Sunday, May 18, 2014

journey to the holy land

As you read this I am boarding a plane bound for Tel Aviv, Israel. Along with 40 others, I have the privilege of assisting Daniel and Ellen Block on a 2-week Israel study tour. This is my first trip to the holy land. My main objective is to come home loaded with photos and stories to liven up my classes for decades to come.

My dear Dad, who deserves a better shirt 
Our "dream team" includes not only my doctoral mentor, but my Dad and my pastor and his wife. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to experience the land of the Bible with people I love. I probably won't blog until I return, but you are welcome to check my friend Maggie's blog for updates along the way!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

seeing Christ in the Darkness

                                                                     Photo: Carmen Imes

One of the perks of living in Wheaton is the free museum in the Billy Graham Center on campus, with its gallery of featured artists. I hadn't paid attention to the latest exhibit until recently. The paintings of Georges Rouault (1871–1958) have been on display since November, just waiting for me to wake up and discover them. His artistic message resonates profoundly with all I have been living and learning this year. Rouault dwells on suffering and pain, but illustrates the light of Christ that draws us even in bleak darkness.

One painting in particular grabbed me. The caption reads:
"Out of the depths ...," Miserere Series, Plate 47
Etching by Georges Rouault / Photo by Carmen Imes
"Lying alone on a bed, this figure sheds dark and powerful tears. Cut off from the communion of the other figures on the background, this place is the "depths." As the person calls out to Christ, his presence is there. With a brilliant light, Christ illuminates the figure and even seems to be pulling the individual up from the bed toward the light. Rouault makes it plain that not only can we call to Christ from the depths, but that he is already there."

Even in the darkest night, Christ is with us. We never suffer alone. The life and hope of Christ overcomes death itself.

"Benediction Christ,"
Fleurs du Mal 1 Series
Etching: G. Rouault
Photo: C. Imes
"Arise, You Dead!"
Miserere Series, Plate 54
Etching: G. Rouault
Photo: C. Imes
By Georges Rouault
Photo: Carmen Imes

Thursday, May 1, 2014

the streaking dawn

This classic devotional is one of my favorites. It reads a little bit like a blog—a patchwork of quotes, reflections by various writers, poems, and Scriptures that ministered to the author, Lettie Cowman, as she journeyed through a difficult season as a missionary caring for her ailing husband. (In fact, the whole book has been "blogged" here.)

A poem from April 16 by Annie Porter Johnson so eloquently describes our experience this year. By the grace of God, I'm finding myself in the third stanza, reveling in the sunrise of God's presence and blessing, grateful He has carried us safely through a very dark night.

The day had gone; alone and weak
I groped my way within a bleak
   And sunless land.
The path that led into the light
I could not find! In that dark night
   God took my hand.

He led me that I might not stray,
And brought me by a new, safe way
   I had not known.
By waters still, through pastures green
I followed Him—the path was clean
   Of briar and stone.

The heavy darkness lost its strength,
My waiting eyes beheld at length
   The streaking dawn.
On, safely on, through sunrise glow
I walked, my hand in His, and lo,
   The night had gone.

A few days earlier (April 13), the author shared from the memorials of hymn-writer Frances Ridley Havergal, who I've written about before. Havergal said,
"God's love being unchangeable, He is just as loving when we do not see or feel His love. Also His love and His sovereignty are co-equal and universal; so He withholds the enjoyment and conscious progress because He knows best what will really ripen and further His work in us."
Somewhere on this dark and desert path, with God close at my side, He has been working out His best in me.