All That I Had Hoped For (Lamentations 3:18-24)

My bright always 

never 

my perpetual victory 

annihilated 

all that I had hoped for 

gone 

I remember 

over and over 

my mind locked  

in misery 

cast out wandering 

stillborn expectations 

the poison of bitterness 

begetting deformed memories I cannot stop  

and I sink down 

down in the choking dust 

Yet  

my shattered soul won’t let you go 

Yet 

I turn back 

Yet  

I still dare to hope 

Yet  

I bare my envenomed heart for 

Your love never wanders 

Your compassions  

great love, tender, merciful, pity full  

like a mother with helpless child  

they never fail 

they are new 

delivered anew 

every morning 

as the sunrise 

sparkling on newborn manna 

absolute, unfailing hope 

You are my exuberant share 

therefore 

I will travail 

writhe 

twist 

bring forth  

the birthing you desire 

I wait longingly for 

You 

The Bassline

We come to know God through our afflictions. Our praise would be rote, would be hollow without having known His Presence and comfort through our afflictions.  

“The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, ‘He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’” — Charles Spurgeon 

I read this quote by Spurgeon in a little devotional.1 I wondered, what did he mean when he said our griefs are the bass part of our song? It inspired me to learn more about the bass part (also called bass line or bassline) in music. 

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the bass as “the lowest range of musical notes.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines the bassline as “[a] musical part consisting of a sustained series of the lowest pitched notes in the piece or composition.”2  

Hmmm, if the bass part is our troubles, sometimes it seems that the low part has been sustained for a very long time. But look at this quote from an 1880 book on the history and science of music: 

“the bass part… is, in fact, the foundation upon which the melody rests and without which there could be no melody.” — by Robert Challoner3 

Wow, if you think of the melody as our praises and the bass part as our afflictions, “the bass part of our life’s song,” that is a startling thought. There could be no melody without the bass part. It is the “sturdy foundation.” 

“Our basslines have to provide the rhythmic and harmonic foundation; the bassline provides the high-end with the structure and foundation to create interesting melodies… A bassline is the foundation on which the melody rides. With the sturdy foundation of the bass and other rhythm section instruments, the melody is free to do all sorts of things.” — Andrew Pouska4  

Esther Murimi goes even further, saying that the bass completes the music, adding a fullness: 

“Try listening to music without bass and one with it and you’ll notice the difference. For more clarity, if you have a sound system, you will notice that the music is complete when the bass is enhanced and sounds hollow without it.” — Esther Murimi5  

Finally, Wikipedia notes that the bassline bridges a gap: 

The bassline bridges the gap between the rhythmic part played by the drummer and the melodic lines played by the lead guitarist and the chordal parts played by the rhythm guitarist and/or keyboard player. — Wikipedia, Bassline 

“[T]he rhythmic part played by the drummer” to me is like the part played by the Holy Spirit. We are encouraged to keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). “[T]he melodic lines,” Spurgeon would say, are the melody lines of our praise. The bassline bridges the gap between these two. When you think about it, this intimate connection and teamwork between the Spirit (beat/step) and the bass (afflictions) makes sense. We come to know God through our afflictions. Our praise would be rote, would be hollow without having known His Presence and comfort through our afflictions.  

The hard times in our lives are the times that God has allowed to refine and purify us and to make us the place where His glory dwells. The baseline working with the (heart)beat of God gives the music of our lives richness, fullness, the reason to sing the melody, the joy, the with-all-my-heart passion. 

And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy’ Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-5 

Do you hear the beat? … suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Still using the metaphor provided by Spurgeon, I see that the love of God is the heart/drum beat and our sufferings are the bassline. And from these, through the knowledge of the character of God and trust in His goodness, the assurance that He is with us always – from these come our hope, and from that hope rises a pure melody of praise. 

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest (sits down, settles, consummates the marriage, dwells, abides in) the praises of Israel. Psalm 22: 3 (KJV) 

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63:7-8 (NAS) 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Yet take thy way; for sure thy way is best:  
Stretch or contract me thy poor debtor:  
This is but tuning of my breast,  
To make the music better. -- George Herbert, from The Temper (I) 

1Devotional Classics of C. H. Spurgeon, June 9, by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 

2American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.  

3History of the Science and Art of Music: Its Origin, Development, and Progress 

By Robert Challoner, 1880. Full text available on Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=dwctAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false 

4StudyBass https://www.studybass.com/  

5The Scientifically Proven Importance Of Bass In Musical Performances, Merriam School of Music https://www.merriammusic.com/school-of-music/importance-of-bass-in-performances/  

Image, detail from How Firm a Foundation, hymn attributed to George Keith 1787.

Our Father – Where We Grow Up

Our Father, I know from long experience that I do not do well in the candy aisle.

OK, here I am at the campfire still. I’m getting stinging smoke in my eyes now, and some mosquito bites. But let’s keep looking at the Lord’s Prayer from the point of view of a child.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13). I read a commentary on this verse that I thought was definitely a child’s point of view of the Lord’s Prayer. It compared God not leading us into temptation to a mother avoiding the candy aisle when shopping with her children. “Praying, ‘Lead us not into temptation,’ is like praying, ‘God, don’t take me down the candy aisle today.’ It’s recognizing that we naturally grasp for unprofitable things and that God’s wisdom can avert the unpleasantness of our bellyaching.” 

You know, there are myriad examples of ways we keep children from temptation. There is a whole industry devoted to it – baby gates, toilet seat locks, cupboard and drawer latches. Even with all of that, we sometimes have to chase them down as they run, giggling, toward a busy street. For a toddler, that is temptation – doing something forbidden (actually, for grownups too!). And so, we have to put blocks in their way to keep them safe.  Maybe sometimes when we find blocks in our way it is God answering our prayer to lead us not into temptation. 

God always has a purpose. Remember the commentary from the first blog on this subject: “Through ongoing sanctification, the believer more and more resembles their heavenly Father – i.e. each time they receive faith from Him and obey it, which results in their unique glorification.”2 Through ongoing sanctification, through obedience and yielding we become like Him.  

The word above translated “temptation” also means testing. Ellicott’s Commentary3 notes that “[t]he Greek word includes the two thoughts which are represented in English by ‘trials,’ i.e., sufferings which test or try, and ‘temptations,’ allurements on the side of pleasure which tend to lead us into evil.”  

This is where the child learns that some things are “nos.” This is where she learns to yield to the will of the Father. Learning to choose obedience. To not play in the toilet water. To begin to grow up. 

Receiving a place in the family of God, receiving daily spiritual and physical sustenance, receiving forgiveness: this is like being the little baby child, drinking the spiritual milk. But forgiving others, sharing what we have been given, yielding daily to God’s will for our lives, obeying His commands to love even our enemies, passing the test – the enduring, the waiting, the sanctification part, the becoming like Jesus part – that is where we grow up. 

Perhaps Jesus is saying to me in this part of the prayer: You are a little child of God. He is your loving, strong Father. Pray like a child who knows her weakness and vulnerability. 

“But those who are conscious of their weakness cannot shake off the thought that they might fail in the conflict, and the cry of that conscious weakness is therefore, ‘Lead us not into such trials,’ even as our Lord prayed, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass away from me’ (Matthew 26:39). And the answer to the prayer may come either directly in actual exemption from the trial, or in ‘the way to escape’ (1Corinthians 10:13), or in strength to bear it.”3 

Our Father, I know from long experience that in myself I am weak. I do not do well in the candy aisle. I do not endure trials patiently. And after very bad days I even sometimes find myself playing in the toilet water again. Oh Father, lead me not into temptation, but deliver me! 

“We beg for forgiveness, protection, and deliverance just as a young child asks for help and safety as she prepares to fall asleep at night.” — Jeremy Linneman, The Lord’s Prayer is Meant to Be Lived4 

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3 

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:13-14 

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)  

Our Father … 

1Lead Us Not into Temptation, but Deliver Us from Evil | The Lord’s Prayer Petition 5 By Stephanie Soderstrom and Terry DeYoung https://www.faithward.org/how-to-pray-like-jesus-the-lords-prayer-petition-5/  

2HELPS Word Studies by Discovery Bible 

3Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

4Blogged by Dr. Peter Cockrell https://pjcockrell.wordpress.com/2022/08/07/the-lords-prayer-is-meant-to-be-lived/  

Photo of candy aisle by Tiia Monto https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Candy_in_store_2.jpg  

Burning Bushes

There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up … God called to him from within the bush … Exodus 3:2, 4 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

God got Moses’ attention with the flames that didn’t burn up the bush. Once He got Moses’ attention, He called to him from within the bush. J.D. Walt recently wrote that we are called to be burning bushes too. 

“The only reason the Word of God has been bound into books is so it might become unbounded in our hearts, our minds, our very flesh and blood bodies and unleashed through our lives in the world. We are meant to become living bearers, holy manifestations, burning bushes, Spirit filled fiery pillars of the Living Word of God who is Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.” — J.D. Walt, The Only Problem with the Bible1   

We are meant to become burning bushes, givers of light that are not consumed, God drawing through us.  

Jesus said,You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14 

… you shine as lights in the world as you hold forth the word of life … Philippians 2:15-162 

There is another way that we become light in the world. When we become living sacrifices and God’s cleansing fire falls on us. 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV) 

And just as people were drawn to the burning bush, they are drawn to the flame of the sacrifice and can turn to the Living God. In the story of Elijah and the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18:16-39) there is a foreshadowing of this drawing when fire from heaven fell and burned up Elijah’s sacrifice, and the adherents of Baal worship confessed that the Lord is God. 

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” 1 Kings 18:38-39 

Oswald Chambers wrote of the call of God coming out of the flames of yielding. 

“If you abandon everything to Jesus, and come when He says, ‘Come,’ then He will continue to say, “Come,” through you. You will go out into the world reproducing the echo of Christ’s ‘Come.’ That is the result in every soul who has abandoned all and come to Jesus.” Oswald Chambers 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

… for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:29 

But maybe you are wondering, as I did, if God is a consuming fire, why wasn’t the bush consumed, why wasn’t it burned up? Why aren’t we burned up on the altar? I think it is because God is life and light and love, and what He burns up is sin and darkness and anything that is harmful and keeps us from Him. Only the ropes that bound Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were burned in the fire, but they walked with Jesus in the fire unharmed (Daniel 3:22-25). 

If we cling to the things that God’s holiness consumes and refuse to yield, we will get burned – and consumed with them in the end. Or, at the least, we will be left with nothing as the “wood, hay, and stubble” are burned up (1 Cor. 3:12-15).  

But if we put ourselves on the altar as a burnt offering and let His fire fall on us, we are cleansed and purified and set free. We are called to be burning bushes, to be burnt offerings on the consuming fire of His altar, a witness to His transforming power, His glorious majesty, and His unfailing love. And the more we let him burn away the darkness, the purer the flame, the brighter the light. And the needy, hurting, imprisoned people of the world are drawn to the light of the fire and we are able to call out to them from our burning bushes, “Come!” 

… his word is in my heart like a fire … Jeremiah 20:9 

The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Leviticus 6:12 

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit … Acts 2:2-4 

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Revelation 22:17 

https://seedbed.com/the-only-problem-with-the-bible/ 

2 Berean Study Bible 

Photo, Flame by Annie Roi https://flic.kr/p/9VB6y7  

It Takes Time to Grow

“My times are in your hands.”

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:2 

Sometimes it feels like it takes forever to heal, to change, to mature, to overcome. Sometimes I feel like I will never grow up out of my trauma. I struggle with the same dark thoughts, negative self-talk, unbelief for years. I cry out with David, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” The following verses and quotes have encouraged me in the past weeks. If you are struggling and feel like it is taking way too long, may they bless you too. 

Believe Him in the darkest hours. See His faithfulness emerge rock solid. Now we see His truer essence. Now we know faith in our Savior – from faith to faith. Joy! Things take the time they take. ~G.W. https://collinsgw.wordpress.com/2022/03/21/mystifying-dismay/  

“God still speaks today through dreams, visions, prophecies and we can make the mistake of thinking they are “now” words for this present time or the immediate future. We have to learn to submit the timing to God. The fulfilment may actually be for years in the future. We need to practice patience while we wait … It takes time to grow.” — Eagle Sight https://eaglesight.blog/2022/04/08/joseph-hero-of-the-faith-4/  

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4  

The real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. — Ann Voskamp 

But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand … Psalm 31:14 

“God has absolute control over time and what David realized when he uttered those words [My times are in your hand] is this: that God has absolute control over the times in our lives. He’s never late. He’s never premature. He has a time for every situation, every circumstance. If we will just commit our lives totally into His hands, we’ll find that our times are in His hands. What a relief from pressure, from strain, to know that God has control over the time element in our lives. Our times are in God’s hands.” — Derek Prince 

I have to keep reminding myself that God’s timing is always right and healthy for me, as I keep trusting and walking with Him. Some seeds take a very long time to sprout and grow. And some have to struggle up through a lot of rubble. Sometimes they seem dead, but life is coming – I have to wait for it. In the mean time …  

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73.26 

Wait for the Lord; 
Be strong and let your heart take courage; 
Yes, wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Image, free download from Pixabay

When You Pass Through the Waters

Choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV) 

I noticed it says “when” you pass through the waters and the rivers and “when” you walk through fire. Not if. Right now, is a “when” time for me. Both parents in Hospice. Exhausting caregiving. And I am sure that there are others of you reading that are up to your neck or smelling the smoke too. I would like to share with you some writings that have encouraged me. 

“I’m no sage. I don’t pretend to have this all figured out, but I know this: some live well, some die well, but few love well. Why? I don’t know if I can answer that. We all live, we all die – there is no get-out-of-jail-free card, but it’s the part in between that matters. To love well … that’s something else. It’s a choosing—something done again and again and again. No matter what. And in my experience, if you so choose, you better be willing to suffer hell.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Yes, when you choose this Way. When you walk through the fire. When you follow in his steps. 

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 

Besides descending into hell after his death on the cross, Jesus suffered a great deal of hell while on earth. We are commanded to follow in His footsteps, but we need to do it with His mindset. Becoming nothing. Being a servant. Pure love. 

Against my own best intentions, I find myself continually striving to acquire power. When I give advice, I want to know whether it is being followed; when I offer help, I want to be thanked; when I give money, I want it to be used my way; when I do something good, I want to be remembered. I might not get a statue, or even a memorial plaque, but I am constantly concerned that I not be forgotten, that somehow I will live on in the thoughts and deeds of others. 

But the father of the prodigal son is not concerned about himself. His long-suffering life has emptied him of his desires to keep in control of things. His children are his only concern; to them he wants to give himself completely, and for them he wants to pour out all of himself. 

Can I give without wanting anything in return, love without putting any conditions on my love? Considering my immense need for human recognition and affection, I realize that it will be a lifelong struggle. But I am also convinced that each time I step over this need and act free of my concern for return, I can trust that my life can truly bear the fruits of God’s Spirit.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son  

So, choosing love, choosing possible, most-likely, suffering, means choosing over and over. A “lifelong struggle.” And as Marshall Segal writes, it must be tenacious. 

“In other words, the deepest patience comes from a humble and hopeful joy in God above all else. That means that real patience is not only inconvenient, difficult, and wearying, but, humanly speaking, impossible. The kind of patience that honors God is so hard that we cannot practice it without help from God. It grows only where the Spirit lives (Galatians 5:22–23) … Paul does not charge the church to admonish the weak, but to help them, and the word for help here can also mean to hold firm or be devoted. There’s a tenaciousness in this help, a clinging to the weak, even after months or years of inconvenience and sacrifice. Where does that kind of patience come from? From knowing that “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” … Those who know how painfully and helplessly weak they are apart from God are more ready to endure the weaknesses of others. They don’t resent helping for the hundredth time, because they gladly trust and submit to God’s plans, including the weaknesses he has placed around them.” — Marshall Segal https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/patience-will-be-painful  

Tenacious, gladly trusting, and, as Henri Nouwen writes, unhesitating.  

“Do not hesitate to love and to love deeply. You might be afraid of the pain that deep love can cause. When those you love deeply reject you, leave you, or die, your heart will be broken. But that should not hold you back from loving deeply. The pain that comes from deep love makes your love even more fruitful. It is like a plow that breaks the ground to allow the seed to take root and grow into a strong plant. Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide not to love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love 

All this is indeed “humanly speaking, impossible.” But we have a Helper. 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 

The carvings had faded, but I ran my fingers through the grooves I could reach. ‘When you pass through the waters …’ The passage continued but my arm was too short.” — Charles Martin, Where the River Ends 

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save … Isaiah 59:1 

I will strengthen you and help you … 

I will be with you. 

P.S. And look what just came out as I was about to publish this! “Faith under fire becomes a furnace of transformation.” There is Another in the Fire

Image by Jackie, Noreaster April 16, 2007 https://flic.kr/p/GSsv8  

Sandstorm

This is where I am in the valley. I can’t see, can’t even open my eyes to try.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (ESV) 

I was meditating on this verse lately and found this revealing commentary: 

“The valley of the shadow of death . . .–This striking expression, to which the genius of Bunyan has given such reality, was probably on Hebrew lips nothing more than a forcible synonym for a dark, gloomy place. Indeed, the probability is that instead of tsal-maveth (shadow of death), should be read, tsalm-th (shadow, darkness), the general signification being all that is required in any one of the fifteen places where it occurs. It is true it is used of the ‘grave’ or ‘underworld’ (Job 10:21-22). But it is also used of the ‘darkness of a dungeon’ (Psalm 107:10), of ‘the pathless desert’ (Jeremiah 2:6); or, possibly, since it is there parallel with drought, of ‘the blinding darkness of a sandstorm,’ and metaphorically of ‘affliction’ (Isaiah 9:2), and of the ‘dull heavy look’ that grief wears (Job 16:16).” — Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers 

“The blinding darkness of a sandstorm.” Wow. While I can relate to all of the above metaphors, this speaks to me right now. This is where I am in the valley. I can’t see, can’t even open my eyes to try. I am being sand blasted and refined in pitch darkness. All I can do is cling to the One who will never leave me, and fear no evil from His unfailing love.  

for you are with me … 

Image in the Public Domain, free download from Picryl 

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