Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What a Portion!

"God now brings thee to His dwelling,
Spreads for thee His feast divine,
Bids thee welcome, ever telling
What a portion there is thine."
~J. Denham Smith

I suppose all of us find ourselves, at times, being discontented with our lot in life. No matter how blessed we are, we can always point to something that we don't have, which others are enjoying. Lately I've been thinking about David's words in Psalm 16:5,6.

"The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; Thou dost support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me."

Joshua was told by God, "Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great River, the Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory." (Joshua 1:3,4) And, having the outer boundaries of their possession thus delineated, the Israelites started walking.

Perhaps David had been gazing at some of the nice things on the other side of the fence--and then realized that it was time for him to start walking, to find out exactly what was within his portion. The first question, of course, was where the outer bounds of his possession lay. And as he thought about it, he realized that he had been given an inheritance beyond the land allotted to his family in Israel. He remembered a day when he had been hiding for his life in a cave, with no plot of land to call his own safe haven. It was the day when he acknowledged a great discovery, "You are... my portion in the land of the living." (Ps. 142:5)

The Lord as his portion! If Israel, with its millions of people, never succeeded in occupying all the land that God allotted to them, how could David--how could we--ever map out the borderlines of our portion, God Himself?

What exactly lies within the boundaries of our portion? David shares some of his discoveries in Psalm 36. He tells us a little about the terrain. There are mountains, lofty and solid and magnificent,--the very righteousness of God. There are great deeps too, the unsearchable judgments of God, under which our sins have been buried by the work of Jesus Christ. All those billows of judgment rolled over Him, and our sins can never be recovered from that great deep to be laid to our charge.

There's a river too, refreshing and sweet, called "the river of Thy delights". When God is our portion, He bids us to drink of that river--to take great gulps, as though trying to drink the river dry. It's root is at "the fountain of life." The early explorers of America died in their search for the fountain of youth, but the Christian has already found God's fountain, eternal life in knowing Him. (John 17:3) The air within that portion is sweet with God's faithfulness and lovingkindness, which extends all the way to the heavens--and how far is that? I'm not too technical; to me, the heavens are what I can see when I crane my head back as far as possible, and look up. At night, our view extends far into the blackness of space, unimpeded by an atmosphere illuminated by sunshine. When everything is darkest, we see the farthest into the depths of His lovingkindness and faithfulness.

The soil of that great portion, flanking the mountains of righteousness and the deeps of judgments, is love. It is in God's love that we as Christians are rooted and grounded. Moreover, the love of Christ extends past the limits of our discovery, in every direction. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

David acknowledged that there were some things that might be outside of his portion. He saw other men, "whose portion is in this life, and whose belly Thou dost fill with treasure; they are satisfied with children..." But as he began to explore all that had been given him for an inheritance, he came to a great conclusion: "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me." The border lines were laid in just the right places. They weren't traced according to cities and landmarks, like the inheritances of the twelve tribes of Israel. Instead, the map of his portion, and of ours too, consists of a giant perimeter--or is there even a perimeter?-- and inside that vast territory, the word, "God".

We'd better start walking!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Borrowed Words

I found this excerpt in C.H. Spurgeon's Morning and Evening the other night, and thought it was worth sharing. Especially because I like having such good company in prescribing a walk as a balm for all woes. :)

"Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide." (Genesis 24:63)

...When Jesus is the theme, meditation is sweet indeed. Isaac found Rebekah while engaged in private thoughts. Very admirable was the choice of place. In the field we have innumerable texts for thought. From the cedar to the hyssop, from the soaring eagle to the chirping grasshopper, from the blue expanse of heaven to a drop of dew, all things are full of teaching. When the eye is divinely opened, that teaching flashes on the mind far more vividly than from written books. Our little rooms are neither so healthy, so suggestive, so agreeable, nor so inspiring as the fields. Let us count nothing common or unclean but feel that all created things point to their Maker, and the field will at once be hallowed. The glory of the setting sun excites our wonder, and the solemnity of approaching night awakens our awe. If the business of the day will permit it, it will be well, dear reader, if you can spare an hour to walk in the field in the evening. But if not, the Lord is in the town, too, and will meet with you in your room or in the crowded street. Let your heart go forth to meet Him.

Just Another Walk

Most people wouldn't consider me very sentimental. I don't mind if my birthday is forgotten, and I'm not one to keep lots of mementos from childhood. But I am sentimental about some things, especially about places that have been meaningful to me.

There were six things left on my to-do list tonight, but I decided that none of them was important enough to keep me indoors on a beautiful evening. So I went for a walk. As I meandered around the farm, I began thinking about the year that I've lived here, and the memories that saturate those fields. Most of the fields have one of my thinking spots, places that I've gone to meditate or pray. And almost every field has been a battleground where some particular victory was won. Many of them are associated in my mind with some verse of Scripture that the Lord sent to me in a time of need.

The first place to which my feet turned was the Psalm 25:12 field, where last summer I spent many evenings praying about the decision whether or not to move up here. So often the Lord drew near to me there, and thrilled my heart with His love and care for me.

From there, I crossed a couple hill pastures, and turned to follow the dusty road out to the orchard. I went by the place where I watched the sun rise one wintry morning, and learned a great lesson about hope, as the sun burst in warm glory upon a frigid landscape.

The orchard was one place where I had cried out, "Why, God!?" about a friend's difficult circumstances--and He answered something along the lines of John 13:7, "What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter."

A little further on, and I came to the field where I had once lain in the grass and admired the blue sky above, and realized just a bit more, how much I am loved and cared for by my heavenly Father.

I lingered a while in the last field, my steps slowing down as I crossed windrows of hay. I paused and lifted a bunch of hay, damp with dew, but light and soft, to my nose. The dusky, sweet smell that I love so much, filled my nostrils. It was not hard at all to relive a day last summer, when the Lord proved Himself to me in that field, and I gained a new perspective on James 5:17. The grass had lain there in just the same manner on that day, when a friend and I stopped in the midst of morning milking to ask the Lord for a dry day so that we could get the hay in. The God of the universe, the One Who controls the rise and fall of nations, and the movement of the galaxies, had bent down to hear the plea of two young people in manure-spattered clothes, and heard their prayer over the clicking milkers and swishing tails and buzzing flies. He made sure that the downpours went around that field, just close enough for us to see it raining a mile or two away, and we got all the hay in.

As I walked through that field tonight, it really hit me. The Lord Jesus became a curse for me, let His blood stream forth for my sins. Over and over God has proven His love and care for me, even in these very fields--and here I've been so worried that He will overlook some of the needs I think that I have. I've been listening to recordings of Isaiah and Ezekiel lately, and one of the biggest things that struck me is that God CARES intensely about His people, and about their relationship with Him. He eagerly desires that they should know Him, that they should recognize that He alone is God, that they should walk in company with Him. What an amazing thought, that One so high, should care about those who are so insignificant. I could care less what an ant thinks about me. But somehow God is not content until His people recognize Him for Who He is, and rest in trust upon Him. The pleading of His heart toward Israel, as recorded by the prophets, now seemed, in a way to be directed to me. As though God were saying, "Don't you SEE! I'll take care of you! You truly shall not want. I shall freely give you, with Christ, all things! You don't have to worry at all, my child."

Now that place has become my Romans 8:32 field.

It was getting pretty dark as I headed home, crossing through the 1 Corinthians 13 field, where I had meditated on that passage while raking hay, and realized in a new way the pain and joy of loving like the Lord Jesus. I didn't have time to visit the Matthew 11:30 field, or to stop by one of my many favorite haunts, where the hemlock trees shoot so far upward, taking my thoughts toward heaven with them. I did slow down to admire the moon, which was in the process of lifting a gauzy veil of cloud away from it's face. It lay like a radiant opal, set in a mother-of-pearl sky, where it's yellow glow picked up hints of pink and green and blue. The delicate tops of a couple of evergreen trees provided a perfect frame around the whole scene, and I could not help but admire the God Who had given me that special glimpse of beauty.

Last of all, I crossed the field where the Lord had given me definite peace about moving up here. I can't help but be glad for that leading. So many lessons there have been, so many challenges and victories, so many tears and so many smiles. So many memories that will live on long after the farm is gone. It was in that field that the Lord also gave me John 21:16, which paraphrased sounded to me like, "Rachel, do you love Me more than these? More than these fields, more than the thousand things that you love about this place, more than the people who have made it home to you, more than the friends you have made here?"

The answer is yes. But I'm awfully thankful for those things too.