My Blog Has Moved

If you like to follow my blog, you need to know that this is the last post on THIS blog — BUT — the bug to write hasn’t left my pen.  I’ve decided to switch to a different website – one I can own.

Please visit Nequient Troll to continue following this blog!  If you want to know why I renamed it Nequient Troll, you’ll just have to dig a little and find out!

From The Balcony is now Nequient Troll. Adios!

The Sparrow Has Found Her Nest

It’s extremely quiet this Christmas morning.  I look outside at the sun and the warmth and dare to believe this is really Colorado, the land of mountains and vistas that I have come to love so profoundly.  The rest of the family is tucked quite a distance away (visiting their respective families) and today, it’s only me and God.  Silly me, I can’t forget Charlie and Howard.  Beyond a doubt, these two canines are treasured and faithful companions, especially today.  A gift, really.

It is advantageous that I have the ability to enjoy the quiet.  Some in my situation would not be able to survive the solitude.  It is for those people today I pray words of comfort and joy.

Today I remember the words of Psalm 84.  God sent them to me in a song via the Sons of Korah, because when it’s this quiet, nothing soothes the tired, weary soul like the words of God.  When it’s this quiet, you tend  to contemplate  things like relationships; family; ailing parents; your relationship with God.  With that in mind, two verses stood out for me this morning:

Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.

and

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Psalm 84:3-4; 10-12

Why these verses?  Today I had no choice but to accept the bitter realization that my hunger for God remains offensive to some I have loved dearly for many years – fellow pilgrims of the faith.  Perhaps fear or unchecked disapproval of my faith forced a decision to exclude me from a seasonal ‘family’ tradition, carrying with it a sting and an ache that they knew I was alone this year.  Even with that realization, there comes a greater understanding that God is not absent.  Indeed, he is ever present.

But God is greater.  God is greater than our heart. (1 John 3:20)

Today, even when the hurt is huge, I can and do rejoice.

O Lord, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people,
in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 116: 16-19

I can’t say I really understand why those of us in the reformed faith are often chastised and ostracized by those in mainstream evangelicalism — sometimes by those who should be fellow sojourners in the faith — walking the cobblestones with you.  It does sadden me, though, because their misunderstanding of the reformed faith is allowing a distance to develop that need not develop.  Still, I can rejoice as I reflect on the hard lessons I’ve had to learn on this journey.

  • I cannot walk their journey for them.  I can pray for them.  I can love them in spite of it all – even when criticism and judgment are wrongly placed – even when their own misunderstanding condemns unjustly.
  • I can be faithful to what God has revealed to me through his word and rest in the immeasurable joy it brings.
  • Most importantly I can wallow in this assurance:  My home is with you, God.  The sparrow has found her nest. And it is lovely and delightful.  Your leaves of grace – your twigs of mercy surround me daily and lift me higher than the mountains outside of my window – as only you can do.  Because you alone, God — you alone, are God.

Today I lay my young at your altar, Lord.  Today I lay my friends there, too.

(Note – if you want to hear the song, click on the Psalm 84 link above…. you won’t be sorry.)

God is Greater Than Our Heart

Rebecca Ellison Photography

photo by Rebecca Ellison Photography

You know, life is funny.  People are funny.  Some people can be downright weird most of the time (said with a smile).  Perhaps I should interject, ‘especially me.’

Over the past few months I have been assiduously observing human interaction – both physical interaction, verbal interaction and cyberhuman-interaction.  Did I just make up a word?

My observations have concluded that the interaction between humans, no matter how it is achieved, is fairly consistent.  It is consistently the product of our own hearts.  Our own biases.  Our own personal preferences.  Our own apathies and our own sympathies.   Our hearts are full of indifference towards others, even when we try to mask that innate quality which possesses the very core of our hearts.

Yet, the world tells us that this cannot be the case.  The world says that we are, more often than not, good, and that we are capable of perfecting our heart. The world says that because we are created in God’s image that we can certainly be exactly like him — that we can consistently excel in moral excellence, that we can obtain and possess a virtuous heart, that our actions and words are continually honorable because we have defined them to be such and have expectations that they be such.

I have not seen this to be the case over the many years I have lived on this planet.  I am not saying that these things do not occur, because obviously, many of us have experienced and pronounced genuine words of kindness.  We have delivered honest actions from the heart.  We have developed a sympathetic ear that truly resonates compassion for others.

I am, however, saying that these kind of actions are far from consistent in manifestation.  I have observed that the heart is typically deceptive, especially to its owner.  While I don’t wish this to be the case, it has been a fairly consistent observation for both others and for myself.

There is no way to avoid the reality that all types of interactions between human beings are defined by our own human natures.  We do not have the power within ourselves to cleanse our natures from our corrupted hearts.  Our hearts have been corrupt since the moment they were birthed.

It is the nature of our souls to follow the inclination of our own hearts.  Even when we think we have no bias.  Even when we think we are not boastful.  Even when believe that we judge fairly.  Even when we conclude that our intentions are honorable, correct and justified.  Even when we perceive we are consistently gentle and kind.  Even when we try to do any of these things with the very best of intentions.

The fact of the matter is that our hearts and our minds lie to us.  Our feelings lie to us.

But!  there is hope!  A great hope!  A hope greater than ourselves.

God is greater than our heart.

On those joyous occasions when we succeed at being gentle, kind, joyful, patient, faithful, self-controlled, and peaceful with those around us, our greatest joy and comfort is understanding that it is the presence of the very God of the universe which has made this possible within us – within our hearts.

God is greater than our heart.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. …….By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

I John 3:  16, 19-20.

Photograph courtesy of Rebecca Ellison Photography, copyright 2010

If You Only Read One Thing For Christmas

If you only read one thing for Christmas, read this piece by Tim Challies and watch the video.  If your heart doesn’t melt — if your soul doesn’t long – if your mind doesn’t deeply desire to renew itself — well then, something is wrong with you.

In Awe of Honest Love

My 2 year old granddaughter recently returned from Germany.  We’re pretty tight – my little grandbaby and I.  She was gone 12 days and every day, I saw her little face around every corner and through every doorway.

Finally, they arrived at our house to pick up their dogs.  Yes, we had the “pleasure” of baby-sitting the dogs….

As they drove into my driveway, IVC (her initials) saw me standing outside of the car and broke out in a genuinely huge smile – the biggest I have ever seen.  She had missed me also.

Later that week I was at the local Vitamin Cottage.  I looked down the breezeway of the shopping center and there was my little girl, helping her pregnant mom unload the groceries from their cart.  I called out her name – she turned – looked – then raised her arms out to me, running as fast as her 2-year old little legs would let her — with a huge grin on her face the whole way.  That grin was real.

Honest love is seen through the eyes of a 2 year old little girl who misses her grandmother so much that her little heart explodes when joy when they are re-united.

Sometimes I think God must feel this very same way.  How He must rejoice when He opens our eyes and we are able to smile honestly at Him!  Genuinely.  Knowingly.  Gratefully.  Humbly.  In Awe of his sovereignty.

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

The Best Christmas Present You Can Give This Year

There are two ways you can give a thoughtful, meaningful present this year:

  1. Instead of buying something that needs to be dusted and will eventually end up at the local Good Will Store, how about buying a mosquito net, a chicken, a goat, water filters, farm equipment, soccer balls for the kids, clean water projects and much more?  Compassion International has a new “gift” catalog where a plethora of gifts can be purchased for communities who really need them.  And of course, you know since it’s Compassion Int’l, you can trust that the money is spent on that which you request.  It’s part of that integrity thing they value so much.   Here’s the link to the Gift Catalog.
  2. You can also sponsor a child – one who desperately needs you – one that can be a part of your very own family.  So many to choose from:  Start Here. Or look to your right.  See that child on the banner?  He (she) is waiting right now.  Or you can choose by country (27 of them), by age, by gender, handicapped, orphan…….where is your heart?  Where is your passion?  Is it so hard to choose to love a little child with our excess?

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

Putting Amazing Back into Grace

I mentioned on Facebook the other day that my new favorite book is Dr. Michael Horton’s, Putting Amazing Back into Grace. There are really good reasons that you should invest some easy chair time with this book.

Right now I am going through Chapter 3, called Rebels Without a Cause. The information in this chapter is specifically intended to teach about our identity — about who we are — inside and outside.

I truly believe there is an identity crisis in America today.  An identity crisis that is deep enough to cause depression.  My concern is that this identity crisis also exists within the evangelical church – a place where identity should be more than understood.  So, I specifically recommend this book for Christians who want to not only grow in their faith, but who desire to grow in their understanding of our relationship with God.

Too often in the Christian world, we define our relationship with God.  Does that sound right?  If God is the author of truth, then ask yourself, “Who defines the relationship?”

Chapter 3 focuses on original sin.  My guess is that most contemporary Christians really do not understand original sin.  Yet, unless you understand original sin, you cannot understand your identity in Christ.

We can really get bogged down in the truth of original sin, so one thing I love that Dr. Horton has done:  he opens the book by helping us to first understand creation.  The creation of the world.  The creation of our physical body.   It was good!  It pleased God.  We were created in His image!  God is our Creator – but we are the creature. Not only does this chapter on creation help us to see the beauty of God in ourselves, it helps us to see and love  those whom He has not called, because they are also his creation.

As John Calvin said, “We must now speak of the creation of man;  not only because among all God’s works here is the noblest and most remarkable example of His justice, wisdom, and goodness, but because…we cannot have a clear and compete knowledge of God unless it is accompanied by a corresponding knowledge of ourselves.”  (The Institutes of the Christian Religion)

Instead of further personal observation, I am going to put some quotes from Chapter 3.  Remember to keep in mind the beauty of creation as you read these quotes from Dr. Horton about creation and original sin.

  • Not only has God left his fingerprints all over creation, he has left upon the human heart a yearning that makes human beings dust the creation for them.  The majestic imprimatur of God’s handiwork that makes us so significant in the universe also holds us responsible for our response to the Creator.  “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:20)
  • We begin thinking, from birth, that we are the center of the universe.  But we know better.
  • God gave Adam his instructions:  “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will surely die.”(Gen. 2:15-17)
  • Our fall was complete.  Every area of human life was affected and nothing created by God was left untouched.  Consequently, the stain of sin corrupts us physically, emotionally, psychologically, mentally, morally and spiritually.  That doesn’t mean, of course, that we are all brute savages who always carry out every possible evil; it does mean that each one of us is capable of doing so.  Further, it means that there is no hope for human beings to recover themselves or to make amends.  God demands a perfection of the qualities with which he endowed us, and we are corrupt in every chamber.  No part of us can rescue or heal the rest of us.
  • The Bible is a good deal more realistic about the human condition than is popular American culture.  Just because humanity declared independence does not mean that it became independent.  We can no more live independently of God than a fish can live independently of water.  “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
  • We need to stop running from God and from the guilt that we must all own.  We cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can’t find a police officer.  If we find him, or if he catches up to us, he will expose us for who we really are.  This is why Paul repeat the psalmist in lamenting, “there is no one who understands, no one who sees God.” (Romans 3:11)
  • Like the victims of a contaminated blood transfusion, we all have inherited Adam’s guilt and corruption.  This is what theologians call “original sin.”  Adam included us all in his decision and that decision was fatal for the entire race.  This concept is often hard to swallow — particularly in America, where we are saturated with the democratic ideal of being able to decide for ourselves what party we will join  But we did not decide whether we would belong to the Adamic party; we were born into it.
  • The psalmist confessed, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5)
  • When a corporation dumps toxic chemicals into one end of a stream, it’s not just that one area that is affected.  Soon the pollution washes all the way down the stream, and the entire river is polluted.  Adam’s rebellion had just this kind of effect.  Our whole race became corrupted – so much so that, viewing us collectively, God concluded, “Together they have become useless”(Romans 3:12) When we are born, then, we are born at odds with a God for whose pleasure we were created.  There are no “innocent little babies,” and the Bible knows of no age of accountability.  One can choose to believe, as I do, that all who die in infancy are saved, but one must credit that to God’s mercy, not to his justice.  God could condemn every infant5 for eternity; there is already enough evidence to make a conviction.  “Sin entered the world through one man  – the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men”(Romans 5:12-18)
  • Hence, the human will is in bondage to sin.  This does not mean that we sin against our will (i.e., by force); rather, our will is in bondage to sin, and when we do sin, our sin is in perfect harmony with the will which produced it.
  • What can we do?  Nothing!  That’s the point:  “Salvation comes from the LORD” (Jonah 2:9) “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Romans 9:16) “No one can come to me unless he Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44)
  • God does not help those who help themselves.  Why?  “For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.” (Heb. 4:10)
  • One thing that the Bible makes absolutely clear is that we depend entirely on God, not only for food, air and shelter, but also for salvation.  Remember the confusion that resulted when people began building the tower of Babel, hoping to reach God.  He has never been fond of towers.  God is out of our reach, but we are never out of his.

Well, that’s enough for one post!  Have I whetted your appetite a bit?  Don’t you truly want to accurately understand this important doctrine of the faith?

You may think it’s a downer doctrine, but let me reassure you that it is not – it is an amazing doctrine.  It’s one of those doctrines that puts the amazing back into grace.

Amazing, amazing grace

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now am found — ’twas blind but now I see.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: