Overcome

It was the most powerful song of the 20th century. It started out in church pews and picket lines, inspired one of the greatest freedom movements in U.S. history, and went on to topple governments and bring about reform all over the world. Word for word, the short, simple lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” might be some of the most influential words in the English language.

Twice God assured a young prophet: “They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you” (Jeremiah 1:19 and 15:20). Jesus announced to Peter and the other disciples: “I will build my church, and the gates of death will not overcome it”(Matthew 16:18). Each of Revelation’s seven letters to churches closes with a promise for overcomers (a.k.a  victors or conquerors). Too bad Christianity, like Judaism and Islam, has often been hijacked by fear-mongers, war-mongers, torturers and perpetrators of ignorant or imperialist interpretations of Scripture.

Puzzling over God’s and humans’ roles in overcoming today I read all 200 pages of Love Wins. Now I affirm my overwhelming need to overcome paralyzing fear and hurtful anger or judgment of others. Jesus saves everyone whether they recognize him as God or not. The gates to the New Jerusalem are never shut. Some, like the prodigal son’s older brother, may stay out of the party for awhile, unable to overcome their shock at the Father’s unconditional welcome and seeming ignoring of their own dutiful labors. But “all who go down to the dust will kneel before him” (Psalm 22:29). God even promises to “restore the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters” (Ezekiel 16:53), and Jesus says “it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for towns which do not listen to his disciples” (Matthew 10:15).  Some, like Hymenaeus and Alexander, may be “handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20) or, like a man in another of Paul’s churches, “for the destruction of the sinful nature so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Now I affirm: “God is love. And love is a relationship. This relationship is one of joy, and it can’t be contained.”

Love wins. Evil can only be overcome with good and eventually all evil will be overcome. That’s what those civil rights demonstrators were singing about.

New

The bride and groom emptied their jars of sand together into the middle jar. Now their old separate lives were gone. No one could tell from which jar any grain had come. Pastor Rocky pronounced David and Charissa Gray husband and wife.

“Newlyweds forever” by God’s resurrection power, Jim and I purposed for our marriage in August, 1998. We prayed for each of our four children also to know the joy of vibrant wedded love, and now those prayers are answered.

As Easter people we rejoice with Jesus: “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two…” (Ephesians 2:15). With each new dawn we can be “made new in attitude… put on the new self, created to be like God…” (Ephesians 4:23, 24).

Hooray for new energy, new life, a new awareness and orientation! Yay for new indivisible, unconditional love bonds creating new traditions, ceremonies, households, families!

Make

A powerful word weakened by overuse. Forget make-up and extreme makeovers. Making up for lost time? Maybe. Making up our minds? Sometimes.

Thomas Kelly told his Haverford College professor, “I am going to make my life a miracle!” He worked very hard as a scholar also at Harvard, ministered to German prisoners (1917-18) and pastored a Quaker community in Berlin (1924-25). By age 43, after teaching at Earlham College and University of Hawaii, he began teaching philosophy at Haverford. The next year (1937) in a time of physical and mental exhaustion Kelly “had an experience that ended the strain and striving. His efforts were now aimed at developing an acquaintance with God, not merely acquiring knowledge about God.” Rufus Jones cited Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion as one of “a very few great devotional books.”

Who helps us make it through the night and makes each life a miracle? “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:4, 5).

Every day our Maker delights to make our day. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

“We neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the good work he has gotten ready for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Ruth Palmer discovered her good work at age 40+ “after a year of fervent prayer for God to restore joy and purpose to my life.” Now her artworks are displayed in six countries and she has several times been named an artist of the month by art.com. Palmer testifies “Jesus made me do it.”

I enjoy making lists. Here are my “Make me” prayer songs:

Make Me a Captive, Lord (1890)

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free; force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.                                  I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand; imprison me within thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.

Have Thine Own Way (1901)

Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Thou art the potter, I am the clay. Mold me and make me after thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still.            Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Hold o’er my being absolute sway. Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always living in me.

Make Me a Blessing (1924)

Out in the highways and by-ways of life, many are weary and sad; Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife, making the sorrowing glad.                       Make me a blessing, make me a blessing. Out of my life may Jesus shine; make me a blessing, O Saviour, I pray, make me a blessing to someone today.

Make Me a Channel of Your Peace (1967)

Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring your love; where there is injury, your pardon, Lord; and where there’s doubt, true faith in you. Make me a channel of your peace. Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope; where there is darkness, let me bring your light; and where there’s sadness, ever joy.                               O Master, grant that I may never seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love with all my soul.                             Make me a channel of your peace. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; in giving to all people, we receive; and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Love

Love is the joy of making eye contact with a hungry, hurting child, talking and smiling with him, remembering his name, giving him water, food, attention. (As We See It by Marlin Vis in Perspectives Journal, March 2011. Photo from Light for the World.

Love is being a mediator, a go-between, pursuing peace, resolving conflicts, finding ways to love enemies, tasting peace that passes understanding with Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq and other countries.

Love is patient listening, waiting, hoping through countless hours, days, weeks, months and years, noticing persistent, ever-resurgent growth like this couple celebrating their 60th anniversary.

Love is instinctive kindness, compassion, respect in conversation and action.  Love is humankind reflecting our Loving Creator, full of empathy and solidarity with every other person. Every day there are many opportunities and needs for kindness. Right now we can reach out to Japanese children through Mercy Corps.

Love overflows with gratitude for God’s goodness in generosity, gracious hospitality, good work, godliness and always seeing the good in people and situations. Love is faithful, trusting and trustworthy, never-ending, based on and fired by God’s infinite love in Jesus. Love is gentle, tender, playful, humble, quiet, unobtrusive. Love is the self-controlled, God-dependent, healing, reconciling Jesus way of life, death and resurrection.

How fitting that I’m up to L in this Mulled Words expansion during this time between our sons’ weddings. Christopher and Mary Susan were married in Maryland on April 2, and soon we’ll be flying to California for David and Charissa’s wedding.

Each couple will receive a book of “Poems, Blessings and Wishes for Newlyweds” in which I have two poems published.

 

Prayer for Fruit

O God, teach us to be always freely giving, living in love. Remind us often to voice praise to each other and You above.

Let our love be ever joyful, new, renewed every week and year. Let us be content and peaceful, thrilled to sense You are very near.

May our love with patience expand as we still wait on You in prayer. With kindness let us lend a hand, encouraging some other pair.

Show Your goodness through us, we pray, in words of love and generous acts. Keep us faithful in every way, shielded from devious attacks.

Let self-control and gentleness channel our thoughts and feelings toward whatever is true, right and best: may our union shine for You, Lord.

Dear Newlyweds,                                                                                                             May you always worship God together, never worship yourselves or each other.

May you always remember your good times and forget every hard, sad, bad time.

Let your love be spoken true and often in words as well as in faithful action.

May you enjoy many common interests,    yet appreciate your differences.

May you learn to sleep soundly together, ever growing in trust of each other.

 

 

Keep

I’d never win a good housekeeping award. But clutter clogs my brain waves; dust and detritus pollute my psyche. Over the past twelve days my efforts to keep house have floundered as seven extended family members have visited our home, five spending at least two nights here. In a last spurt of paint-scraping, vacuuming and bed-making before most of them arrived my throat and sinuses succumbed. We were reminded again that the cement blocks of our 70+ year-old house are full of mold as violent sneezing fits seized son-in-law Mikael DeFauw.

Rain, sleet, snow, hail, fleeting sun and wind surrounded us on Saturday, April 2. Inside our crowd of loving, joyful witnesses were keeping “the lamps burning before the Lord” (Exodus 27:21 and Luke 12:35). At Bayside Baptist Church in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, my son Christopher and his bride Mary Susan pledged to keep their lifelong vows. At historic Londontown and Gardens in Edgewater we celebrated the wedding with good speaking, feasting and dancing.

Though I didn’t always keep in step with Duff during the mother & son dance and surely haven’t kept on track over these 42 years of his life and 64 of mine, God is our Keeper (Psalm 121:5-8). This is my prayer for the newlyweds and all of us: “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

This morning we said goodbye to daughter Jean, her husband Mikael and sons Judah and Seren. I’m doing laundry, glad to hang the sheets and towels out in the sunshine, thankful for renewed energy to keep house here in Greenbelt, thankful for visitors, for walks by the lake, for peace-keeping and earth-keeping joys, thankful that Duff & Mary (a.k.a. Chris & Mary Susan) see each other as keepers.