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Posts Tagged ‘Pursuit’

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“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

As I read the above words I thought of how ‘hounded’ I was feeling that particular day.

Hounded was I by the pressures of relationships, and bills, and work, and making dinner, and seeking the location of just one ibuprofen to take the edge off this pounding headache.

Her words made my eyes fill, and their banks refused to hold the flood back … the dams burst, the water fell.

Later I sought the The Hound of Heaven … the poem I had a vague knowledge of once reading. It was written in the late 1800’s by English writer Francis Thompson. Mr. Thompson had studied to become a priest, then a physician, then lived in terrible poverty (as a writer) where he survived by selling matches. He then suffered with the constant pain of neuralgia, which he treated with laudanum (containing opium), eventually becoming addicted. He last years were spent in a monastery, where he was cared for by friends.

The first link I opened to read the poem, The Hound of Heaven, made the dams burst in another way … tears of joy.

I read the ode, allowing the pursuits to settle on my heart and mind. The pursuits that we make for ‘more’ of this world, and the never-ending pursuit of God for his child.

When I came to the end of the verses, there followed yet more verses … this time written by David …

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

… the words of Psalm 139 … the words I have been hiding in my heart for months, as though ‘I’ had anything to do with it … as though those words were chosen for me, for such a time as this. As though those words were the instrument of the Hound himself. He who is willing to use whatever means possible to draw us back to Him.

“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

 

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A few years back, like five or six, I read a book that was,

for me,

the calm after the storm …

or was it the calm before the storm?

A book written by an unknown author, who self-published a book that ended up going all the way to the New York Times Bestseller List (currently over twenty million copies sold).

Recently, through the daily reading of a teacher in whose class I work, I have been re-visiting the Shack, by William P. Young.

This novel, written as a story by Mr. Young, for his children, became both loved and reviled by the Christian community. Some felt it the best thing since the classic John Bunyan story of Pilgrim’s Progress. Others felt it was heresy.

I read it,

and received it,

as a fairy tale, drama, tragedy, love story

metaphor for the depth of love that God has for his children … His deeply beloved.

Last week, while the teacher was reading through a chapter, it happened.

I call it the Shack attack …

The words on the page pierced my heart, as though inked onto the page by my very heart.

“I guess part of me would like to believe that God would care enough about me to send a note.”

and my dry eyes were suddenly hydrated unexpectedly.

I think we all look hope for that kind of love, that kind of pursuit …

and my own experience of The Shack (and of The Word) is that He does.

Be prepared, there will be more posts of my return to The Shack.

Mr. Young stated to radio host talk show Drew Marshall that The Shack “is a metaphor for the places you get stuck, you get hurt, you get damaged…the thing where shame or hurt is centered.”

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I have this picture in my mind of Jesus on a cross, near to the point of succumbing to death. He is beaten and bruised. He is bloodied, with fresh, as well as hours old dried blood. He is alive and yet so near to death.

In my mental picture, I am standing behind him, as he breaths some of his last, pain-filled breaths. I am dirty with the shame, the guilt, the sin that is part and parcel of being fully human. I am marred, scarred and unattractive. None of the dirt and the shame and the guilt and the sin is visible to anyone … except for me. It is internal. I look to others normal, clean and attractive, but, in my heart … that is where the reality of my condition is visible.

Then Jesus turns his face to look at me behind him. I know that He can see the real me … one who is so unworthy so close to one who is so perfect. He looks at me, and a tear falls from his bruised eye. He can see the sin in my life, and the embarrassment I feel causes a lump to form in my throat. I bow my head in shame, and tears fall from my internally bruised eyes.

I sob, more for myself than for the man suffering on the cross. I now feel the guilt of turning my face away from him, in HIS final hour. “How selfish,” I say to myself.

I force my head to lift, I force my eyes to look up to him.

He sees my guilt-filled eyes, he sees my sins … ALL OF THEM. I muster all that is within me to not look away.

Then, he does something that changes my life … forever.

He moves his head, how I do not know, for it was taking such efforts for him to even breath. He positions his head so that he is now looking at me through the cross, not around it. It is as though the wooden cross has become translucent, so that he is looking at me through the cross.

What he sees, as he looks at me through the cross is very different from what I know I am. He sees me as clean, He sees me as spotless, He sees me as beautiful.

Through the cross, Jesus sees me as the perfect creation that I was always intended to be. But, it is only through His seeing me through His cross that I am made new.

“So, Jesus sees you, and he’s like, my son, my daughter, perfect, spotless, blameless.”

“That’s the whole point of the cross, is that you’re gonna fail, and you’re gonna stumble, and you’re gonna feel dirty and you’re gonna feel awkward the whole point of the cross of Christ is there be this mighty picture of His love and pursuit of you, so the cross is necessary, because of you but it’s also the picture we have of just how far God is willing to go because He loves you.”

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