Friday, July 25, 2014

I Call You Mother; I Call HIM Lord

aheadofourtime (Google Images)
“You are going to do what?”

The exclamation was harsh. María knew from her mother’s tone of voice that her decision was not going to be well received.

“Mother, I’m going to be baptized.”

“You’ve already been baptized.”

“Yes, I know, and I’m grateful to you for caring enough about my soul to have me baptized.”

“So why are you doing this then?”

María chose her words carefully.

“Mom, I didn’t understand then. I was only a baby. Now, as a adult, I do understand, and I want to make a public commitment to follow the Saviour for the rest of my life.”

Isabel glared at her daughter.

“So, this is what you think of all my efforts to bring you and your brother up correctly? You throw all we believe back in my face as if it were nothing? You reject everything you were taught?”

“I’m not rejecting anything, Mother. I am confirming what I have come to believe for myself. I told you, and I meant it; I’m grateful that God gave me a mother who cared enough about us to teach us about God. I’ll love you for that for the rest of my life.”

María had thought long and hard about this decision. Her mother had never had any problem with her going to Bible Study with her friends. In fact, Isabel had gone with her and had participated in the studies, often contributing some excellent insights. She was not an ignorant woman when it came to knowledge of the Scriptures.

When María announced her decision to accept Christ, her mother had taken it to be a deeper commitment to spiritual things—that couldn’t hurt anything. But, baptism? That was throwing away part of who she was. Her religious upbringing was as strongly cultural as it was spiritual. Isabel considered being baptized twice, a direct, and brutal, slap in the face. Since she was not one to guard her words, she didn’t hesitate to speak them now.

“You’ve been brainwashed. I should have found some way to discourage you from associating with these people. You are no daughter of mine if you do this.”

The relationship between mother and daughter had always been a strong one. They were friends as much as they were relations. María feared the consequences of her actions. She knew that behind the sweet, generous nature that most people saw in her mother, lay a vengeful streak. Isabel hadn’t spoken to her only sister for many years—the result of some disagreement in the distant past.

“What about Raúl? And the children—what are they going to say about all this nonsense?”

“I’m sure Raúl will support me in this just as he has always supported my decisions. I don’t know what the children will say, but it doesn’t matter. I have to do this.”

It had taken María years to come to faith for herself. She was by nature. someone who weighed her decisions carefully. The issue of baptism was one she prayed about for several more years after her conversion. Her concern wasn’t what the Scriptures said, but with the commitment she was making. María knew that if she publicly confessed Christ, she could not go back on that commitment. Now she was sure. She wanted to follow Christ for the rest of her life. There were no more doubts, no more questions in her mind.

“Well, I won’t have anything to do with it. You have shamed me, your family, your culture, and I won’t forget.”

And Isabel didn’t forget. Whether through stubborn silences or angry words, she heaped his disgust on her daughter’s head, bringing her to tears on many occasions. On the day of María’s baptism, her mother did not attend. The daughter’s tears that day were bittersweet: bitter because of her mother’s rejection, sweet because María was walking in obedience to her Lord. That obedience had come at a high price.

A year passed. To their faces, Isabel was polite to the members of the Bible Study group and the church, but she refused to return to either activities. Behind closed doors, she threw her true feelings about them in María’s face.

By the end of the year, María’s constant expressions of love for her mother, her faithfulness to her Lord, and the prayers of her family of faith, brought at least a partial reward. Isabel returned to the Bible Study group. We continue to pray that she will turn to the Lord just as María had.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sweet Song of Crow

Wildnis (Google Images)
It was as though I were able to read their thoughts—though they were not thinking about the sudden appearance of this shadow. A sea of transparent faces with clear eyes like tunnels leading back into crystal minds, looked beyond me as if I were not there.

Some were winged creatures, awesome in their physical presence, yet unaware of that very grandeur. Others, whose features would have inspired fear in another world, were now marvelously benign. However, they had no time for me. They too looked beyond me, fully focused, eyes bright, and faces glowing. A multitude, those who seemed like me, but weren’t, glowed in white robes, which might have outshone the sun in their whiteness—if there had been a sun. They too, looked beyond me, adoration written indelibly on their faces.

Every eye centered on the Throne.

My Guide took my arm and led me closer. If you pressed me, I’d say He took me to the front, but in fact there was no front. The presence of the Enthroned One was everywhere. Every space, no matter how seemingly far away, was as though it were only a step from the dais.

To describe what I saw would be like catching the wind in a bottle: it ceases to be what it is as soon as it is touched by human craft. The One who occupied the Throne glowed as though every jewel in the universe had shed its brilliance as an offering in an ultimate act of worship.

I was suddenly aware of the sound. The air vibrated. Music, of which a pale imitation had been my only experience until this moment, soared around me. It was not brash. It did not fill my head with itself; rather it carried me directly into the glow of its Object. My friends would tell you, for they are here somewhere in this audience, that my voice resembles that of a crow. Nevertheless, in this place, my fully sanctified mouth, with a most melodious caw, echoed the words of the hymn being sung.

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

“You are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

A hand reached out from the midst of the brightness of the Throne. It held a scroll, tightly closed. Surrounded by such open, transparent purity, it seemed an aberration. What would dare to be closed against Majesty? I wept. One of the humankind leaned toward me and smiled:

“Don’t weep. There is no need. The Worthy One will open the scroll.”

My faltering human vision cleared and I saw the Lamb. He took the scroll and I knew Him. With those around me, I sang the song of redeeming blood and redeemed men.

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

Encouraged by knowing that He had taken the name of one of theirs, to exalt His own, I heard the creatures from whom I had borrowed my own voice, add their cry to the song. From the earth, the skies, the seas, their worship resonated through the heavens.

“ … praise … honor … glory … power, for ever and ever!” The voice, which the serpent had lost in long-ago Eden, returned one more to Creation.

I needed no pen to record the sights and sounds. What was not permanently engraved on my soul would defy even the best-honed descriptive skills of a more accomplished writer than I am. My Guide stayed close, perhaps knowing that I would have stayed forever if I had been able. Soon, very soon, my turn would come and I would bask again in the glory of the Enthroned One, in the presence of the Lamb, with the Guide at my elbow.

The sun is less bright as it sets behind the now-tarnished beauty of my island prison. Until I can sing again with perfect pitch in the chorus of heaven before the Throne of the Majesty on High, I will caw as best I can:

“Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”

No human ear will hear the discordant notes, but God will know their intent, and be pleased.

Revelation 4:8, 11; 5:12, 13; 7:12