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The Father’s Heart

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Yesterday, I was enjoying life when all the sudden (you know how this happens) someone said something to cause me to question what I’m doing with my life.. and it nearly sent me back into a quarter-life crisis. Until the grace of God and all I’ve been learning kicked in.

I don’t know about you, but I can tend to spend more time thinking about what I may be doing wrong in life, or what I could be doing better, than thanking God and enjoying who I am and what my life looks like today – or in other words, seeing things through His eyes.

And how does He see things? That is the greatest question we could ever ask..

I have cried many tears in learning what the answer is. It has both been a very wonderful, and very painful experience.. painful in confronting how long I’ve lived outside of the knowledge and experience of God’s heart and love for me, yet wonderful to be discovering it.

Beyond Christianity 101, which is that Jesus would die to save us from our sins, is the infinite wonder that Jesus would die to bring us not only to Himself, but to His Father.. to invite us into His own personal relationship with the Father, that now we may call God our Abba (or our Papa) and hear Him call us His own beloved children, ‘with whom He is well pleased.’

Through Jesus we actually become the well beloved one in whom the Father greatly delights, feels proud of, believes in, adores.. like new parents do. Think of how deeply they fall in love with their newly born child.. without that child having to say a word or do a thing, but cry.

That is what happens when we are born again. Spiritually, we are the most precious infant imaginable, and the Father falls deeply in love with us. He sings, He dances, He cries.. and so do we, ‘our spirit cries Abba, Father..’ day and night, night and day.

In the last couple years I have often wondered how in life I can be such an independent adult going from work to church to getting groceries to friends houses, etc, and yet deep down, underneath all that I can do for myself, is something I most want and can do nothing about on my own.. it’s this cry.. It’s the cry I remember feeling since I was young, wondering what was wrong with me and why everyone else seemed so satisfied with their lives. Well maybe I also seem satisfied with mine on the outside, but life can feel beautiful or miserable depending on how I’m doing inside, and it always seems to come back to this cry.
And the Father is always hearing this cry, and responding whether or not we are aware of it. But when we are aware of it, we realize His love was always more than enough for us, and too wonderful.. beyond words, so beautiful that every dream and desire we ever felt makes perfect sense, and every grief and fear we ever suffered is put to rest, and we learn how to hope and trust again.

But how do we become aware of His love, His presence, His response like this? I’m sure a book could be written, and one day I hope I will write it, but some of what I am learning..

It’s usually less that means more.. just sitting in a quiet place, eyes closed, breathing.. “Abba, I belong to you.. I am yours.. you made me.. you cherish me.. you delight in me..” and maybe you won’t even get that far because you are so overwhelmed that God, in all of His wonder and goodness and glory and splendor, could be yours, and you could be His.. you can be 🙂

There is so much more that could be written, both on the ways of this communion and the woes of our doubts and fears in the process, but this note is just to start the conversation.

Aside from quiet times, I consider my life and how it might reflect His loving intervention. As an example, I thought by now I’d be in graduate school getting a degree in counseling, and instead I am teaching music & dance and arts & crafts to a precious class of kindergarteners. But right now, though I have gifts and skills beyond my current position, this is where I most find Him. He’s teaching me how to be a child with Him again, in the sweetest, freest way that allows me to enjoy my gifts in art and music and storytelling, without any pressure at all. I also enjoy these children on a daily basis, a sweet reminder of how my Father is enjoying me.

And yes, my accomplishments are important, but there is something more important, and that is my heart. And something even more important, that my heart is my Father’s..

I want to encourage you to take some time to consider how the Father has loved you too.. He is the one who gave Jesus for us, to bring us home to Him, and loves us with that same love.

The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Thank you to Sarah Mattioli for letting me post this with her beautiful heart painting!

Beautiful commentary by MacLaren on Jesus’ heartfelt question to Peter.

‘Lovest Thou Me?’ … John 21:15.

Peter had already seen the risen Lord. There had been that interview on Easter morning, on which the seal of sacred secrecy was impressed; when, alone, the denier poured out his heart to his Lord, and was taken to the heart that he had wounded. Then there had been two interviews on the two successive Sundays in which the Apostle, in common with his brethren, had received, as one of the group, the Lord’s benediction, the Lord’s gift of the Spirit, and the Lord’s commission. But something more was needed; there had been public denial, there must be public confession. If he had slipped again into the circle of the disciples, with no special treatment or reference to his fall, it might have seemed a trivial fault to others, and even to himself. And so, after that strange meal on the beach, we have this exquisitely beautiful and deeply instructive incident of the special treatment needed by the denier before he could be publicly reinstated in his office.

The meal seems to have passed in silence. That awe which hung over the disciples in all their intercourse with Jesus during the forty days, lay heavy on them, and they sat there, huddled round the fire, eating silently the meal which Christ had provided, and no doubt gazing silently at the silent Lord. What a tension of expectation there must have been as to how the oppressive silence was to be broken! and how Peter’s heart must have throbbed, and the others’ ears been pricked up, when it was broken by ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?’ We may listen with pricked-up ears too. For we have here, in Christ’s treatment of the Apostle, a revelation of how He behaves to a soul conscious of its fault; and in Peter’s demeanour an illustration of how a soul, conscious of its fault, should behave to Him.

There are three stages here: the threefold question, the threefold answer, and the threefold charge. Let us look at these.

I. The threefold question.

The reiteration in the interrogation did not express doubt as to the veracity of the answer, nor dissatisfaction with its terms; but it did express, and was meant, I suppose, to suggest to Peter and to the others, that the threefold denial needed to be obliterated by the threefold confession; and that every black mark that had been scored deep on the page by that denial needed to be covered over with the gilding or bright colouring of the triple acknowledgment. And so Peter thrice having said, ‘I know Him not!’ Jesus with a gracious violence forced him to say thrice, ‘Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ The same intention to compel Peter to go back upon his past comes out in two things besides the triple form of the question. The one is the designation by which he is addressed, ‘Simon, son of Jonas,’ which travels back, as it were, to the time before he was a disciple, and points a finger to his weak humanity before it had come under the influence of Jesus Christ. ‘Simon, son of Jonas,’ was the name that he bore in the days before his discipleship. It was the name by which Jesus had addressed him, therefore, on that never-to-be-forgotten turning-point of his life, when he was first brought to Him by his brother Andrew. It was the name by which Jesus had addressed him at the very climax of his past life when, high up, he had been able to see far, and in answer to the Lord’s question, had rung out the confession: ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!’ So the name by which Jesus addresses him now says to him in effect: ‘Remember thy human weakness; remember how thou wert drawn to Me; remember the high-water mark of thy discipleship, when I was plain before thee as the Son of God, and remembering all these, answer Me-lovest thou Me?’

The same intention to drive Peter back to the wholesome remembrance of a stained past is obvious in the first form of the question. Our Lord mercifully does not persist in giving to it that form in the second and third instances: ‘Lovest thou Me more than these?’ More than these, what? I cannot for a moment believe that that question means something so trivial and irrelevant as ‘Lovest thou Me more than these nets, and boats, and the fishing?’ No; in accordance with the purpose that runs through the whole, of compelling Peter to retrospect, it says to him, ‘Do you remember what you said a dozen hours before you denied Me, “Though all should forsake Thee, yet will not I”? Are you going to take that stand again? Lovest thou Me more than these that never discredited their boasting so shamefully?’

So, dear brethren! here we have Jesus Christ, in His treatment of this penitent and half-restored soul, forcing a man, with merciful compulsion, to look steadfastly and long at his past sin, and to retrace step by step, shameful stage by shameful stage, the road by which he had departed so far. Every foul place he is to stop and look at, and think about. Each detail he has to bring up before his mind. Was it not cruel of Jesus thus to take Peter by the neck, as it were, and hold him right down, close to the foul things that he had done, and say to him, ‘Look! look! look ever! and answer, Lovest thou Me?’ No; it was not cruel; it was true kindness. Peter had never been so abundantly and permanently penetrated by the sense of the sinfulness of his sin, as after he was sure, as he had been made sure in that great interview, that it was all forgiven. So long as a man is disturbed by the dread of consequences, so long as he is doubtful as to his relation to the forgiving Love, he is not in a position beneficially and sanely to consider his evil in its moral quality only. But when the conviction comes to a man, ‘God is pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done’; and when he can look at his own evil without the smallest disturbance rising from slavish fear of issues, then lie is in a position rightly to estimate its darkness and its depth. And there can be no better discipline for us all than to remember our faults, and penitently to travel back over the road of our sins, just because we are sure that God in Christ has forgotten them. The beginning of Christ’s merciful treatment of the forgiven man is to compel him to remember, that he may learn and be ashamed.

And then there is another point here, in this triple question. How significant and beautiful it is that the only thing that Jesus Christ cares to ask about is the sinner’s love! We might have expected: ‘Simon, son of Jonas, are you sorry for what you did? Simon, son of Jonas, will you promise never to do the like any more?’ No! These things will come if the other thing is there. ‘Lovest thou Me?’ Jesus Christ sues each of us, not for obedience primarily, not for repentance, not for vows, not for conduct, but for a heart; and that being given, all the rest will follow. That is the distinguishing characteristic of Christian morality, that Jesus seeks first for the surrender of the affections, and believes, and is warranted in the belief, that if these are surrendered, all else will follow; and love being given, loyalty and service and repentance and hatred of self-will and of self-seeking will follow in her train. All the graces of human character which Christ seeks, and is ready to impart, are, as it were, but the pages and ministers of the regal Love, who follow behind and swell the cortege of her servants.

Christ asks for love. Surely that indicates the depth of His own! In this commerce He is satisfied with nothing less, and can ask for nothing more; and He seeks for love because He is love, and has given love. Oh! to all hearts burdened, as all our hearts ought to be-unless the burden has been cast off in one way-by the consciousness of our own weakness and imperfection, surely, surely, it is a gospel that is contained in that one question addressed to a man who had gone far astray, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou?’

Here, again, we have Jesus Christ, in His dealing with the penitent, willing to trust discredited professions. We think that one of the signs of our being wise people is that experience shall have taught us ‘once’ being ‘bit, twice’ to be ‘shy,’ and if a man has once deceived us by flaming professions and ice-cold acts, never to trust him any more. And we think that is ‘worldly wisdom,’ and ‘the bitter fruit of earthly experience,’ and ‘sharpness,’ and ‘shrewdness,’ and so forth. Jesus Christ, even whilst reminding Peter, by that ‘more than these,’ of his utterly hollow and unreliable boasting, shows Himself ready to accept once again the words of one whose unveracity He had proved. ‘Charity hopeth all things, believeth all things,’ and Jesus Christ is ready to trust us when we say, ‘I love Thee,’ even though often in the past our professed love has been all disproved.

We have here, in this question, our Lord revealing Himself as willing to accept the imperfect love which a disciple can offer Him. Of course, many of you well know that there is a very remarkable play of expression here. In the two first questions the word which our Lord employs for ‘love’ is not the same as that which appears in Peter’s two first answers. Christ asks for one kind of love; Peter proffers another. I do not enter upon discussion as to the distinction between these two apparent synonyms. The kind of love which Christ asks for is higher, nobler, less emotional, and more associated with the whole mind and will. It is the inferior kind, the more warm, more sensuous, more passionate and emotional, which Peter brings. And then, in the third question, our Lord, as it were, surrenders and takes Peter’s own word, as if He had said, ‘Be it so! You shrink from professing the higher kind; I will take the lower; and I will educate and bring that up to the height that I desire you to stand at.’ Ah, brother! however stained and imperfect, however disproved by denials, however tainted by earthly associations, Jesus Christ will accept the poor stream of love, though it be but a trickle when it ought to be a torrent, which we can bring Him.

These are the lessons which it seems to me lie in this triple question. I have dealt with them at the greater length, because those which follow are largely dependent upon them. But let me turn now briefly, in the second place, to-

II. The triple answer.

‘Yea, Lord! Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ Is not that beautiful, that the man who by Christ’s Resurrection, as the last of the answers shows, had been led to the loftiest conception of Christ’s omniscience, and regarded Him as knowing the hearts of all men, should, in the face of all that Jesus Christ knew about his denial and his sin, have dared to appeal to Christ’s own knowledge? What a superb and all-conquering confidence in Christ’s depth of knowledge and forgivingness of knowledge that answer showed! He felt that Jesus could look beneath the surface of his sin, and see that below it there was, even in the midst of the denial, a heart that in its depths was true. It is a tremendous piece of confident appeal to the deeper knowledge, and therefore the larger love and more abundant forgiveness, of the righteous Lord-’Thou knowest that I love Thee.’

Brethren! a Christian man ought to be sure of his love to Jesus Christ. You do not study your conduct in order to infer from it your love to others. You do not study your conduct in order to infer from it your love to your wife, or your husband, or your parents, or your children, or your friend. Love is not a matter of inference; it is a matter of consciousness and intuition. And whilst self-examination is needful for us all for many reasons, a Christian man ought to be as sure that he loves Jesus Christ as he is sure that he loves his dearest upon earth.

It used to be the fashion long ago-this generation has not depth enough to keep up the fashion-for Christian people to talk as if it were a point they longed to know, whether they loved Jesus Christ or not. There is no reason why it should be a point we long to know. You know all about your love to one another, and you are sure about that. Why are you not sure about your love to Jesus Christ? ‘Oh! but,’ you say, ‘look at my sins and failures’; and if Peter had looked only at his sins, do you not think that his words would have stuck in his throat? He did look, but he looked in a very different way from that of trying to ascertain from his conduct whether he loved Jesus Christ or not. Brethren, any sin is inconsistent with Christian love to Christ. Thank God, we have no right to say of any sin that it is incompatible with that love! More than that; a great, gross, flagrant, sudden fall like Peter’s is a great deal less inconsistent with love to Christ than are the continuously unworthy, worldly, selfish, Christ-forgetting lives of hosts of complacent professing Christians to-day. White ants will eat up the carcass of a dead buffalo quicker than a lion will. And to have denied Christ once, twice, thrice, in the space of an hour, and under strong temptation, is not half so bad as to call Him ‘Master’ and ‘Lord,’ and day by day, week in, week out, in works to deny Him. The triple answer declares to us that in spite of a man’s sins he ought to be conscious of his love, and be ready to profess it when need is.

III. Lastly, we have here the triple commission.

I do not dwell upon it at any length, because in its original form it applies especially to the Apostolic office. But the general principles which underlie this threefold charge, to feed and to tend both ‘the sheep’ and ‘the lambs,’ may be put in a form that applies to each of us, and it is this-the best token of a Christian’s love to Jesus Christ is his service of man for Christ’s sake. ‘Lovest thou Me?’ ‘Yea! Lord.’ Thou hast said; go and do, ‘Feed My lambs; feed My sheep.’ We need the profession of words; we need, as Peter himself enjoined at a subsequent time, to be ready to ‘give to every man that asketh us a reason of the hope,’ and an acknowledgment of the love, that are in us. But if you want men to believe in your love, however Jesus Christ may know it, go and work in the Master’s vineyard. The service of man is the garb of the love of God. ‘He that loveth God will love his brother also.’ Do not confine that thought of service, and feeding, and tending, to what we call evangelistic and religious work. That is one of its forms, but it is only one of them. Everything in which Christian men can serve their fellows is to be taken by them as their worship of their Lord, and is taken by the world as the convincing proof of the reality of their love.

Love to Jesus Christ is the qualification for all such service. If we are knit to Him by true affection, which is based upon our consciousness of our own falls and evils, and our reception of His forgiving mercy, then we shall have the qualities that fit us, and the impulse that drives us, to serve and help our fellows. I do not say-God forbid!-that there is no philanthropy apart from Christian faith, but I do say that, on the wide scale, and in the long run, they who are knit to Jesus Christ by love will be those who render the greatest help to all that are ‘afflicted in mind, body, or estate’; and that the true basis and qualification for efficient service of our fellows is the utter surrender of our hearts to Him who is the Fountain of love, and from whom comes all our power to live in the world, as the images and embodiments of the love which has saved us that we might help to save others.

Brethren! let us all ask ourselves Christ’s question to the denier. Let us look our past evils full in the face, that we may learn to hate them, and that we may learn more the width and the sweep of the power of His pardoning mercy. God grant that we may all be able to say, ‘Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee!’

True_Love

Shadows

I slept, but woke before the dawn
As if he called for me
A dream? But then he called again
My love? How could it be..

“Open to me” he whispered through
The lock, and I arose
His hands, his hair, dripping with dew
Yet hidden in shadows

His face! Oh how I longed to see
As I flung wide the door
But he was gone! So suddenly
I sought him all the more

Not here, not there, through the city
I roamed and searched and cried
“My love, my love, come back to me
I will let you inside!”

I thought I saw him in the crowd
I stopped.. I felt him touch my skin
Oh my heart! I turned around
But it was just the wind

“Dear daughters of Jerusalem
If you find my beloved
Please, I beg of you, bring him!”
But I was pushed and shoved

Oh Heart of my own heart, return
Or I will faint with love
Your frame, would I but once discern
And it would be enough

Lover of my soul, impart
The words I long to hear
That we, though once torn worlds apart
Will draw forever near

Progression of Love

First there is neither love nor fear
Then fear, when confronted
Then fear and love, resisting the other
Until love is perfected

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Home

I came, soaked through with pouring rain
Still dripping in my tattered things
Hoping He’d let me in again
Though I was trembling

My heart beat fast within my chest
To think He might have gone
While I had run away and left
The only home I’d known

But as I thought I’d faint with fear
He opened wide the door
And pulled me close with words so dear
I wasn’t afraid anymore

He washed me ’til my soul was warm
And cleansed me so gently
My wounds felt healed as He touched them
Oh how He cared for me!

He wrapped me in a robe of His
Then to a room prepared, He led
And drew me to Himself to bless
And lift my heavy head

We settled in, and with my weight
I leaned back into Him
And released all my helpless state
Into His arms again

We breathed together, deep and slow
Until our hearts were one
He held me like He wouldn’t let go
Just like I was His own

“Am I?” The question beneath my fears
Was crying inside of me
Then came the sorrow, then came the tears
To think I was unworthy

But He began to kiss my face
Before I could say a word
He answered my cry in the sweetest of ways
Until I could rest assured

So safe and warm I trusted completely
With nothing but myself to give
That He would hold and love and keep me
Even in my weaknesses

How vulnerable, yet strong in His love
I laid with my head on His chest
Perfectly still, and taken care of
’til into a dream I drifted

And as I did I felt His fingers
Tracing the lines of my face
Oh the sweetness, how it lingers
As I remember His grace

As He looked over my fragile frame
With tears He was so in love
And whispered, until He was singing my name
That I was all He had ever dreamed of

Oh, the moments, they lasted forever
As perfectly one we became
Knit sweetly and completely together
While singing each other’s name

After wandering so alone in the cold
Through the woods, from where I’d come
I knew, while wrapped up in comforts untold
His arms had become my home

The Beloved 

I stepped into the light and stood
Naked, and terrified
I must hide my bruises, I thought
I’ll die before His eyes

“Not My eyes” He said tenderly
“But yours, you cannot bear”
His perfect gaze arrested me
Before I could go anywhere

How could He look at me so long
As if He were in love?
He’ll soon realize I’m not the one
Who He is dreaming of..

Then as I turned away, I saw
He was welling up with tears
All I do is hurt the ones I love!
Cried my relentless fears

I’m sorry, I had meant to leave
Before I caused you pain
Forgive me, let me go and grieve

But the look in His eyes was the same

Beloved..” His only response, and He wept
“Beloved..” ’til He gathered Himself,
“I cry for all the pain you have kept
And for how you have hated yourself”

I would not need another word
And a thousand hadn’t said it
As He so graciously uttered
The truth I most feared, and needed

If it wasn’t for the way he spoke
Or the love I felt so true
Or the sound of His beautiful voice, as it broke
I would have been torn in two

What silence pulsed through my wounded soul
What painful, bitter tears
I had suffered my very own betrayal
Not His, after all these years

No sound, no movement, until I fell
Into arms I could feel this time
I trusted Him then, even more than myself
To give me love, until it was mine

Until the Morning

Dark was the night, bitter and long
When I awoke and cried his name
But he was there, humming a song
Before I saw his frame

“Dance with me” I heard his voice
And felt him take my hand
I would! Oh, if I had a choice
But I’m too weak to stand

Then carefully he lifted me
Into his arms, and before long
He held and swayed me quietly
’til I joined him in song

Then I was strengthened just enough
While holding him, to stand
I felt the scars that proved his love
Underneath my hand

And with my feet on his, we danced
As our love lit the night
My heart, so tenderly romanced
Until the morning light