Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lord, You Brought My Life to Being

This will be my last post of 2010, as I prepare for Christmas break. In early 2011 I hope to announce a new website where readers can purchase my book based on this blog, Where Light Dawns: Christian Poems of Hope for Hurting Hearts. In the meantime, please e-mail all inquiries to


We all know that Advent is ideally a time of worshipful contemplation and of thanks to God for sending Jesus into the world and for all the Second Coming promises. And probably 90% of us continue to bog down each year in the swamp of "love it in theory but can't make it work in practice." Too much shopping, too much food, too many invitations, too many mailings--all of which we feel obligated to go through with even as the sum total leaves us exhausted and feeling guilty. Ultimately, we all have to face it: unless we're among the few for whom it's practical to move to a retreat center for three weeks, our special Advent time has to be carefully scheduled and usually comes out smaller than we'd hoped for.

Part of the problem may well be that our hopes are unreasonable. If you're anything like me, one thing you'd love to get for Christmas--or any time of the year--is a spiritual discipline program that works like piano lessons: clearly defined exercises, set hours, obvious signs of progress, and ultimately a mastery that ensures you never again have to struggle to learn more or do the right thing. I can now hear the real musicians chiding me for my overly idealized description of mastering the piano: "Obviously, she doesn't know about the monotony of practicing the same exercise over and over, the frustration of fearing you'll never master a difficult movement, the temptations to skip practice, the image of perfection that only recedes as you advance!" Okay, I admit that the "reach the peak and rest" dream is always an illusion, whether we're talking about the fine arts, education, or spiritual growth.

Ironic how quickly our noblest goals are tainted by laziness and the selfish desire for expediency. And ironic how quickly, after being saved, we forget all God gives us and start whining about what we still want. Most of us should have little trouble identifying with the Israelites in the wilderness, whose theme song quickly became, "How do we know God will continue providing for our needs--especially when what He provides isn't that great anyway?" We not only want what we want when we want it, we want it before we want it, as though even having to ask were more work than should be expected of us.

The real purpose of Advent is the same purpose that lay behind all the ancient Jewish festivals commanded by God, and that still lies behind their Christian counterparts today. That purpose is to take time to remember how great God is, how small we are, and how good He is to give us anything at all--let alone as much as He does. Especially since we constantly seem bent on doing everything possible to prove we deserve nothing but scolding and punishment.

That God still loves us and will do anything to supply our true needs, is the real gift.

Lord, You brought my life to being,
Gave me all the power I need
To perform Your works with purpose,
Praising You in every deed.
Still I greet each dawning morning
With a groan of inward dread:
“Only pain and stress await me;
Why should I desert my bed?”

Lord, through all that life has brought me
You have fed me by Your hand,
Led me safe through fiery struggles,
Silenced storms by Your command.
Still I test Your power and goodness:
Oh, how quickly I forget
All the wonders You have shown me,
All the needs that You have met!

Lord, You discipline Your children
With a Father’s love and care:
In each trial or pain that strikes me,
Your controlling hand is there.
Still I have despised Your chastening,
And my fleshly, selfish lust
Turns my thoughts to fretful pouting:
“What I want is always just!”

Lord, You know my human weakness;
I am but a fleeting wind
With a life that soon will perish,
Not to walk this earth again.
You, the One Who lives forever,
Weak and sinful though I be,
Share that endless life in mercy:
Lord, forgive, and set me free!

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