What are we to do when our footsteps are flagging?

Do you feel like your flagging during Lent?  Mother Mary Francis has the best answer for what to do!

[Jesus] is always going forward to save us.  How strange if we were not that eager to be saved in the little events of every day. His footsteps were on the way to the Father.  They were unflagging.  He always kept going.  His footsteps were always unswerving.  They went straight ahead in the will of the Father.  He knew where he was going . . .

For ourselves, we know that our steps are quite often flagging.  We lag.  We sit down.  We get tired.  What are we to do when our footsteps are flagging?  There is a simple answer.  We get up.  Sometimes we become discouraged in a prideful way and we think, “Well, what is the use?”  What we are really saying is, “I don’t want to make the effort to get up.”  For us to have unflagging steps fitted to his, we have to be always getting up, because of our weakness, our sinfulness.  It could be a wonderful thing indeed never to fall, never to flag, but it is a wonderful thing to get up.  This can be a true inspiration for the poor sinners we are: that our footsteps become more unflagging according to how often and how quickly we have gotten up.

What can man do to me?

Ps 118.6: The Lord is on my side; I will not fear; what can man do to me?

Job 34.29: When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?

The Lord is for me (margin).  What can man do to me?  Nothing.  Nothing that really matters.  Nothing that can do any harm.  Nothing that will not be turned to golden good.

Sometimes we feel as though man could do a great deal. A perverse child can cloud a whole day.  The sight of deadly sin, injustice and suffering can overwhelm us.  And deeper things, the inward assaults of the never-resting foe (though he is not man but stronger than man) can seem to do appalling things.

But still the word stands, the question that can have only one answer.  The Lord is for me.  What can man do to me?  Nothing.

And to another questions there is only one answer.  When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?  No one.

However things seem, the answers to those two questions are among the things that cannot be shaken.

~Amy Carmichael

Sail at an angle

I want to share an excerpt from a book I’m reading, Wild Child, Waiting Mom–written by the mother when her daughter (with two young children) was once again making a bad decision about her life (and the life of her children).  The mother was very tempted to slide into depression–she and her husband had been praying for their daughter for years with seemingly no impact.

In the midst of these difficulties, emotional fatigue and ensuing discouragement were an ever-present danger.  For me during these excruciatingly painful days in Ithaca, I made a conscious decision to take my eyes off my problems and fix them on the Lord.

I clung to an analogy that Dan [her husband who was a pastor] had taught while we worked in Fort Wilderness in Wisconsin.  Several times Dan had the opportunity to teach Bible lessons on a weeklong sailing junket, and I was privileged to go along.

One day when the wind was very strong, Dan asked the captain just how his vessel (a three-mast schooner) could sail headlong into the winds blowing against us.  The captain explained that when a sailboat is sailing against a strong wind, the vessel can’t make progress, and, in fact, endangers itself.  What the ship has to do is to tack back and forth–sail at an angle, creating a vacuum on the back side of the sail that actually pulls the ship forward.

Dan has used this analogy many times in his teaching, applying it to the hardships in life.  Gleaned from our 20-year journey of the harsh winds of Wendi’s rebellion, we can speak with assurance–this works.

Dan expresses it this way: Don’t face directly into the problem, but rather, when adverse winds arise, just turn your mind toward the Lord.  Then, “as the troubles come toward you, let them just whip on by. As they do, it will create that pull toward God.  In that way the trials of life will pull you toward the Lord.  Learn how to tack as you sail spiritually against the wind.”

Turning my eyes toward the Lord took my eyes off the problem and helped me actually make progress in my spiritual life-journey instead of being “blown away.”  (Karilee Hayden, Wild Child, Waiting Mom, Finding Hope in the Midst of Heartache, pp. 209-210)

How long, O Lord?

Let us, in the middle of any difficult situations we may be, choose to put our trust not in the quality of our faith, but in God’s desire to deal bountifully with us.

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The verse, “How long, O Lord? Wilt thou forget me for ever?” in yesterday’s meditation by Amy Carmichael caught my heart, so I decided to do a little scripture study on the psalm from which it comes, Ps. 113.  I remember distinctly a time quite a few years ago when I was going through a very dark time in prayer.  Not only did God seem distant, I couldn’t even find Him.  I was on retreat at a Trappistine abbey, and I remember a prayer time there when I cried out to the Lord with very similar words to David’s: “Lord, have You forgotten me?”  I did not hear an answer, but, needless to say, there was grace to keep persevering in prayer.

Psalm 13 is short, only six verses.  The first four express the psalmist’s distress, both in his relationship with God, but also with the enemy.  These are verses that we all have, or will pray, someday.  But what struck me the most yesterday as I was pondering the psalm, were the last two verses:

But I have trusted in thy steadfast love;
     my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
     because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Anyone can pray the first four verses, but it takes faith, hope, and a great confidence in the Lord to pray those last two.  Listen to Derek Kidner’s comments on these two verses:

The I of verse 5 is emphatic (as in NEB, etc.: ‘But for my part, I . . .’), and so, to a lesser degree, is thy steadfast love.  However great the pressure, the choice is still his to make, not the enemy’s; and God’s covenant remains.  So the psalmist entrusts himself to this pledged love, and turns his attention not to the quality of his faith but to its object and its outcome, which he has every intention of enjoying.  The basic idea of the word translated dealt bountifully is completeness, which NEB interprets attractively as ‘granted all my desire’.  But RSV can hardly be bettered, since it leaves room for God’s giving to exceed man’s asking.  As for the past tense in which it is put, this springs evidently from David’s certainty that he will have such a song to offer, when he looks back at the whole way he has been led. (emphasis added)

Let us, in the middle of any difficult situations we may be, choose to put our trust not in the quality of our faith, but in His desire to deal bountifully with us.

The age-long minute

If you feel like Jesus may pass you by, have hope–He is coming to you.

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The title of this post comes from a meditation by Amy Carmichael on Ps 107.29-30: He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.  I have to say that my first thought after reading Then they were glad because they had quiet, were: “This verse must mean a lot to parents of toddlers and teenagers!”  Amy’s reflection was other–and deeper–than mine 🙂

jesus-walking-on-the-water“Then they were glad because they had quiet;” the words were music to me.  Then in reading the different stories of the Lord calming the sea, I found this: “He came to them . . . and meant to pass by them” [Mk 6.48].  The more literal the translation the more startling it is.  As I pondered the matter I saw that this “age-long minute” was part of the spiritual preparation of these men for a life that at that time was unimagined by them–a life of dauntless faith and witness in the absence of any manifestation of the power of the Lord; and it must be the same today.  Such minutes must be in our lives, unless our training is to be unlike that of ever saint and warrior who ever lived.  Our “minute” may seem endless–“How long wilt Thou forget me,” cried David out of the depths of his–but perhaps looking back we shall in such an experience a great and shining opportunity.  Words are spoken then that are spoken at no other time . . .  We have a chance to prove our glorious God, to prove that His joy is strength and that His peace passeth all understanding, and to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.
     And the “minute” always ends in one way, there is no other ending recorded anywhere: “But immediately he spoke to them, and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear” . . . and the wind ceased” [Mk 6.50].   
     “Then they were glad because they had quiet; and he brought them to their desired haven.”
                                                  (Edges of His Ways, pp. 143-44)

If you feel that you are in “an age-long minute”, have hope–He is coming to you and will bring you to your desired haven.

Why Saturday is Mary’s Day

Saturday is traditionally observed as the day of Our Lady. John Saward explains why.

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Lady of ConsolationHave you ever wondered why Saturday is traditionally observed as the day of Our Lady? A few years ago I was reading a book by John Saward (The Beauty of Holiness, the Holiness of Beauty), and, in a section about our Lady, he described Mary’s unfailing faith through the long, terrible day after Christ’s death when she alone kept faith in her Son.   I had never before heard of this mariological foundation for Saturday being traditionally her day:

The yes [her continued yes to the Lord that began with her Annunciation yes] of Our Lady does not end on Good Friday and [Christ’s] yielding of the spirit . . . . The faith and love of Our Lady last into Holy Saturday.  The dead body of the Son of God lies in the tomb, while His soul descends into Sheol, the Limbo of the Fathers.  Jesus goes down into the hideous kingdom of death to proclaim the power of the Cross and the coming victory of the Resurrection and to open Heaven’s gates to Adam and Eve and all the souls of the just.  The Apostles, hopeless and forlorn, know none of this.  “As yet,” St. John tells us, “they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead” (Jn 20.9).  In all Israel, is there no faith in Jesus?  On this silent Saturday, this terrible Shabbat, while the Jews’ true Messiah sleeps the sleep of death, who burns the lights of hope?  Is there no loyal remnant?  There is, and its name is Mary.  In the fortitude of faith, she keeps the Sabbath candles alight for her Son.  That is why Saturday, the sacred day of her physical brethren, is Our Lady’s weekly festival.  On the first Holy Saturday, in the person of Mary of  Nazareth, Israel now an unblemished bride, faces her hardest trial and, through the fortitude of the Holy Spirit, is triumphant.

And I take great comfort in knowing that Mary always burns the light of hope for me (and you!) as well.