The “Curated Articles” Series

I recently went through some of the blogs I read regularly and took notes about what I liked about the blog and why I read it regularly. One of the blogs I read regularly (at least a few times a week) is challies.com, usually to look at his daily A La Carte post. In this post he links to articles and blog posts that he finds informative or interesting from other authors. On most days I will find at least one of the articles he has chosen to be interesting, so I will go and read it. After years of looking at it, I have found his A La Carte to be a valuable way of disseminating information, and I have read a lot of things I may not have normally read because of it.

Because I find it so valuable, I was thinking of a way I could do something similar on my blog. Admittedly, I am not nearly as well-read as Challies and don’t have as wide of scope of interest. Doing a “female version” of A La Carte is one thing I considered. But, that probably isn’t realistic at the moment. So what I have decided I would do is keep track of the articles I read and enjoy and place them in a topical category. Once I have collected a couple of thoughtful articles on a topic, I’ll post the articles on the subject under a series called Curated Articles. This will also help me keep track of what I’ve read on various topics.

I’m always on the lookout for things that are worth reading. So, feel free to place any articles you find interesting in the comments.

Christ’s Love Artistry

If traces of Christ’s love-artistry be upon me,

may he work on with his divine brush

until the complete image be obtained

and I be made a perfect copy of him,

my Master.

From the puritan prayer The LOVE OF JESUS, The Valley of Vision, edited by Arthur Bennett

A great purpose…

There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. if it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.

Words by Alan Redpath

Renewed Normal

There are times when I say, “I just want to be normal again.” It’s hard to adequately describe, but my brain has changed since OCD took over my life. I feel less cognitively capable than I used to be. I remember the capacity I once had and it’s hard for me to believe that I functioned somewhat successfully under the stress and commitments that I had in my life. Yet, I still felt like a failure most of the time thinking of all of the other things I should have been doing in addition to my commitments. Living under the constant guilt of unrealistic standards is not a joyful place to be.

I lived so many years in the bonds of legalism. My life and my actions were completely motivated by rules to keep me safe. I am so glad that the Lord blew that up and I recognized for the first time, it is for “freedom Christ has set us free”(Galatians 5). Once free, I lived in joyful contentment of that recognition for quite a few months, just breathing in the air of liberation.

But then there is real life. And I come back to reality where rules are a part of life, and so I have to make choices as to how I am going to operate in the world. I find with more freedom there are more decisions, more options. I’m free, yes, but I’m also now being forced to reevaluate who I am and what I want independent from these rules I once was enslaved to. Although freedom is amazing, it brings on a whole new set of fears. Fear of choice, and the constant nagging thought of “what if I make the wrong one?”

Ed Welch but it this way in his book Running Scared (pg. 20-21):

 Both oppression and freedom can incite fear. Freedom resolves the fear and anxiety associated with persecution and oppression, but it increases the fear of personal failure, which is one reason Soren Kierkegaard said that anxiety is the dizziness of freedom. With freedom comes more choices, which mean more opportunities to get it wrong. Freedom or oppression- pick your poison. They both contribute to our fears and anxieties.

So when I say “I just want to be normal again,” it’s true that part of me is pining for the old days. Those days when yes, I was enslaved, but I knew my purpose, my methodology made sense and I didn’t have to deal with the tension of fighting for faith in the midst of all new fears. The dysfunctional comfort of what is known.  I’m wondering if that is part of what the Israelites felt when they were wandering in the desert pining for days of Egypt. It seems so wrong to want to go back to slavery, but the bible warns us that after freedom is found, “stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5). This must be, then, a common temptation for those of us who have been set free.

Sometimes I think that the learning will just be over when I have suffered through a trial and experienced growth. I think: I am free now, so the hard work is over. But sanctification is a process, so I am always coming to a deeper understanding of what abundant life really means. I am always continuing to learn how to truly live, and that living is found through dying to self. So I need to embrace this tension that there will be a struggle as I am growing to understand more of how to have faith in the midst of new fear. I don’t really want to go back to the old. What I really want to learn is how to thrive in a new normal. A renewed normal.

Sure that new normal may mean more mental processing time and random fears that come and MAKE NO SENSE. I may feel like I’m wandering around like a lost puppy sometimes. My life purpose may be a little less clearly defined than before. And yes, there will be challenges. But GOD…He is mighty to save and He is not through with me yet. He will help me learn to live, really truly live, a renewed normal.

Songs of Truth: Rock of Ages

The idea of God being a Rock has meant a lot to me since I spent a season in a pit. Ps. 40 poetically states, “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

Chirs Rice

One of the Songs of Truth that ministered to me during my trial is the song Rock of Ages by Augustus Toplady, and I listened to the Chris Rice version of this song on repeat until I memorized all the words. Sometimes I had the mental picture that Jesus was covering me and protecting me, me clinging to him for dear life as I was sinking deeper into a pit and the fear was so strong. Yet, even when I got to the bottom of the pit, I found that it was solid ground, and He was there. I was standing on a secure foundation, Him. And so He is the Rock I cling to and stand upon.

Each verse of this song speaks to the different aspects of the fear and faith struggles I face almost daily. It’s one of the deepest songs I know. Below are the verses and some truth I find in the words of the song.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.

What truth this speaks to me: God has always been a rock (like, forever) and he suffered and was broken (cleft) so I could be covered and hide myself in his brokenness. His death didn’t just save me from hell, but His blood was poured over me in such a way that it brought righteousness and holiness.  When God looks at me He sees the purity of Christ. His blood made me white as snow. Being “in Christ” actually means something.

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
this for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

What truth this speaks to me: There is nothing I can do to earn God’s favor. To paraphrase my friend Shaun Cross who once said I have too low of view of the law if I think I can do things to keep all of it. My zeal to do good things will never accomplish perfection; therefore, I can never meet the demands of the law. I will fall short. Then I feel guilty and offer sacrifices, and my tears could come forever from guilt. But that still isn’t enough. Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect life that met all the demands of the law. My work can’t save me, only Jesus, and Jesus alone can save.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to thy cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

What truth this speaks to me: I can bring nothing to God. Even all of my righteousness is as filthy rags before Him. So, I need the cross. I need to cling to it, to be covered in His righteousness. And I need His help. I need to be washed from my inequity. The harsh reality is that if a Savior doesn’t do this…I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
when my eyes shall close in death,
when I rise to worlds unknown,
and behold thee on thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.

What truth this speaks to me: I struggle with feeling uncertain, and in life there isn’t a lot I can be certain of. But I know we can be certain of one thing: I will die (and taxes, so says Benjamin Franklin). And so when the bible says that “Perfect Love Casts Our Fear” it’s talking about the love of Christ that has covered me so I do not have to be afraid of judgment at death. And if I don’t have to be afraid of judgement then I don’t have to be afraid of dying, which is the only thing I can be certain of. And if I don’t have to be afraid of the only thing I’m certain of, then I don’t have to be afraid of anything else. One day I will die and Iwill go to heaven and stand before God as judge. He will look at me, and all that I did and didn’t do on this earth and I will be judged. But there will also be with me a Savior who was broken, cleft for me. And I will find myself, once again, clinging to Him and standing on Him. Then in judgment, I will be found by God to be hidden in the glory of my Savior and rather than declared guilty as I deserve, I will be declared innocent and set completely free. Free to spend eternity worshipping my Rock. The Rock of Ages past, present, and future.

 

Let Me Learn By Paradox…

Let me learn by paradox

     that the way down is the way up,

     that to be low is to be high,

     that the broken heart is the healed heart,

     that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

     that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

     that to have nothing is to possess all,

     that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

     that to give is to receive,

    that the valley is the place of vision.

An excerpt from the prayer The Valley of Vision from “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and & Devotions” Edited by Arthur Bennett.

Songs of Truth: Series

Here’s a little fact about me: I put songs on repeat and listen to them over and over and over, sometimes for days in a row. It takes a REALLY long time for me to burn out of a song. I think this may drive my husband nuts, but being the gem that he is, he doesn’t complain.

Listening to music is one of the main ways that I try to get truth in my mind, so I listen to a lot of worship music. I thought I’d start a series called Songs of Truth. These are songs that I have listened to on repeat that minister truth to my soul about the character of God and my relationship with Him. This week I’ll start posting about some songs and lyrics that speak to me and why. If you have any songs that you think should make their way into my playlist (on repeat), please let me know. Chris is always happy when I add some variety.