-
once learned, it can’t be taken away.
Catholicism leaves an indelible mark
on the tongue,
a pattern in the script.
even rejected by wayward sheep
and wolves in their skin
bear the same brilliance
the same cry for understanding.
The Shepherd didn’t meet their expectations,
or maybe they’ve abandoned all belief in His existence.
No matter the qualm,
they all bleat the same.
There’s no removing the brand of baptism,
the vocabulary of vocations.
Even if a wall has been built
between them and the Church,
they still write the creed of their Fathers on its bricks.
This is not a reprimand,
nor a criticism;
it is a hand outstretched
to all who broke away.
It is a voiced desire
by their side.
This life does not hold all the answers,
but we can pursue Knowledge Himself
and reach the peak together.