Thursday, June 26, 2014

Candlesticks

If you've followed any of our web updates, our prayer letters, or Facebook, than you are well acquainted with our schedule and know that we're in New York for our last few days before departing for Rwanda on Tuesday. I don't even have to feel weird about telling the internet we're not at home, because - guess what Thieves? We have no home, and no stuff in it. Knock yourselves out. I can't vouch for the new owners' taste in valuables, but they're much more likely than I to have a big dog and a gun.

So,  I'll refrain from giving you a play-by-play of the last month. It's been busy, frantic, happy, sad, rich and full. Instead, I'll focus on something I don't usually talk about on this site (although I'm happy to speak about in person if you ask) --  how I'm doing spiritually; what God's been teaching me lately.

If you need background, there's this. Refresh yourself and remember that I'm recovering from a pretty dry and lonely existence spiritually. So, it is with awe and gratitude that I say, things are good. I am peaceably and consistently aware of God's work in my heart and his presence in my day. It still surprises me sometimes when I'll have a thought I quickly recognize as thanks and not cynicism. (Of course, cynicism is still there too).

Ben and I have been part of an intense mentored dischipeship program called Sonship. The basic point is learning how to practically apply the gospel to our lives. We started it about 2 weeks before I got sick, and started intense treatment, so we are on the slow track, but it's changing us. And perhaps the slow track is the best place for change to happen, right?

Our mentor's name is Stu and we enjoy every time we don't forget we have an appointment and get to talk to him together. He's had some great ways of explaining the gospel to us - not the gospel for salvation, but the gospel as Christ's righteousness given to us. I'm sure you've heard some of those analogies too. I'll try not to get too preachy, but my secret dream job is preaching, and I'm sure I can find a quiz on Facebook to tell me that that's the job I should have, my abysmal record of breaking into hysterics behind the pulpit at my brother's wedding notwithstanding.

So, I know the gist. The gospel is more than just God's forgiveness of our sins. That's the first part. We owe one thousand dollars and God cancels that debt: forgiven. But, there's more; the second part. God then deposits ten million dollars into an endowed account that will NEVER go broke.

It's a beautiful truth that was made more beautiful for me last night. Last night, Ben's parents watched the kids while we went to Broadway to see Les Miserables, which I've seen before (20 years ago?) and Ben has always wanted to see. Due to some great teaching, we already knew the gospel themes of the story, but I mean, does it ever get old? In an early scene, Jean Valjean, a paroled convict steals silver from a Bishop who offered him help. The police catch Valjean red(silver)-handed, and he lies and tells them the silver was a gift. The Bishop, presented with this evidence, displays two candlestick and says:
That is right.
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
You forgot I gave these also;
Would you leave the best behind?


The Candlesticks are the best part of the gospel, the part we often leave behind. You see, depending on your perspective, Les Mis is also a story of a false gospel. It is often described as a story of redemption, where Valjean uses his gifted silver to improve himself. And, that is what we want to believe: that I believed the gospel for salvation and self-improvement. And so, as a Christian, I often spend my time proving to myself and my friends and my family and the world my improvement, my redemption. And every time I rise to defend myself, or lie just a bit to improve my side of the story, or give thoughts as to why my anger is justified, I am telling Jesus, "I don't need the candlesticks, I'll just take the cup."

Ahem. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Is this blog post not a bit of that very sin: informing you of my righteousness? I am so stinking aware of that as I type. Yes. I know that sins taints my every choice, and I know sin is here now too. So, with fingers busy on the keyboard, I've got the candlesticks firmly between my teeth. And, if it sounds like false modesty to you, you are probably right. But, there is still a voice in my heart that is not the cackle of the braggart or the whine of a Judge Judy defendant (those are there too), but the song of a sparrow that was created to sing. 

God changes me, and as he changes me, he fills me with song. And if that's not a dag-gone miracle.....

Also. I am still working on Scripture memory. I read a book that shared a method on how to do extended Scripture memory. I gave the method a try. It wasn't for me. It stole from me the devotional magic. So, I ditched it and have gone back to the old standard of repeat, repeat, repeat. Out loud, quietly, when I lay down, when I wake up. No matter how good my book is, when rocking Annie for her nap, I close my Kindle app and open YouVersion, and we speak life to ourselves. And, I truly believe that the moments spent in that sacred exercise are the moments that lead to me seeing grace on Broadway and having the courage to sing my own song. If you are inclined to pray me through my  goals or join me on the journey, I'm hoping to have the book of Ephesians memorized by Thanksgiving. I just started chapter 2. And Paul. Oh, Paul and I still have issues. I'm not sure what it's like in Greek, but it just seems like he's out to use at least 5 prepositional phrases each sentence. And I want to call Mrs. Heath for help diagramming the sentences so I can make sense of it all. 

One more thought on Les Mis. I remembered the gospel in the play. But, I had either forgotten or was never aware that the musical ends essentially with an amazing altar call:

Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
Who are climbing to the light.

For the wretched of the earth
There is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise.

They will live again in freedom
In the garden of the Lord.
We will walk behind the ploughshare;
We will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
And all men will have their reward.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
Is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
When tomorrow comes!

From a girl who will never sing on Broadway, this post is my song: "The music of a people who are climbing to the light."

Candlesticks, people. 
xoxo,
Susie (can you tell the difference when we write or should Ben and I identify ourselves?)


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