Psalm 11:1-4

The last line of each stanza comes from Psalm 11:1-4.

My strength has failed, my courage weak,
My resolve has faltered, the path looks bleak,
But when clouds obscure the mountain peak,
In the Lord I take refuge.

There is a fortress that stands above all,
There is a hand that will catch when I fall,
And there’s something inside me that answers the call
So how can you say to my soul,

“There is no purpose, no point to the fight.
Careful not to miss out cause you’re chasing a kite.
You haven’t the might to attain to that height,
So flee like a bird to your mountain.

“Do as you please and live as you will,
Chase after safety or run after thrills.
Your magnificent mountain is only a hill,
And behold, the wicked bend their bow.”

The weight keeps increasing, the voices begin;
As the pressures mount up, my soul’s caving in.
The fortress’s walls appear to grow thin,
And they have fitted the arrow to the string.

I cannot see clearly with pride in my eyes.
Compared to the next man, we’ve all become wise.
I try to defeat it but still fall for the lies
That shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.

For if false was the truth then all was in vain;
I’ve been setting a pace that I cannot maintain.
I’m drifting, uprooted, nothing remains
If the foundations are destroyed.

But if faith is a seed that grows into a tree,
Then its roots run much deeper than mere man can see.
If you always answer our knock when we seek,
What could the righteous do?

The foundations are steady, barren of cracks;
You’re grace for my weakness, enough where I lack,
My refuge and compass, the wind at my back.
The Lord is in his holy temple!

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The Anglerfish

The anglerfish, aka Lophiiformes, are an order of bony fish that dwell in the deep, empty reaches of the ocean. Both prey and others of their own kind are few and far between.

Female Lophiiformes are characterized by their unique method of predation, in which a fleshy growth from the anglerfish’s head, called an esca, acts as a lure. The luminescence of the esca, which draws its prey from the dark and turbulent depths, comes from a bacteria that dwells in and around the esca and exists in a symbiotic relationship with the anglerfish. In addition to luring prey, the glow of the esca also serves to attract the attention of males during mating season.

Some deep-sea anglerfish also employ a unique (and slightly disturbing) method of reproduction. It was discovered when scientists first began capturing anglerfish of the ceratioid variety, and they found that all the specimens they received were female. They also noticed that almost all of them had what appeared to be smaller parasites attached to them. These “parasites” turned out to be the male anglerfish.

Ceratioids rely on parabiotic reproduction, meaning that free-living males never fully mature until they parasitize a female. Some species even experience stunted growth of certain glands, which prevents feeding, meaning that if they are slow to find a mate, they are quick to die.

The depths of the ocean are a battleground for these species, a constant struggle for survival. In the turbulent waters, life is rare, sustenance is hard to find, and the darkness is overwhelming.

Sounds like someplace else I know.

Psalm 82:5 says, “They wander about in darkness, while the whole world is shaken to the core.” Proverbs 2:13 says, “These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths.” Finally, Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our world is like the depths of the ocean–full of darkness with no way to see, a spiritual battleground, a struggle for survival, turbulent and chaotic.

But, that is not the end of the story. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; whoever knows me will never walk in darkness.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” John 1:5 says more simply, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

More than that, “because of God’s tender mercies, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79).” He gives this light to us, so that we are “more than conquerors” through Christ. Like the anglerfish, the light we hold is not our own. It comes from God. And like the anglerfish, others are drawn to this light. But this light is not one that leads to destruction, but to life.

Like the anglerfish, we may feel alone, adrift in a massive, impenetrable sea. But like the anglerfish, we, indeed, are not alone. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).” Much as the male anglerfish depends upon its mate for survival, we depend on God. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” It is from God that we receive our light and our life; apart from him, we can do nothing.

One of my favorite moments of Jesus interacting with his disciples occurs shortly after Jesus feeds the five thousand. There were huge crowds following him after that event, hungry for more, but as time passes, they begin to disperse. They heard more of Jesus’ teaching, and realized that this teaching wasn’t a philosophy that just gave out free food, this was something much bigger. Much harder. And they begin to fall away. Even the disciples said, “This is a hard teaching; who can listen to it?” Eventually, the Twelve are the only ones left. And then Jesus says, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter–always the first to speak–asks the simple question: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” There is no one, nowhere else that provides what Christ provides: life.

If you get discouraged by the darkness around you, remember the anglerfish. She isn’t pretty (the image above is a cartoon representation, safe for children. This is the real deal) but she reminds us that we have a light that is not our own. Let it draw you in, deeper and deeper, into dependence on him.

Blessings!
Bre

 

Turn on the light!!

Turn on the light

Albus Dumbledore said that. A man of whimsical wisdom, he was. He dealt with great tragedy early on in his life, which continued to shape him throughout his many years. He was well-known for his brilliance and his ability to see value in everyone, “however apparently insignificant or wretched,” as wrote his good friend Elphias Doge in his obituary. He was able to see things others couldn’t, and seemed to always have a plan behind the scenes that no one realized till the very end. He fought evil, pursued the greater good, and always believed, sometimes to his ridicule, in the potent power of love.

He has a number of quotes worth sharing, including, “It is our choices that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities,” “We must all face the choice between what is right, and what is easy,” and “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live,” among many others. But this one in particular caught my fancy, perhaps because for a long time, I didn’t quite understand it.

I first came across in its original context as I was reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,* in which I first took it to be merely one of Dumbledore’s typical tidbits: witty and whimsical and throwaway. After all, this is the man who when called upon to “say a few words” declared “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!” In fact, his comments were some of my favorite parts of the entire series. Wise, quirky, and vaguely portentous-sounding.

But later, it gave me pause.

Because we’ve all been through dark places, right? Maybe you’re in one now. Maybe it doesn’t look like there’s a way out, doesn’t feel like there ever will be. Maybe it’s the loss of a job, difficulties at home, that final word from someone you thought you loved. Maybe it’s abandonment, maybe it’s rejection, maybe it’s failure. Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s doubt, maybe it’s anxiety, maybe it’s pain, maybe it’s hopelessness, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s just plain weariness of living the same cycle over and over and over again.

Maybe it’s something big, and maybe it’s something small. Maybe it’s something that you know feels bigger than it is but you can’t help but only see the mountain, and its shadow stretching for miles. It’s only an uphill climb, and your legs feel like lead, and just when you’re about to reach the end an avalanche sends you right back to where you started.

You ever feel this way?

I know I have.

Maybe it’s not a struggle of circumstance. Maybe it’s a struggle on the inside. Maybe, like me, your struggle, your habitual sin, your addiction is pride, or envy, or lust, or criticism, or irritableness, or anger, or selfishness, or malcontent, or entitlement, or malice, or gossip, or deceit, or hatred, or quarreling, or maybe it’s something else, something you’re scared to name. Maybe it’s something you feel like you can’t stop, or that you’ve been trying to stop and sometimes you think you’ve finally arrived but then you spiral right back down again the second you think you’ve won.

Maybe the reason for that is that you’re trying to fight on your own.

I know that’s what I tend to do a lot of the time. I put the burden of my sin on my shoulders, coming up with a list of all my errors and brainstorming millions of methods to fix myself. Except…I can’t. I’m never good enough. Ever. Nothing I do, it never amounts to anything in the long run. I never get anywhere, I’m never “fixed.”

Then, finally, I go to the last place I have left.

John 6:66-69 says,

From this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

To whom shall we go?

Isn’t that a question? We can go to our friends. Our partner. Our pills. Our media. Our Internet. Our default. Our distractions. The thing that makes us forget, the thing that makes us not care, the thing that takes the pain away.

Does it, though? Does it really take the pain away?

In the Tenth Avenue North song “We Won’t Numb the Pain” there’s  a segment that says, “We want a cure, not a medication.” I might be young, but there’s one thing I have learned in life: there’s only one cure. There’s only one way to kill the darkness.

And that is to turn on the Light.

Psalm 50:2 (this is another great Psalm to read, on the power of God) says,

Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth!

1 John 1:5 reiterates,

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you: that God is Light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

Light reveals, light leads, light purifies, light comforts. This light–this light heals. It restores. It makes whole. It satisfies the searchers, it completes the broken, it comforts the hurting, it says, “I Am enough. My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.”

What a beautiful concept.

When Moses, before the burning bush, requested the Name of God, that he might tell the people by whom he was sent, he received two words: I AM.

I Am. I Am Light. I Am Love. I Am Power. I Am Life. I Am the Way. I Am the Truth. I Am Grace. I Am Might. I Am Strength. I Am Enough. I Am the Rock. I Am your Refuge. I Am your Shield. I Am your Comforter. I Am Pure. I Am Holy. I Am Sovereign. I Am the Lord of the Universe. I Am the Maker of the Stars. I Am the Painter of the Sunsets. I Am the Namer of your Soul. I Am the Weaver of your Heart. I Am the Sculptor of your Mind. I Am the One who Knows, who Understands, who Guides, who Strengthens, who Loves, who Pursues, who Reigns, who is Worthy. I Am God.

He is God. Sometimes we use that word so much it loses it’s meaning. He is God.

Don’t lose that. Don’t forget, in the darkness, who calls you to the light. Don’t forget who isn’t just some distant force out there in space, who isn’t running away from you, who’s not trying to make you stumble but to draw you to himself.

Don’t forget who God is. And don’t forget to turn on the Light.

Bre

dumbledore