Thursday, 28 August 2014

"The Armor of Worth"

~ Excerpt from The Mystery of Marriage, by Mike Mason

"It is not intimacy itself, therefore, which is so distasteful and intimidating to the world but rather the moral condemnation that comes with it. People crave closeness with one another, but are repelled by the sin that such closeness inevitably uncovers in themselves: the selfish motives that are unmasked, the pettiness that spills out, the monstrous new image of self that emerges as it struggles so pitifully to have its own way.

Of course, only God can give people the strange desire to know the whole truth about themselves, and the strength and courage to live wide-open, exposed lives before one another. And how does He do it? How does He slip us this bitter pill, coated with intense desire and determination? Fortunately, the pill is also lavishly coated with the mystery we call love, which is the only thing in heaven or on earth which can shield us from the horror of knowing what we are really like. That, in fact, is what God's love is: it is His armor, an armor of forgiveness and acceptance that we put on over our corruption, an armor of worth or worthiness that completely covers our own worthlessness. God's love is, in a sense, the courage to go on living in the face of our sin, in the full knowledge of who and what we are. This intolerable knowledge of self must, indeed, be exchanged for knowledge of the Lord, and supremely for the knowledge of His saving power through the love of His Son Jesus Christ. That is what it means to "put on" Christ: it is to assume His strength and purity and goodness, recognizing that we have none of our own. Such an actual transfusion of character is possible only in the depths of loving intimacy with God in Christ.

And so it is in marriage that when the Lord draws a man and a woman together in the most intimate of human associations, He does so by giving them His love, which is all that can shield them through the searing experience of self-revelation they are to undergo. This is an experience that all people both crave and fear, with a fear that is conquerable only by love. Only love can drive out the constant threat of condemnation and rejection that otherwise haunts and spoils all experiences of intimacy. People cannot seem to refrain from judging one another, and in the crucible of marriage the judgment can be so intense and oppressive that the only recourse is a loving forgiveness of the other's wrongs, and in turn a courageous willingness to see one's own sinfulness exposed, conquered, and actually replaced by the other's love. In such a relationship, a true transfusion and transformation of characters may take place as each puts on the good qualities of the other and forgives the bad. Each is armor to the other, each is the other's strength and worth."

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Mortal Hope

We are frail. A puff of breath, too soon extinguished, a gathering of dust, too easily scattered. We wrestle with this mortality in the face of the invisible armies of disease, the ravenous wolves of cancer, the bottomless appetite of pain. We long for healing, for wholeness. We clamour for invincibility against the onslaught.

And yet, this mortality is also a gift.  Our broken bodies remind us that the facts and figures of our physicality are not the only reality. We are nomads in tents, desperately patching the rip and fray of our rubbing against the world,  and a hurricane could blow the covering right off, but sooner or later we will all pack it away, and where will be our home?

The tents may fray, but home may still be had even in the gale and gust. There is wholeness and peace that can enter into the center of it all, the perfect calm of spirit that comes from connection with the One who first breathed into dust and brought life. He promises life beyond pain and love beyond death and a home right now where soul healing can be found.

God our Healer has hands that hold us in all our frailty, and when the dust settles our names are still written on his palms, right beside the scars. Here is hope. 


Monday, 11 August 2014

Fools in love

Facedown, hands up, guts out singing with gusto, the swaying, shaking crazies who weep and shout and whisper in strange tongues, this is who we are. All these bodies and all these stories coming together, people with arms and tattoos and voices and histories, a mass of grateful people come to offer what they have to a living God – this is our lively worship. We are just people who were grabbed from the brink of hell and now can’t help but sing our thanks. Some worship with pure rhythm, and others with their offbeat, awkward offering, and it all ascends to heaven. To love God with heart, soul, mind and strength – yes, the greatest command, the greatest joy. We are all fools in love, and isn’t this what worship is?


What We Did.

I wrote about how I felt about Iraq on Friday. Responsible. Today I’d like to do something unusual for me and share what we did. Not because I think we are so great, but because I want to show that we can all do something, be it ever so small. We can help. Iraq is not the only tragedy in the world. I think I really would feel paralyzed if I had to act on every nightly news clip. But we can all leave our hearts open to love, and when love speaks, whispers, shouts, bangs on our doors breaking us bit by bit, it is our responsibility to act.

“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:16-17)

We prayed. I prayed for the protection of the innocent as I watched mine running and playing in the yard. There were times I wanted to shut down, to ignore the little duties and delights of the day. I sat in our house and felt guilty, not for all our meaningless stuff, but for the peace and joy we experience within these walls. This is the prize, not the American Dream, this is the gift for which we give thanks. This carefree summer day is what every child needs, and God does not begrudge us this. I sat on the green, green grass and prayed that one day those suffering would find joy. I prayed that evil would be halted in its tracks. I prayed that love would prove victorious. We keep praying that our hearts would remain open, that our hands will find fitting expressions of help.

We gave. After looking at a few different options, we gave a one time gift to an organization on the ground in Iraq providing relief to those persecuted and fleeing, no matter their religion. Was it thousands of dollars? No, not even close. But it was what we had this month. And then, we committed to monthly support for a local family we know who work in Lebanon, providing services to refugees from the Middle Eastern conflicts. Again, it is not a large amount. I wish it could be more. Maybe one day it will be. But it is our commitment not to forget after the fuss dies down.

We ate beans and bread. Pizza Friday is a bit of a tradition in our house. We make pizza and celebrate the onset of the weekend. But this Friday I couldn't. Couldn't celebrate, couldn't pile on the extra cheese. So in our own way, we fasted. I set the table, lit a candle, put a picture of the family we wanted to support next to it. Then I opened a tin of beans. Cut a few slices of bread. Sat down and explained to the kids why we weren’t having pizza tonight. We talked, on a four year old level, about people who were sad and needed to be safe, and that we were going to try and help. “Maybe those people could come to our island and live in safe houses here,” my daughter suggested. Oh, the simplicity of childlike faith.

On Sunday in our church one of these children of faith showed a picture he had painted. Two people walking toward a big red sunset. He is painting pictures to raise money for his grandmother in Kenya, who feeds dozens of hungry children in her own home, daily. He sells the paintings here in the community and sends the money to her. His idea. He’s just a kid.

“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18)

Perilous times call for particular acts of love. Change happens hand to hand, bean by bean. We can choose to love. We can choose to walk away from darkness, toward the sun.


Friday, 8 August 2014


Something is horribly wrong. One of my children watches early morning kids tv while the other sleeps quiet upstairs.

Meanwhile, there are children starving on mountaintops and children being beheaded in a park. I put the kettle on for coffee, survey the happy mess of yesterday’s play. I put toast in the toaster and the birds whistle outside the window. How would I feel if it were my daughter, my son? It is. They are distant, but they are part of my own body.

I feel responsible. Not for the crimes, but for my brothers and sisters, and all the children distorted by suffering. I do not feel able, not in the least. What is my response?

Coffee’s ready and the sun stretches out lazily through our little valley, the same sun that burns angry over the brazen evil in another land. This evil, this is not new. Braver and better people face it every day, challenge it every day, in thousands of ways all over the world. But sometimes a heart can get whiplash, and mine is here aching for Mosul and Mount Sinjar.

I feel helpless. I have a few extra dollars, a few extra prayers. We try not to think too much on these things, lest our lives be soiled by their awful truths. But I cannot look away. I must not forget, when my children are screaming in laughter, that others are not. I don’t have answers, and only a small voice, but I will denounce this vomit of hell. I have a heart, and today I will let it be stained with the sorrows before me.

My children are safe. My toast is cold. My heart is broken. Perhaps, together somehow, our love can make a way even into this hate and horror?

*Part II - What We Did


Friday, 1 August 2014

The kiss of God

"You've come and burned me with a kiss."

What is the kiss of God if not a burning coal from his mouth? A live coal from the altar, the temple of His body. As love begins with a kiss, our union with God begins with this encounter. A being of unclean lips trembles before the Consuming Fire, and if we draw near, dare to do so, in desperate desire to touch Him or die, touch Him and die if necessary, then He does not spit us out of of His mouth but draws near with this burning kiss. It's a kiss of death to sin and its icy hold, to all the lies we've ever told, the kiss that purifies, unlocks our lips to sing "Holy, holy, holy" and ignites the soul blaze of true love. There can be no intimacy without it, for this is what brands us as His own.

"And my heart burns for You. . . "

*Psalm 18:8, Isaiah 6:1-7
lyrics ~ "Obsession" by Delirious 

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