Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas declares the glory of the flesh

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal

Christmas declares the glory of the flesh:
And therefore a European might wish
To celebrate it not at mid winter but in spring,
When physical life is strong,
When the consent to live is forced even on the young,
Juice is in the soil, the leaf, the vein,
Sugar flows to movement in limbs and brain.
Also before a birth, nourishing the child
We turn again to the earth
With unusual longing – to what is rich, wild,
Substantial: scents that have been stored and strengthened
In apple lofts, the underwash of woods, and in barns;
Drawn through the lengthened root; pungent in cones
(While the fir wood stands waiting; the beechwood aspiring,
(Each in a different silence), and breaking out in spring
With scent sight sound indivisible in song.

Yet if you think again
It is good that Christmas comes at the dark dream of the year
That might wish to sleep ever,
For birth is awaking, birth is effort and pain;
And now at midwinter are the hints, inklings
(Sodden primrose, honeysuckle greening)
That sleep must be broken.
To bear new life or learn to live is an exacting joy;
The whole self must waken; you cannot predict the way
It will happen, or master the responses beforehand.
For any birth makes an inconvenient demand;
Like all holy things
It is frequently a nuisance, and its needs never end;
Freedom it brings: We should welcome release
From its long merciless rehearsal of peace.

So Christ comes
At the iron senseless time, comes
To force the glory into frozen veins:
His warmth wakes green life glazed in the pool, wakes
All calm and crystal trance with the living pains.

And each year
In seasonal growth is good – year
That lacking love is a stale story at best
By God's birth
Our common birth is holy; birth
Is all at Christmas time and wholly blest.

Anne Ridler (1912-2001), "Christmas and the Common Birth"

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Love that loves unto death

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal


 Our family has been waiting upon the Lord for our next steps. As we pray over hundreds of job postings and application forms, I am reminded of how Amy Carmichael responded to those who expressed a desire to serve with her in her home for orphans in India.
In one correspondence, she bluntly stated, "Not a word of attraction can I write to [you]. It will be desperately hard work, iron would snap under the strain of it. I ask for steel, that quality which is at the back of all going on, patience which cannot be tired out, and love that loves in every deed, unto death."
To those who apply, she asked them this list of questions:

  • Do you truly desire to live a crucified life? ("Ditch-digging," she warned, "gives no dignity.")
  • Does the thought of hardness draw you or repel you?
  • Do you realize that we are a family, not an institution? Are you willing to do whatever helps most?
  • Apart from the Bible, can you name three or four books which have been of vital help to you?
  • Apart from books, what refreshes you most when tired?
  • Have you ever learned any classical or continental language?
  • Have you ever had opportunity to prove our Lord's promise to supply temporal as well as spiritual needs?
  • Can you mention any experience you have passed through in your Christian life which brought you into a new discovery of your union with the crucified, risen, and enthroned Lord?

"Do not come," she emphasized again, "unless you can say to your Lord and to us, The Cross is the attraction." I am amaze that the Lord continued to provide workers who labored with her in the field!

Praise be to God. My faith is strengthened.

Christ our Captain, hear our prayer,
Warriors we ask of Thee,
Comrades who shall everywhere
Stand for love and loyalty;
Servants who with souls aflame,
Kindled from Thine altar-fire,
Live to magnify Thy Name,
Live to meet Thy least desire.
Lovers who in love abide
In the Secret Place of rest,
Yielded to be crucified
That Thy life be manifest;
Labourers who joyfully
Choose rewards unseen today.
Cause us, O our Lord, to be 
Like to these for whom we pray.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Fires, alive

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal

His earnest love, His infinite desires,
His living, endless, and devouring fires,
Do rage in thirst, and fervently require
  A love 'tis strange it should desire.

We cold and careless are, and scarcely think
Upon the glorious spring whereat we drink,
Did He not love us we could be content:
  We wretches are indifferent.

'Tis death, my soul, to be indifferent;
Set forth thyself unto thy whole extent,
And all the glory of His passion prize,
  Who for thee lives, Who for thee dies.

Traherne, 17th century

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Not far from us, those stars

A voice and a song from long ago, from our dear Amy Carmichael.
Gold by Moonlight, 112-113, 156

But continually we look at things about us without seeing more than a very little of what is there.
We look up into the sky at noon and know that familiar constellations are passing over us, but we do not see them. Empty blue, or grey, or masses of cloud—that is all we see.

We look at a pool or any little runlet of softly flowing water; we are looking into fairyland; but we do not catch even a flutter of a fairy scarf. Water and the reflections and colours on its surface—that is all we see.

We know that we see in part where the material world is concerned. Why should we not be comforted where the spiritual is in question by remembering that there also we only see in part?

We dwell perpetually in the presence of far more than we can see. Our feelings say, "How can this good thing be?" but if God declares it is, that is enough.

Make me Thy labourer,
Let me not dream of ever looking back,
Let not my knees be feeble, hands be slack.
O make me strong to labour, strong to bear,
From the rising of the morning till the stars appear.

Make me Thy warrior,
On whom Thou canst depend to stand the brunt
Of any perilous charge on any front.
Give me skill to handle sword and spear,
From the rising of the morning till the stars appear.

Not far from us, those stars—
Unseen as angels and yet looking through
The quiet air, the days' transparent blue.
What shall we know, and feel, and see, and hear
When the sunset colours kindle and the stars appear?

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal


Love, traveling in the greatness of His strength,
Found me alone,
Footsore and tired by the journey's length,
Though I had known
All the long way many a kindly air,
And flowers had blossomed for me everywhere.

And yet Love found me needing Him. He stayed;
Love stayed by me.
"Let not thy heart be troubled or dismayed,
My child," said He.
Slipped from me then, all troubles, all alarms,
For Love had gathered me into His arms.

 Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hold me fast by Thee

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), a sketch in her journal

Lover of all, I hold me fast by Thee,
Ruler of time, King of eternity.
There is no great with Thee, there is no small,
For Thou art all, and fillest all in all.

The new-born world swings forth at Thy command,
The falling dew-drop falls into Thy hand.
God of the firmament's mysterious powers,
I see Thee thread the minutes of my hours.

I see Thee guide the frail, the fading moon
That walks alone through empty skies at noon.
Was ever wayworn, lonely traveler
But had Thee by him, blessed Comforter?

Out of my vision swims the untracked star,
Thy counsels too are high and very far,
Only I know, God of the nebulae,
It is enough to hold me fast by Thee.

 Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Make me thy fuel, flame of God

Hear us, Father, we are weary.
Help us, Spirit, with our tasks unfinished.
Feed us, Yeshua, with yourself — bread and water, living and broken.

Lilias Trotter (1853-1928), an unfinished sketch in her journal

From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.

From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakenings,
(Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified,)
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.

Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay
The hope no disappointments tire
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.

 Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)