Friday, March 30, 2012

The Symbols and Gestures of Worship

Worship, understood as response, inevitably takes form in symbolic activities. Quite simply, symbolic activities are actions that speak for themselves while pointing beyond themselves. Like hugs and kisses, they do not need to be explained, certainly not by words, and yet they are carriers of meaning, often shaping our lives in ways of which we are not fully conscious. To be human is to act symbolically and to symbolize though actions.

The most pragmatic humans alive engage willy-nilly in "useless" ceremonies, cultural habits, social customs, and rituals. Human life is marked, defined, and given shape by symbolic activities. Even such rudimentary social gestures as nodding a greeting, shaking hands, embracing, conversing, and waving good-by, represent social commitments of momentous significance and are styled according to cultural patterns of behavior. Friendships, various social relationships, business agreements, and religious beliefs are expressed in symbolic acts.

Burkhart, John E. 2002. Worship: A Searching Examination of the Liturgical Experience. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers (reproduced with permission from the Westminster Press, pg 23)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Word of the Lord Pt.2

Amy wrote:

How often we have been tempted to wish that we could shelter one and another, Indian and foreign too, from hurtful things, especially from the long ache of [spiritual] battle wounds. Vain wish and foolish. We never can. We can only watch, as perhaps their [guardian]angels watch while they go through everything, more than conquerors by the grace of the Conqueror.

His thoughts said, I cannot go on any longer.

His Father said, Thou canst. Thou canst do all things I appoint,through Christ which strengtheneth thee. Doth the burning sun distress thee? There shall be a shadow from the heat. Art thou beaten by the storm? There shall be a covert for thee from the storm and from the rain. Dost thou say with another servant of mine, 'My daily furnace is the tongue of men?' Thou knowest how to find thy way to the pavilion where thou shalt be kept from the strife of tongues. Or is it that thou art too weary to know why thou art so weary? Then come unto me and I will refresh thee.

This exchange shared with Amy Carmichael inspired her to write the words of the following hymn:

Heart that is weary because of the way,
Facing the wind and the sting of the spray,
Come unto Me and I will refresh you.

Heart that has tasted of travail and toil,
Burdened for souls whom the foe would despoil,
Come unto Me and I will refresh you.

Heart that is frozen--a handful of snow,
Heart that is faded--a sky without glow,
Come unto Me and I will refresh you.

Heart that is weary, O come unto Me,
Fear not whatever the trouble may be.
Come unto Me and I will refresh you.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Word of the Lord Pt.1

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,...
Jeremiah 1:4

Amy Carmichael always expected that the Lord would answer prayers very specifically and taught her workers to expect the same kind of guidance. And yet, there were times when the tasks that were before them were nearly crushing and they were continually battling discouragement.

During a particularly difficult period, one of the workers had an experience where he was able to immediately discern answering words to his prayers. He recorded the communication and shared it with Amy.

She wrote the helper's words in her book Kohila.

His thoughts said, When I would seek Him whom my soul loveth, confusions like flies buzz around me.

His Father said, Press through these confusions as thou wouldst press through a swarm of gnats. Take no notice of them. Be not stayed by them. Be not occupied by them.

His thoughts said, It is too much to hope that such a one as I am should truly please my Lord.

His Father said, But it is written, It is God which worketh in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. In my servant Paul I wrought an earnest expectation and a hope that in nothing he should be ashamed, but that always Christ should be magnified in his body. I am the God of thy expectation and thy hope.

His thoughts said, But I am not St. Paul.

His Father said, Hast thou watched a wave fill a shell on a shore? Thou art my shell. I am the God of thy hope. Wave upon wave I will flow over thee, poor empty shell that thou art. With all joy and peace I will fill thee, and thou shalt abound in hope.

His thoughts said, What of those whom I love and long to help, but cannot?

His Father said, Am I a God at hand and not a God afar off? Am I not with them, My child? Thou knowest that I am.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Goldsmith

And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Malachi 3:3

One day we took the children to see a goldsmith refine gold after the ancient manner of the East. He was sitting beside his little charcoal fire. (He shall sit as a refiner: the gold- or silversmith never leaves his crucible once it is on the fire.) In the red glow lay a common curved roof tile; another tile covered it like a lid. This was the crucible.

In it was the medicine made of salt, tamarind fruit and burnt brick-dust, and embedded in it was the gold. The medicine does its appointed work on the gold, 'then the fire eats it', and the goldsmith lifts it out with a pair of tongs, lets it cool, rubs it between his fingers, and if not satisfied puts it back again in fresh medicine.

This time he blows the fire hotter than it was before, and each time he puts the gold into the crucible the heat of the fire is increased: 'It could not bear it so hot at first, but it can bear it now; what would have destroyed it then helps it now.'

'How do you know when the gold is purified?' we asked him, and he answered, 'When I can see my face in it [the liquid gold in the crucible] then it is pure.'

Gold Cord
pg. 69

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This evening the clouds lay low on the mountains, so that sometimes we could hardly see them, and sometimes the stars were nearly all covered. But always, just when it seemed as though the mountains were going to be quite lost in the mist, the higher peaks pushed out, and whereas the dimmer stars were veiled, the brighter ones shone through. Even supposing the clouds had wholly covered the face of the mountains, and not a star had shone through the piled-up masses, the mountains would have still stood steadfast, and the stars would not have ceased to shine.

I have thought of this and found it very comforting, simple as it is. Our feelings do not affect God's facts. They may blow up like clouds and cover the eternal things that we do most truly believe. We may not see the shining of the promises, but still they shine; and the strength of the hills that is His also, is not for one moment less because of our human weakness.

Heaven is no dream. Feelings come and go like clouds, but the hills and the stars abide.

Edges of His Ways pg. 44

Monday, March 19, 2012

Nourishing Faith in Troubled Times

And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah. I Kings 17:16

[WWII had broken out, and there was much concern regarding the receipt of donations for the upkeep of the children. Amy Carmichael writes of the spiritual attitude and actions which buoyed their minds and hearts...]

"And yet I well remember how careful we had to be about such matters as reading and talk. (Not that there is not always need of care if the Spirit is to be ungrieved, but that this need was emphasized for us then.) For a book or a newspaper article written from the world’s point of view, or talk along these lines, had a curiously troubling effect, and so had ‘religious’ reading of the nerveless sort, common enough everywhere. It was as if such had nothing in it for the nourishment of the kind of faith required for this particular way of the Lord.

But to read strength was to be strengthened. Science that makes God’s thoughts visible to men, all forms of noble biography and poetry, converse with those who do business in great waters and see, and expect to see, the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep, above all, to breathe the atmosphere of the Book of books itself, was life and joy and confidence. Fed thus, the fibers of faith were nourished with food convenient.

So we went on, keeping our contracts, using the money sent for nurseries for that purpose only, and with the other gifts continued our search for children in danger, and supplied the needs of the work, supplementing them once and again from the savings provided beforehand. Living upon our balance is doubtless the accountant’s way of putting it, but we prefer our way, which after all is quite as true as his. And no one, workman or child, had ever the shadow of a cause to feel forgotten of the Father.

Once a crowd of people came round the one who was buying milk.

‘We hear there is not enough money coming to buy food.’ (A good deal of what comes is known to the village as it passes through the village post–office, so they knew there was very little.)

‘Of that I have heard nothing,’ was the Indian woman’s answer, ‘only I know all the milk that is required is still being bought and paid for, as you yourselves are witnesses. And I have not heard of any child being unfed.’

So the people went away saying, ‘Their God feeds them.’ Later they came again, and this time with fresh stories of what was going to happen in Europe. It was the time of the submarine trouble, and the bazaars were full of whispers. Two mails had been lost and more might be. ‘And what will you do then?’ We told them in plain words that we believed if need arose the crows would fly to us with food or the ground would be white with rice–cakes in the morning. ‘When the mail stops coming, come in and see it,’ we told them. And they wondered and went away.

When the war ended not a workman or a coolie had been kept waiting a day for his pay, not a child had ever hungered, all twelve nurseries which had been our dream in 1913 were built and filled, a wall nearly a mile long was built, the Forest place was found and bought, and a house was built up there. And we still had in savings, as a later page will show, Rupees 2,164.3.0.

Thus, to revert to an older story, we poured from our pot of oil, and as we poured, more came to pour, according to the custom of the Lord.

NOR SCRIP by Amy Carmichael Pgs. 40-42

Thursday, March 15, 2012

An Early Memory

I've been going through my books and files lately, trying to weed out material that I no longer need or use. In that process, I've rediscovered some delightful research.

The next few posts will be about the insights of an English woman named Amy Carmichael who was born in 1867. In my opinion, she was one of the great spiritual heroines of the last century. Among her many accomplishments was her self-assigned rescue mission of young girls in India who were sold to Hindu priests by their parents and dedicated and trained virtually from toddlerhood to become "servants of the gods" (cult prostitutes) at Indian temples. She created a safe place for these young girls at immense personal cost (her life was repeatedly threatened) and taught them about Christ and their true worth in God's eyes.

She started a school, a hospital,a library, a weaving and vocational training center and cooperative gardens and fruit groves--all self supporting. These are still flourishing today. She also wrote inspirational poems which have been set to music.

Here is a short sample of her writing:

An Early Memory

My first memory as a tiny child is this: after the nursery light had been turned low and I was quite alone, I used to smooth a little place on the sheet and say aloud, but softly, to our Father, 'Please come and sit with me.' And that baby custom left something which recurs and is with me still. Our God is a God at hand, and 'To Him who is everywhere, men come not by travelling but by loving.'

to be continued....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cheater Cheater

And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. 1Kings 18:24

Elijah challenged the wicked King Ahab and his 450 priests of Baal to a contest. It was at the time that a 3 year drought was just ending. King Ahab knew that Elijah had great power-evidenced by the heavens withholding the rain at his command. So why did he and the wicked priests so readily agree to a contest on Mt. Carmel? Were they not afraid?

Not at all. Not relying only on their prayers, these priests brought an altar with a hollow base from a nearby shrine and inside it concealed the wicked Beth-elite Hiel with a pot of burning charcoal.

When the priests called loudly on "the name of Baal," Hiel was to insert the burning charcoal through a hole in the altar to light the fire. But the fraud was foiled, for a serpent crept beneath the altar and bit Hiel so that he died.

The priests then danced and sang and shouted, thinking that Hiel had fallen asleep. But in vain the false priests cried and called Baal! Baal!-- and the expected flame did not shoot up.

Then Elijah began having a little fun at their expense.
About noontime Elijah began mocking them. "You'll have to shout louder," he scoffed, "for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!"

I just love it when the plans of cheaters are thwarted.

Rabbi's Bible: Early Prophets By Solomon Simon, Morrison Bial pgs. 182-183
The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg pgs. xvi and 586-587

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lean Hard

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee.”
Psalm 55:22

“Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you” 1 Peter 5:7

Child of My love, lean hard,

And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;

I know thy burden, child, I shaped it;

Poised it in My own hand, made no proportion

in its weight to thine unaided strength;

For even as I laid it on, I said

I shall be near, and while he leans on Me,

This burden shall be Mine, not his;

So shall I keep My child within the circling arms of My own love.

Here lay it down, nor fear to impose it on a

shoulder which upholds the government of worlds.

Yet closer come; thou art not near enough;

I would embrace thy care so I might feel My child reposing on My breast.

Thou lovest Me? I know it. Doubt not then;

But, loving Me, Lean Hard.”

May Prentiss Smith

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Mt. Moriah Became Temple Mount

Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem in mount Moriah, where the LORD appeared unto David his father, in the place that David had prepared in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.
II Chronicles 3:1

There is a delightful tradition regarding why Mt. Moriah was chosen to be the location of the Holy Temple. The story emphasizes the importance placed on the values of love and unselfishness between family members.

Israel Kosta relates that the site on which the Temple was built was once the property of two brothers. One had a wife and children, the other did not. They lived together in one house--happy, quiet, and satisfied with the portions which they inherited from their father. Together they worked the fields with the sweat of their brows.

And the harvest came. The brothers bound their sheaves and brought them to the threshing floor. There they divided the crops of the field in two parts equally between them, and left them.

That night, the brother who had no family lay upon his bed and thought: I am alone...but my brother has a wife and children.Why should my share be equal to his? And he rose from his bed, went stealthily out into the threshing floor, took from the stalks of his own sheath, and added them to the sheath of his brother.

That same night, the other brother turned to his wife and said: "It is not right that we have divided the crop into two equal parts, one for me and one for my brother. He is alone and has no other joy or happiness, only the yield of the field. Therefore, come with me, my wife, and we will secretly take from our share and add to his." And they did so.

In the morning the brothers went out into the threshing floor, and they wondered that the sheaves were still equal. Each one decided to himself to investigate. During the night each one rose from his bed to repeat his deed. And they met each other in the threshing floor, each with his sheaves in his arms. Thus the mystery was explained. The brothers embraced and kissed each other.

And the Lord looked with favor on this threshing floor where the two brothers conceived their good thoughts...and the children of Israel chose it for the site of their holy Temple.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Ram Caught in the Thicket

And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
Genesis 22:13

Jewish historian Zev Vilnay
writes about this important animal:

"The ancients tell, in praise of the ram that appeared to Abraham,that no part of this ram was wasted:

His ten veins became the ten strings for the harp upon which King David played.

His two horns became shofars.

The ram's hide was used to gird Elijah the prophet.

An Arab historian of the Middle Ages tells of the ram's horn which was guarded on the Temple site. About 730 it was taken from Jerusalem, from the Dome of the Rock, and then taken to Mecca, the holy Muslim city in Arabia."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Heartbroken Wife

And when the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.
Genesis 29:31 NKJV

As Jacob started serving his seven years of service for Rachel, Leah began having children in rapid succession, maybe within four years or less. But Rachel was barren (29:31). This of course caused tension between them. Leah was more fruitful and Rachel was loved more by Jacob. Each wife wanted what the other had.

Each of Leah’s sons was named for her feelings at the time. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, meaning see, a son, for she said: It is because the Lord has seen my misery. So the Lord has seen is the origin of the name Reuben. Then she hoped out loud: Surely now my husband will love me [when he sees what I have given him] (29:32).

Having babies degenerated into a competition between the two wives for Jacob’s affection.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said: Because the Lord heard, shamah, that I am not chosen, he gave me this one, too (29:33a). So she named him Simeon, which means hearing (29:33b). Perhaps she was was hoping that when Jacob heard the good news of a second son, his heart would be more inclined to her.

Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said: Now at last my husband will become attached to me, yilabeh, meaning to join, because I have borne him three sons (29:34a). So he was named Levi, meaning joined (29:34b). Having borne Jacob three sons, she hoped that this would ensure his permanent attachment to her. Your heart cannot help but go out to Leah. She seems so desperate for the love of her husband.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said: This time I will praise the Lord. This was the consolation for the wife not chosen. The Hebrew word for praise is odeh from root ydah, meaning to praise. So she named him Judah, meaning praise, or literally He will be praised, or let Him be praised. His name would be the only one of all her sons that does not reflect her personal feelings. Judah was simply an expression of praise to the Lord. Then she stopped having children (29:35).

The births of Leah's last two sons were of great importance. Levi would be the ancestor of the Levitical priests. Moses and Aaron were later descendants of Levi. Judah's posterity would be the tribe of King David, and eventually of the Messiah who would come into the world. Therefore, two of the major Old Testament institutions, the priesthood and the kingship, have their origin in an unwanted and unplanned marriage. Jacob might have favored Rachael, but the Lord had mercy on Leah and allowed her to bear Judah from whom the Savior would descend.

(This post is a combination of several articles.)