Thursday, January 30, 2014

We Shall Find the Stars

Every now and then, I discover a phrase, a paragraph, or a poem wherein a feeling I had, deep down inside, is somehow articulated far beyond what I had ever thought possible. C.S. Lewis does this the most frequently of any other writer I have read to date, leaving many of his words permanently engraved in my mind. Today, however, I share with you a prayer that brought me almost to tears, penned by a man not famous for his words, but for his seamanship. A man of action, he clearly saw the dangers and the missed opportunities of a life lived in the safe zone, and he not only feared, but fled, the consequences of complacency.


Disturb us, Lord, when We are 
Too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back 
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love."

-- Prayer of Sir Francis Drake, 1577

Disturb us, Lord. We long to see the stars.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Seeking Glory

My hands covered my eyes, and I turned my face toward the floor.

"Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see."

Settled in beside my friends and brother, I had put up my feet and was all set to enjoy an evening in the ever-so-comfortable reclining theater seats. The first preview to our film was unnecessarily gross, but one at which  I shrugged through my shudder, muttering to myself about the sad state of entertainment taste held by so many in my world today. Then another preview, worse than the first blazed across the screen. And another. By the end of the revolting third, I was waging war in my brain to ignore the sounds coming from all around me, but it was a loosing battle. "Do you want to leave with me?" I whispered to my friend, as a momentary relief occurred, "I'm going out." She promptly agreed, and we made our hasty, yet purposeful, exit from the room.

Perched on a bench outside the theater, I couldn't keep back a shudder and gasp: "Oh, those are awful! Why would they play previews like that?" We were not alone. It took all of two seconds before we were followed by first one person, then another. Within 2 minutes, half of the auditorium exited en masse, declaring that the wrong movie was now playing on the big screen. That explained the bizarre, strange, and evilly supernatural trailers to which we had been subjected. But although we did get to watch (and enjoy!) our movie later in the evening, the trailers haunted my sleep that night.

"Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see."

My experience the other evening is not the first time my eyes and ears have observed scenarios I regret. Our culture abounds with sinful and unsavory words, actions, and entertainment. What's a Christian to do? To be shut up in convents, monasteries, or communes, shunning outside influences, is not the answer, for Christ has commanded us to be in the world. However, to avoid being of the world, we must be willing to stand - and leave - with courage. Courage to face not only the scorn and ridicule of the unsaved, but (which feels worse) the patronizing condescension of our brothers and sisters. Far more often than not, I have failed to flee evil because other Christians remained, either condoning or - at best - failing to condemn. "Oh, Sarah can't handle this. Doesn't she know it's just a joke?" Or "Just a trailer?" Or "Not real?" Thus, paralyzed by fear, I too stay, stamping a reluctant approval upon the wrong.

But it gets worse.

Because I do not expose my God-bestowed senses to unnecessary searing only when under the convenient excuse of peer pressure. No, no. Be it picture, book, song, or movie, I am guilty of observing - even reveling in - the quiet solitude of evil, as well.

"For the Father up above..."

"Actions speak louder than words." A weak resolve may flutter uncomfortably in the company of moral carelessness - or even mourn the delayed reactions: "should have walked out earlier," "should have stopped reading sooner," "should have looked away quicker" - but flimsiness of the will is, at its very root, a shamefully tragic lack of conviction. In his second epistle, Peter earnestly instructs Christians to give all diligence and "add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self control...godliness...." In other words, to conviction we must add character, knowledge of God's will, discipline to choose His will, and a fervent love for the good. "For if you do these things," encouraged Peter, "you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"Neither barren nor unfruitful"? I want that to be me! Conviction of right and wrong is not merely enough- it is like faith without works: worth nothing. Not because it is nothing, but because, like going to a movie and having the wrong one play, it is not the right type of something.

" looking down in love."

Oh, let us never forget that we have the power of the Most High God on our side! Let us flee from being so "shortsighted, even to blindness" that we do not see the dire consequences of thinking upon anything besides the True, the Noble, the Just, the Pure, and the Lovely. Regardless of how or when those around us respond, let us care ever-and-always only for the opinion of the One who gave us our eyes and ears! With all our senses fixed on Him - quivering, straining to discern His plan and purpose - we will have no regrets, no "should have"s, no "but what will they think of me?"s. With our sights set on eternity, we will see the beauty of our Savior.
And with the joy that comes will be the power of God to thrill our conviction, strengthen our legs, and crystallize our resolve. With the joy that comes, we will no longer desire what C.S. Lewis called the "mud pies in a slum," but will revel in the "offer of a holiday at the sea." With the joy that comes, we will no longer be so easily pleased.

Let our eyes seek glory of the LORD.

"Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see."

photo credit
photo credit
photo credit

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

To Forget This Day

I love anniversaries. Dates of special epiphanies, events, or decisions always have - and always will be - worth celebrating. In a way, each day is mini-anniversary, marked by annual spiritual and intellectual growth, memorialized on the journal pages of by-gone years. Revelations gained, friendships forged, and the beauty of triumph through deepest pains - these are events to hold often before us, with teachable and thankful spirits.

But some things are best, forgotten.

At the ripe old age of 7, mom and dad began cautioning me about what I allowed my eyes to see: magazines in the store, movies at friends' houses, and even words in books. "Once an image is in your mind," my dad explained, "you can never completely erase it."  Even so, there are, tucked away in a dusty back corner of my mind, images I wish away. Yet, by the grace of my Savior, these pictures and thoughts are essentially forgotten. I do not see them, think about them, or relive them. My mind has been reborn to think on more excellent things.

However, until beauty and grace have filled the ugly spaces, distasteful memories - anniversaries of sin - cannot be forgotten. Today marks such an anniversary. Forty-one years ago today was made the most devastating, cold-blooded ruling this nation has ever seen. Forty-one years ago today, Roe v Wade reached its verdict.

True it is that the triumph of evil asks only for the passiveness of good. At a rally I attended this past Sunday, I learned that there are more "pro-life young people" in the States today than there were the year before Roe v Wade. While this is progress, I could not help wondering if there were actually more young people, or simply more young people willing to stand. Who among us is passionate and willing to stand up on an unchallenged issue? If there is no debate about the morality of stealing, do we still uncompromisingly teach that it is wrong? Or do we passively neglect the discussion, merely cringing when "exceptions" are made? What issues do we avoid "giving all diligence" in, because the final line hasn't yet been drawn on the wrong side, forcing our hands? Did abortion blind-side the Christians of the '70s?

Fifty-six times the bell rang on Sunday. Fifty-six. Each soul-shattering clang remembered not ten, not a hundred, not a thousand, but one million still, silent hearts. One million faces that will never wrinkle up in tears, smooth out at the sight of mama, or laugh at papa's silly antics. One million pairs of shoes that will never be tied. One million hugs that will never cling to a lonely neck.

Fifty-six times clanged the bell. Fifty-six million dead.

And I wept. Wept for the little ones who will never be, wishing I could hold them close and protect them from such carnage. Wept for the mothers who have thus ended so many lives, longing to hug them, and tell them about the unconditional, overpowering love and forgiveness my Father has for them. Wept for the desolation with which this country has brought upon and so injured itself.

In these brief 41 years, we have multiplied in unborn, innocent blood - by more than 2500% - the first 215
years of American military deaths. In these short 41 years, we, the people of the United States, have ended the lives of more than the combined populations of Canada and Romania. In these mere 41 years, millions have been lied to about the precious infants in their wombs, have been swindled, or allowed to remain willfully ignorant, as they become party to the destruction of lives.

This is a story with no happy ending - yet. But hope abounds. Abortion rates are dropping in the States, slowly and surely. While there are still thousands of abortion victims, there are also thousands who have been rescued: snatched from death by the prayers, sacrifices, and tireless efforts of those who see each life as sacred.

Oh, so sacred.

Increasingly, the personhood of the child in the womb will be a non-issue in a society that has lost its belief in the dignity of man. Stripped of the science and emotionalism in our debates, we will be left with the very heartbeat of our argument for the honoring of human lives: that Christ's blood was shed to remove all memory of our sin from before the Father.

Friends, let us do more than merely hold a conviction - let us act upon it. Let us work diligently and speak bravely for the lives of the unborn. Let us pray earnestly for the softening and salvation of those both administering and receiving abortions. Let us find ways to support those seeking life for their babies - volunteering our time, organizing fundraising. Let us work earnestly for the removal of this anniversary.

Some memories are best, forgotten.

Monday, January 20, 2014


My "proper" post will be on Wednesday this week. In the meantime: a meager collection of words seeking to describe something for which the words have not been formed...

With awe, I feel this quiet
Creep over my soul again,
Transcending all angst and chaos
And settling deep within.

One moment - 
One moment is all I feel,
Though many are floating by.
The wind blust'ring 'round
And the sun-kisses, warm,
Have buried me deep in the sky.

And there, in the still, is my quiet,
Looking down at the spark'ling blue.
For the heavens declare such a glory:
All creation's in awe of You.

There's nothing -
There's nothing my pen can write
(For never will words be found),
Explaining the thrill
And the deafening joy
Of a praise that by silence, sounds.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Year's Cleaning

It's 2014, and I'm in the midst of a surreal game of "looking-back." January has marked some pretty life-changing events in my life for the past couple of years, and I'm not sure if I'm disappointed or relieved that the last two weeks have seen nothing drastic, dramatic, or out of the ordinary. In fact, January rather appeared out of no where and is cruising along like any other old mind-your-own-business sort of month. Maybe it's just me, getting older, but the beginning of a fresh year with unlimited possibilities gives me a sort of restlessness I can't seem to shift. Over 300 days stretch before me, and a giddy sort of dizziness lays hold of my heart every time I think of all with which I want to fill them. There are so many books to read, improvements and experiments to try with my studio, travels to explore, friends to know better, lessons to learn, people to meet, and things to do that I am overwhelmed with both a sense of urgency and excitement. 

I want to be sure of where God wants me this year.

There is so much to challenge, see, and pursue - I cannot possibly do it all, but I dread complacency. Contentment was never really something with which I struggled. I am too easily contented; I was born complacent. It is my fear.

How I want to seize every opportunity the LORD sends my way! But as I go forward in planning this year, I want, most of all, to plan with my palms up and hands open. I want, most of all, to run after opportunity because I hear the Spirit telling me, "This is the way - come on!" I want, most of all, to know my King more, and understand better how I am to serve Him.

I want, most of all, to listen.

I want to rank lessons from the Scriptures over math or philosophy. I want to desire time on my face, seeking the LORD's direction more than coffee dates with friends or trips to NYC. I want to reflect and really chew on the lessons that I am taught and learn how to express them, rather than read a novel or scribble one-liners on facebook. I want to challenge my mind, and use it in an honest, transparent way that will honor the One who loves me more than I could begin to hope to understand.

And so, to think clearly, express fully, and share openly, this year, I resolve to write more. This year, I resolve to blog.

Not weeks on end of "Watch-It Wednesdays."
Not month-long summaries with pictures and thisismywholelifecrammedintoaparagraph descriptions.
Not weeks and months of silence.

This year, I resolve to blog every Monday because I love words, and I want to practice using them well in honor of the life-giving Word. 

There will still be "Watch-It Wednesdays" (sometimes).
There will still be pictures and journal-like entries about daily life (like throwing my cell phone away, or getting towed in Portland).
There will still be the occasional, completely random posting.

But most of all, I hope there will be the soap. Yep! Soap. The soap that the Master Cleanser uses to turn a moldering, lifeless mess into a fresh, new daughter.

Will you join me for my cleaning?