Monday, June 17, 2013

Nothing More Beautiful

The past couple of years, the story of Polycarp has captured me. Polycarp lived in the second century during a time of harsh persecution of Christians. Church History tells that when the police came to get Polycarp he was in a cottage, lying down in an upper room. Polycarp heard their arrival and went downstairs to meet the men. The police marveled at the uproar that a man his age could make. When the police entered the home, Polycarp ordered that something be made for them to eat. He asked them if he could have but one hour to pray before he was taken. One account says, “They gave him leave, and he stood and prayed, being so filled with the grace of God that for two hours he could not hold his peace, while they that heard were amazed, and the men repented that they had come after so venerable an old man. When he had brought to an end his prayer, in which he made mention of all, small and great, high and low, with whom he had dealings, and of the throughout the world, the time had come for him to depart.” The police put him on a donkey and led him away to Herod. Herod and his son tried to persuade him to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. With grace and kindness he said, "I do not intend to do what you advise." As they pushed him further and further and told him again and again to renounce the Lordship of Jesus and “curse the Christ” he uttered the following beautiful words: “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” 

The proconsul told him that he would be thrown into the fire. He responded, “Thou threatenest the fire that burns for an hour and in a little while is quenched; for thou knowest not of the fire of the judgement to come; and the fire of the eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. But why delayest thou? Bring what thou wilt.” 

They began to nail him to the stake, but Polycarp asked to be left as he was. He said, “He that granted me to endure the fire will grant me also to remain at the pyre unmoved, without being secured with nails.” The firemen lit the fire and “a great flame flashed forth; and we, to whom it was given to see, beheld a marvel....The fire took a shape of a vault, like a ship’s sail bellying in the wind, and it made a wall round the martyr’s body; and there was the body in the midst, like a loaf being baked or like gold and silver being tried in the furnace...and the multitude marveled at the difference between the unbelievers and the elect...”

As I think about Polycarp and the many others who have and are still being persecuted for their Jesus, I ponder the beauty of the Christ they see. I ponder the riches of God they know and taste. These are the riches of God that I want to savor. I want to know. I want to taste and see. It is unlikely that I will be thrown to lions or speared- but I do desire the same faith that is so alive and so real that it grew up in Polycarps heart to utter the words that he did in the face of such danger and opposition. Oh how I want it. 

Wealth. Wisdom. Glory. Strength. Honor. Power. Be to God and to the Lamb that was slain. 

I think of six little balloons that lifted in the air last week in honor of a 22 month old son. The mom with her face toward heaven and with tear stained cheeks watched and wept tears of painful trust as the balloon went further and further out of sight. She was at the graveside of her little boy. I can’t begin to fully understand her pain, their pain. They had just brought their son home from China where he was adopted. They heard the call of God, answered, and were devastated. But yet that heart broken mother says “God is with me, He is my strength.” I think of a couple who the husband is dying. He was given six months to live. They are living every moment for the desire of the glory of God. They are telling everyone of the God who is worthy to be trusted, worthy to be loved, worthy to be cherished. They had to turn their living room into a hospital room with necessary items for the man who is now completely confined to a special hospital bed. How can a people with such heartache rejoice in the God that is allowing this? I am reminded of the beautiful story of Ruth. God had taken everything away from her mother-in-law, Naomi- her husband, her sons, her wealth...gone. She was left with nothing. One of her daughter-in-laws, Ruth, saw her misery. She saw her pain. She had her own pain of losing her husband. And yet Ruth still wanted this God of Naomi. Ruth clung to this God whom she had seen and known to allow overwhelming sorrow for His people. Why would Ruth cling to this kind of God? Because there is nothing more beautiful than our Savior. Nothing. Not sunsets or walks on the beach. Not a lover’s kiss or a baby’s love. Nothing more beautiful than our bloody Savior. 

I think of young men and children coming from darkness to light. Witnessing life change. Hearing the prayer of a sinner becoming a saint. Young men who are the first believers in their families. Out of God's abundant graces saved and adopted into the family of God. One  was sitting and talking with us one evening and told us that at times he thinks of his mom in an eternity without Christ. He can’t stand the thought but knows this is truth unless she repents and turns to Christ. He told us he could’t stand to think of it. His heart is full of love and longing for his mother. He is acting his faith out. He has come from being fatherless on this earth to being the child of the most wonderful, glorious Father of all. The riches of God. Forgiveness. Love. Supernatural longing for the Lordship of Christ in others. A giving of time, affection, love, and money for the glory of God. Oh how I want it! 

I think of changing diapers too. I think of preparing meals. I think of cleaning and folding clothes. Can I do these for Him? Can I die to me and live for him in the humdrum of everyday life and the tying of my hands in which the blessed job of motherhood gives me? Oh yes, I can. We can. All that we do. With His grace. I think back on seeing a mother and a father leaving their crying kids in my arms. The parents walk out unmoved by any emotion. The kids look and see tears on my face and act puzzled. They ask why. I tell them again about the perfect love of Jesus and how He knows their tears. I tell them of a Father whose heart breaks as our does. I hold all three in my arms and in my lap and pray for them to see and know the beauty of the precious man, named Jesus. I leave that place with a hatred for Satan and his destroying ways. I leave praying and desiring that He, our Father, would come back and not tarry. Oh to be with Him. No more hurt. No more pain. Tastes of the richness of God. He is coming. But I don't want to go by myself,  I want to take as many with us as He wills. There are many who need Him. I pray we would care more about the lost and the hurting, then about our riches. More about His house than about our house. More about their hearts than about our curtains. May we, may I, sacrifice all He asks for the kingdom of the Son in which I say I love. 

CS Lewis once wrote, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant chid who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." God, may I nor the people you have given me to love be this ignorant child.

There truly are great riches in God. I know only some. I fail more often than I soar. If I focus on the failures-they are so great-I would become quickly depressed. I tell my own eyes to look upon the cross, to the author and perfector of my faith. Oh how I want to know more and know deeper of my King. I want Him to become so real, so precious that with Polycarp I will say, “ how then can i blaspheme my king who saved me....” in the face of any trial, any situation, any humdrum day...changing diapers or being killed by a dagger- may we become a people truly so occupied with the glory and presence of God that people look on to our Savior in wonder. I’m not there, but I long to be. 

1 Thessalonians 5:22-23, "May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. Brothers, pray for us." 

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Beautiful Joy!

Psalm 42. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”  In 2011, I was able to smell the refreshing and crisp air of the Dan River, where this psalm is thought to have been composed. It was like a small glimpse of heaven. The freshness and vibrance of the air and the beautiful sound of the waters was pure and wonderful. The contrast of this little haven with the busyness, clamor, noise, and interesting smells of the city was beautiful. I have felt great comfort and peace within my heart from this psalm. My faith and trust have grown deeper, my love for my Savior more tried and true. Although the chapter ends with no heard response from his God, it’s like you can hear the heart of the one who writes. A heart of trust in the One his soul loves, A heart whose steadfastness is set on the One who holds him together, A heart whose love is swelling with hope as he longs for the One who truly satisfies him. The psalmist’s words have resonated with me during this season in my life. 

It has been a season of great joy and a season of  dry heartache. About the dryness, I trust in the Words of my King and say to my own soul, “Hope in God.” And I rest. I will behold. And when I do, the waiting will be all the more sweeter. He brings me quietness with His perfect love. Now, on to the JOYS....

We have been given the most precious gift of our first daughter, Anna Cate Gossett! She was born January 11, 2013 at 4:39 am, weighing 6lb. 3 oz. We have absolutely fallen in love! She is a pure delight!  Here is her story....well at least some bits and pieces of it.....

  David made me take a pregnancy test....this was my true first reaction when I saw it....
After a really long time of the first face...I gradually progressed to this face....
 Then came this phase.....

Then this beautiful little first glimpse of our little girl! 

Then we did everything to get her spicy mexican from the taco bus...and more spicy mexican for dinner.....oh yes we did....and I was sick all night...nice. 
 My sweet family came in and my sisters tried to help.....but nothing.....

We all waited.....

And we loved the waiting....

Then we had to say good-bye to our North Carolina crew...

Then when it was the perfect time for the most precious little girl...God gave us beautiful 
Anna Cate Gossett

What a most wonderfully pure and lovely gift. We are so thankful. 
Anna Cate's delivery was beautiful. Jesus's presence and love was so very sweet. The remembrance of it brings a smile and an increasing trust in my Savior. 

David and his little girl

 We are so thankful for our family and friends and for all of their love, encouragement, and help! There were so many people who came up to the hospital, who helped us with meals, and who blessed us with  gifts for this sweet little addition. We are so thankful for each of you! 

 My wonderful mom stayed and helped me for the first week. She is amazing. Again, so thankful.

Zephaniah 3:17
Yahweh your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will bring you quietness with His love.
He will delight in you with shouts of joy.

I love the way that our God weaves beauty into the dryness. He weaves it so beautifully that you can truly say that all is joy, beautiful beautiful joy.