A Cry for Mercy

“O Lord, who else or what else can I desire but you? You are my Lord, Lord of my heart, mind, and soul. You know me through and through. In and through you everything that is finds its origin and goal. You embrace all that exists and care for it with divine love and compassion. Why, then, do I keep expecting happiness and satisfaction outside of you? Why do I keep relating to you as one of my many relationships, instead of my only relationship, in which all other ones are grounded? Why do I keep looking for popularity, respect from others, success, acclaim, and sensual pleasures? Why, Lord, is it so hard for me to make you the only one? Why do I keep hesitating to surrender myself totally to you?

Help me, o Lord, to let my old self die, to let die the thousand big and small ways in which I am still building up my false self and trying to cling to my false desires. Let me be reborn in you and see through you the world in the right way, so that all my actions, words, and thought can become a hymn of praise to you.

I need your loving grace to travel on this hard road that leads to the death of my old self and to a new life in and for you. I know and trust that this is the road to freedom.

Lord, dispel my mistrust and help me become a trusting friend.”
Henri Nouwen in A Cry for Mercy

Have Mercy

“Mercy is the highest art and the shield of those who practice it. It is the friend of God, standing always next to him and freely blessing whatever he wishes. It must not be despised by us. For in its purity it grants great liberty to those who respond to it in kind. It must be shown to those who have quarreled with us, as well as to those who have sinned against us, so great is its power. It breaks chains, dispels darkness, extinguishes fire, kills the worm and takes away the gnashing of teeth. By it the gates of heaven open with the greatest of ease. In short mercy is a queen which makes humans like God.”
— Chrysostom (Catena 13)

God’s Mercy

This morning I had my CD player on shuffle. As I cooled down from a refreshing run, walking around the house and drinking a bottle of ice-cold water, I was stopped in my tracks by some lyrics that have stopped me cold numerous times through the years.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the reckless raging fury
That they call the love of God

My prayer is that the longer I remain caught in His love, the wider the mercy will grow in my heart.

(These lyrics are from Rich Mullins song The Love of God from his Never Picture Perfect CD released in 1989.)

You Left Out Someone

Our sister congregations in Panama are always looking for ways to enhance their Bible teaching for the children. They recently discovered how flannel boards could be used to teach the children. Flannel board lessons might not hold the attention of an over stimulated child growing up in the United States, but the children raised in the jungle are mesmerized by the felt cutouts of Noah, Moses, and Jesus sticking to the flannel board. Recently a sister at Skyline coordinated a ministry team who worked for hours and hours cutting out felt figures so several sets of lesson material covering the entire Bible could be shipped to Panama.

This scissor-wielding ministry team did a great job sitting in a room for hours, concentrating on cutting out the felt animals, people, and scenery. I helped the team in the best possible way – by trying to be a cheerleader while refusing to pick up a pair of scissors. The team leader was so happy that the work was getting done and that the members of the team were enjoying themselves so much in the process. At the conclusion of the project, she provided me with a spread sheet she had used to record all the names of those involved on the team.

The team leader was glad when I told her I wanted to write a note in the church newsletter thanking all those who had prepared these teaching materials for the children of the jungle. So using the spread sheet she provided and some photos I had taken, I sat down and prepared a note informing the congregation of the project results and thanking all the team members for their hours of devoted service. This was fun for me for a number of reasons. I admired the group’s abilities because I cannot cut a straight line with scissors, much less accurately cut around the shapes they had to cut. I have seen the church classrooms in Panama. I have talked to the ladies who so want to teach but have little in the way of resources. And what a great job they did! I was eager to share the joy of this ministry teams’ success with the entire church family through this thank you note.

The day after we sent out the church newsletters, the ministry team leader stopped by the church office to prepare some additional teaching materials to be sent to Panama. She kindly spoke some words to me that stopped me in my tracks, words I always fear hearing after I have written a thank you for the church newsletter. “You left someone off the list.” Immediately I asked, “Who did I leave out?” And in the moments between my question and her answer I feared hurting someone’s feelings, discouraging someone by my words that were meant to encourage, or even making someone angry.

My anxiety was relieved instantly when she revealed the name of the sister I had accidentally overlooked. I breathed a sigh of relief because the sister she named is one of the most humble servants of Jesus I have ever met. She is the last person in the world who would be offended by my gaffe.

After I calmed down and processed the blunder and my fear, I was pretty sure none of the team members would have become angry as a result of my blunder. But I started thinking about my instant relief when I heard the name of the sister I had omitted. The more I thought about it the more I began to reflect on my responses to other people and their actions. If someone else similarly had overlooked a name, would they be relieved to find out it was me? Or would they be fearful that they had overlooked an easily offended person? What about you? Are you the easily offended type that causes everyone to walk on egg-shells around you?

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11

The Wreckless Raging Fury

This morning I had Rich Mullins’ 1989 release Never Picture Perfect in the shuffle mix on my CD player. When song number 8, “the love of God”came on, the words stopped me in my tracks, much as they did the first time I heard them more than 16 years ago.

“There’s a wildness in God’s mercy
I cannot find in my own
And He keeps His fire burning
To melt this heart of stone
Keeps me aching with a yearning
Keeps me glad to have been caught
In the wreckless raging fury
That they call the love of God”

Today, I am praying for some wildness in my mercy.

Why Me?

Have you ever talked to someone sitting on their pity-pot?

“Why me?” they ask over and over.

“Poor me!” they moan to anyone who will listen.

Sometimes you feel like you need a nap after you have spent 15 minutes in conversation with someone like that. It drains the life out of you. It just wears you out.

So the recent ESPN interview with Rodney Harrison of the NFL champion New England Patriots is refreshing. Harrison, who plays safety, suffered a season-ending knee injury in week three of the NFL season.

Andrea Kramer asked Harrison, “When you were on the field laying there what went through your mind?”

Listen to his response: “Not once did I ask, ‘Why me, God?’ Cause a lot of times as human beings we tend to ask, ‘Why me?’ Cause not once did I ask, when I received those rings, ‘Why me?’ or anything like that. When I signed the contract, I never asked, ‘Why me?’ then.”

We need to give consideration to what Harrison is saying. Maybe we need to ask, “Why me?” when pondering our greatest blessings.

I am redeemed, forgiven, and adopted by God. Why me, Lord?

I am justified, reconciled, and sanctified by God. Why me, Lord?

I am accepted and embraced by God. Why me, Lord?

“My God, my God, why hast thou accepted me?”

Thank God for the mystery of His mercy, the greatness of his grace.

Thy Mercy

My unworthiness. God’s mercy.

My rebellion. God’s pursuit.

My rags. God’s riches.

God’s pardon. God’s covenant. God’s righteousness

My tears.

God’s love my boast, my joy, my song.

That’s the story told so beautifully by this song. The lyrics were written in 1776.

If you have never heard it, find a way.

Thy Mercy

Words by John Stocker (1776)

Music by Sandra McCracken

Recorded by Caedmon’s Call

On the album In the Company of Angels

Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song,

The joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue.

Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,

Hath won my affection and bound my soul fast.

Without Thy sweet mercy, I could not live here.

Sin would reduce me to utter despair,

But through Thy free goodness, my spirit’s revived

And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,

Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart.

Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground

And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

Hallelujah

Hallelujah

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own

In the covenant love of Thy crucified Son.

All praise to the Spirit, whose whisper divine

Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.

All praise to the Spirit, whose whisper divine

Seals mercy and pardon and righteousness mine.