O, Love!

art beach beautiful clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thy oceans depths its flow
will richer, fuller be…

O Joy that seeks me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be…

O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
And in they ocean depths its flow
Shall richer, fuller be
That morn shall tearless be —
O love…
O love that will not let me go
O love that will not let me go!
~ “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg

I sat in the sparsely-filled auditorium as my daughter’s choir filed the risers row by row, filling with white-shirted young men in black bow ties and pants, the girls in simple floor-length black gowns. The songs flowed beautifully from their lips, as though pulled forth masterfully by their beloved conductor.

msa choir

I’ve enjoyed every concert, pulling my little brood to the Senior Chorale concerts in our home school community since long before any of them were old enough to stand on that stage — often in the back where I could set up a blanket with toys and scoop up wailing little ones for a quick retreat if necessary.

So sitting there at the choral competition in a private school I’d never been in before, my last-born nearby, his sister on the stage — I didn’t expect anything but the usual excellence. And of course they didn’t disappoint.

But then this song quietly entered the room, slowly filling the room — and me — to the full with its rich harmonies. But it was so much more than that.

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go…

… that will not let me go

Ah, how that simple phrase sank down, down, till it settled warm and thick, fluid flow gentle ebb and flow in my spirit, my soul. That reassurance that I never fully had before finally found its way so deep down it can’t be drained out again or yanked from my clutching hands, my wailing heart!

gripping hands

I know, finally know beyond knowing, that God’s firm grip on me never loosens.

I was never a once-saved-always-saved Christian. I was more the if-I-screw-up-God’s-gonna-strike-me-down-so-I’d-better-watch-my-step Christian. But even then I fought — oh how I fought! — to let MY will be done, only obeying when I decided. The concept of Jesus being Lord of me was simply beyond my grasp and being a hard-headed (and often hard-hearted) person, I thought (O fool that I was!) that I could be a Christian without really submitting to my Master.

At first God was just plain scary so I avoided Him.
Then He swung to the other end — my buddy… Hey, wassup, Jesus?

Truth was at neither pole, it turns out. But He pursued me, O He would not let me get away with being ignorant. He let me flounder in my foolishness, letting me tell Him No, but feeling the sting of it afterwards. Running back into His arms, asking Him to help me bridge the divide between fear of doing what He wanted me to do (Please, don’t send me to Africa…) and fear of what would happen if I didn’t . And, always right there,  the verse that challenged, frightened, and sobered me:

“If you love Me, keep my commands.”
~ Jesus in John 14:15

Simple but impossible. I was dead set in my disobedient ways, thinking He loved me so it was okay. I could basically live on my own terms. But that’s not how it works.

It never was intended to be a “magic prayer so I can go to Heaven” deal. Jesus didn’t die so I could believe a certain creed, even if it meant committing every verse in His holy Book to memory and doing everything just so (or nearly so). He didn’t leave Heaven so I could live any way I please and expect to enter Heaven when I die because Didn’t I say the prayer? Didn’t I believe? Didn’t I do the right things?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23

Wow — yep, this is Jesus’ own words, and they couldn’t be clearer. His love that will not let go doesn’t let me get away with a passive head knowledge, keep-away distorted religious facade.

His love pursues my heart — our hearts! Even when I was plunged into mental illness,  unacknowledged bi-polar ripping my mind, psychosis wielding a knife — when I thought I was lost and in Hell, my cell in Chester County Prison a place of death and hopelessness…

When I cried from the floor, “I give up, I give up…” Love not my own swelled into my heart and even when I couldn’t feel it at all, my head was cradled in His lap and the Jesus I thought had let me go sang sweet songs over me. Sweet songs that pulled me from the depths of that prison cell into light and life and more love than I ever thought possible.

O Love that will not let me go!

woman in stripes holding hands with person wearing bracelets

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

And when I’m tempted to slide away from Him, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love!”* — I hear a quiet whisper, a whoosh in my spirit, my soul breathing deep and I can’t help but gaze into the eyes on fire for me. I breathe in love and join Him in the dance, this dance we share. I bow, eyes aglow, for He is my King.

woman bowing

He is a consuming fire, but His love consumes all sin in me.
He is not safe, He could crush me with His hand and someday He will purify this present Earth with devastating fire. Those who cling to their sins and refuse to obey — well what can He do? He gives us all the choice and the choice leads to Life — or Death — there is no in-between. He would let me choose death, but not without a fight, a struggle for my soul till I breathe my last.

But this Love that will not let me go will not let me but choose to stay with the God I love.  This Love draws me back into endless embrace, and really what more could I ever want? For in Him is all our hearts long for:

Love
Joy
Peace
Friendship
Contentment…
So much more than a lifetime can tally, so much that eternity will explore the heights, the depths, the burgeoning sea of this Love. It’s a daily choice to sink into Him, letting my own agenda melt into His. It’s a Good morning, Jesus, I love You — what shall we do today? It’s walking into every day acknowledging You are the Lord and I’m just me — but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me — so let’s take on today!

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go!

Now, sweet reader, think on these things. What is keeping you from running into His arms, from crowning Jesus Christ King of your heart, your life? Today is the day to choose to embrace this never-ending Love. It’s time to die to that old, dead life that is destined to rot, decay, and fall into endless Hell. It’s time to enter with Jesus into death and rise into new life, a rebirth that springs forth endless life, endless Love with the One you were made for.

It’s time, dear one.

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

 

*”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

O, Love!

art beach beautiful clouds

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

O Love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
That in thy oceans depths its flow
will richer, fuller be…

O Joy that seeks me through the pain
I cannot close my heart to thee
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be…

O love that will not let me go
I rest my weary soul in thee
I give thee back the life I owe
And in they ocean depths its flow
Shall richer, fuller be
That morn shall tearless be —
O love…
O love that will not let me go
O love that will not let me go!
~ “O Love” by Elaine Hagenberg

I sat in the sparsely-filled auditorium as my daughter’s choir filed the risers row by row, filling with white-shirted young men in black bow ties and pants, the girls in simple floor-length black gowns. The songs flowed beautifully from their lips, as though pulled forth masterfully by their beloved conductor.

msa choir

I’ve enjoyed every concert, pulling my little brood to the Senior Chorale concerts in our home school community since long before any of them were old enough to stand on that stage — often in the back where I could set up a blanket with toys and scoop up wailing little ones for a quick retreat if necessary.

So sitting there at the choral competition in a private school I’d never been in before, my last-born nearby, his sister on the stage — I didn’t expect anything but the usual excellence. And of course they didn’t disappoint.

But then this song quietly entered the room, slowly filling the room — and me — to the full with its rich harmonies. But it was so much more than that.

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go…

… that will not let me go

Ah, how that simple phrase sank down, down, till it settled warm and thick, fluid flow gentle ebb and flow in my spirit, my soul. That reassurance that I never fully had before finally found its way so deep down it can’t be drained out again or yanked from my clutching hands, my wailing heart!

gripping hands

I know, finally know beyond knowing, that God’s firm grip on me never loosens.

I was never a once-saved-always-saved Christian. I was more the if-I-screw-up-God’s-gonna-strike-me-down-so-I’d-better-watch-my-step Christian. But even then I fought — oh how I fought! — to let MY will be done, only obeying when I decided. The concept of Jesus being Lord of me was simply beyond my grasp and being a hard-headed (and often hard-hearted) person, I thought (O fool that I was!) that I could be a Christian without really submitting to my Master.

At first God was just plain scary so I avoided Him.
Then He swung to the other end — my buddy… Hey, wassup, Jesus?

Truth was at neither pole, it turns out. But He pursued me, O He would not let me get away with being ignorant. He let me flounder in my foolishness, letting me tell Him No, but feeling the sting of it afterwards. Running back into His arms, asking Him to help me bridge the divide between fear of doing what He wanted me to do (Please, don’t send me to Africa…) and fear of what would happen if I didn’t . And, always right there,  the verse that challenged, frightened, and sobered me:

“If you love Me, keep my commands.”
~ Jesus in John 14:15

Simple but impossible. I was dead set in my disobedient ways, thinking He loved me so it was okay. I could basically live on my own terms. But that’s not how it works.

It never was intended to be a “magic prayer so I can go to Heaven” deal. Jesus didn’t die so I could believe a certain creed, even if it meant committing every verse in His holy Book to memory and doing everything just so (or nearly so). He didn’t leave Heaven so I could live any way I please and expect to enter Heaven when I die because Didn’t I say the prayer? Didn’t I believe? Didn’t I do the right things?

 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ ~ Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23

Wow — yep, this is Jesus’ own words, and they couldn’t be clearer. His love that will not let go doesn’t let me get away with a passive head knowledge, keep-away distorted religious facade.

His love pursues my heart — our hearts! Even when I was plunged into mental illness,  unacknowledged bi-polar ripping my mind, psychosis wielding a knife — when I thought I was lost and in Hell, my cell in Chester County Prison a place of death and hopelessness…

When I cried from the floor, “I give up, I give up…” Love not my own swelled into my heart and even when I couldn’t feel it at all, my head was cradled in His lap and the Jesus I thought had let me go sang sweet songs over me. Sweet songs that pulled me from the depths of that prison cell into light and life and more love than I ever thought possible.

O Love that will not let me go!

woman in stripes holding hands with person wearing bracelets

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

And when I’m tempted to slide away from Him, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love!”* — I hear a quiet whisper, a whoosh in my spirit, my soul breathing deep and I can’t help but gaze into the eyes on fire for me. I breathe in love and join Him in the dance, this dance we share. I bow, eyes aglow, for He is my King.

woman bowing

He is a consuming fire, but His love consumes all sin in me.
He is not safe, He could crush me with His hand and someday He will purify this present Earth with devastating fire. Those who cling to their sins and refuse to obey — well what can He do? He gives us all the choice and the choice leads to Life — or Death — there is no in-between. He would let me choose death, but not without a fight, a struggle for my soul till I breathe my last.

But this Love that will not let me go will not let me but choose to stay with the God I love.  This Love draws me back into endless embrace, and really what more could I ever want? For in Him is all our hearts long for:

Love
Joy
Peace
Friendship
Contentment…
So much more than a lifetime can tally, so much that eternity will explore the heights, the depths, the burgeoning sea of this Love. It’s a daily choice to sink into Him, letting my own agenda melt into His. It’s a Good morning, Jesus, I love You — what shall we do today? It’s walking into every day acknowledging You are the Lord and I’m just me — but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me — so let’s take on today!

O Love, O Love, O Love that will not let me go!

Now, sweet reader, think on these things. What is keeping you from running into His arms, from crowning Jesus Christ King of your heart, your life? Today is the day to choose to embrace this never-ending Love. It’s time to die to that old, dead life that is destined to rot, decay, and fall into endless Hell. It’s time to enter with Jesus into death and rise into new life, a rebirth that springs forth endless life, endless Love with the One you were made for.

It’s time, dear one.

shallow focus of clear hourglass

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

 

*”Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson

The Metamorphosis

Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry;
Take your walk
To the shady leaf or stalk.
May no toad spy you,
May the little birds pass by you’
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly

~ Christina G. Rosetti

 

I’ve been thinking about butterflies a lot lately.

Not the ones fluttering around, flitting from flower to flower… No, I’m thinking about the ones trapped in a chrysalis. The ones who aren’t who they were but also not who they’re going to be. The ones who are surrounded all around by a protective shell while they liquefy…

I’m thinking about the ones who are becoming who they will be.

We have all seen caterpillars. When I was a little girl I was enraptured by the tent caterpillars that occupied (and subsequently destroyed) sections of a tree in our yard. I would go out with my glass mayonnaise jar with the holes poked in the lid, and harvest a couple from the tree. I’d prop a stick in the jar and drop a few leaves in there. And I’d watch them for a few days.

caterpillar close up hairy insect

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My mom told me, “Why do you want to keep tent caterpillars? They’re useless, they’re destructive.” I said, “I like them, I want to watch them. They’re caterpillars, Mom!”

So she sighed and indulged my fascination.

But I never stayed fascinated for long. After a couple of days I’d drop them in the yard and set the jar aside. A few days later I’d repeat the operation, but never stuck around to see what the little striped crawlies grew up to be.

In science class our teacher told us about butterflies and moths, and immediately I was glued. Then I was surprised. You see I thought when they cocooned themselves and hung from a branch maybe they shrank and then grew wings. I never knew that in the process they became, effectively, DNA soup.

dna soup

What the caterpillar once was completely died. No, it was still alive, but what it had been was unrecognizable.  According to the Scientific American in its article “How Does a Caterpillar Turn into a Butterfly?” the caterpillar in its silk cocoon (a moth) or hardened protein chrysalis (a butterfly) begins by digesting itself.

How odd. How counterintuitive — what good can come of something DIGESTING itself? Well, if it’s going to mature, it’s got to. In this mystery, certain cell groups survive and become aspects of the grown butterfly (eyes, antennae, wings, etc.). Submitting to liquefaction releases enzymes that digest all the butterfly’s existing tissues. Funny thing is, even before the process begins, certain caterpillars walk around with tiny wings inside their bodies, completely invisible from the outside. No one would know that buried in that earthbound creature is the means of flight. Now some species keep aspects of their original caterpillar form, such as muscle structures and bits of the original nervous systems. But, effectively, what emerges from that chrysalis after the set time passes is nothing like what went in.Butterfly chrysalis translucentIn the mystery inside the butterfly chrysalis, rapid-fire cell reproduction is occurring, fueled by the protein-rich DNA soup they’re in. Cells increasing a thousandfold, by the end of metamorphosis, these creatures could be named new creations.

close up of butterfly pollinating flower

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
~ II Corinthians 5:17

And what was bound to the earth spreads its wings and flies, flits, soars — sometimes traveling for miles and miles. What the caterpillar could never do, the butterfly is uniquely equipped to accomplish. And we marvel at its beauty and amazing qualities. We’d never see this coming if all we saw was the munching, crunching caterpillar, traveling over branches, eating every leaf, seedpod or flower in its way. Who would ever imagine wings on those adorable creatures? And who would even want to change a caterpillar? Aren’t they perfectly acceptable as they are? Why would we even need them to become butterflies?

Here are some fascinating facts I’ve discovered about these flying works of art:

  • There are 20,000 species throughout the world
  • They live one to nine months
  • Depending on the species, they migrate north to south, or south to north
  • Most butterflies lay their eggs on plants that will be eaten by the caterpillar when it hatches
  • They smell through their feet!
  • They are food
  • They are pollinators
  • Some adult butterfly species eat rotting fruit, carrion and other waste (acting as little trash disposers)
  • Their presence or absence is a predictor of whether an ecosystem is healthy.

And there’s so much more! But I think the most important reason we have butterflies is for God to show off His creativity and to make the world we live in breathtaking. They, like all of creation, exist to display His glory. Would any of this have happened if they had stayed caterpillars?

rainbow butterfly

And displaying God’s glory is also why we’re here. We start as tiny, helpless babies, growing in the environment into which we are born. We’re hapless inheritors of all the good, bad, and ugly our parents gave us. This, the same stuff they got, combined to form the original us. We begin in our origin stories, for better or worse, and do the best we can under the circumstances.

At some point, though, we sense a stirring deep inside. We hear our Creator’s whisper, and we respond. Some push away the Voice, sometimes for years. Some are wise and turn to Him immediately, but either way the Voice persists. At a point of decision, we realize we have the choice to say Yes and follow Him or No and walk away. When we say yes, the metamorphosis begins. If we say No, the Divine Pursuit persists.

This original Yes sparks a moving from glory to glory,  and it’s a lifelong process. Now of course all analogies break down and while the caterpillar is only once in its chrysalis, our lives progress from chrysalis to chrysalis. Our many liquefactions produce more and more of our Creator’s image, displayed more remarkably each time we crawl out.

Now unlike the butterfly, we have a choice:  stay earthbound, voracious caterpillars ever eating and never becoming anything but older and more like ourselves in our dysfunction… Or we submit to the painful process of dying to all we were before. This means lying helpless at times, cooperating with our Creator each time for however long it takes to become the divine being we were made to be: The splendid creature hiding inside all along. The glorious one who ever submits to each chrysalis time to display more and more of our Daddy’s stunning allure.

child with butterfly

You make everything glorious and I am Yours —
what does that make me? ~ David Crowder

We discover these transitional metamorphosis times are at times excruciating. The refinement often dredges up painful memories, sometimes flashing in so suddenly we are crushed, bleeding and crying out for relief. Other times we simply receive revelations, pouring liquid light into our aching hearts. In this submitting to every God-ordained change we learn what we would never know were it not for the liquefaction times, when all we knew of ourselves has passed away. This precarious, terrifying stage where we know we weren’t who we were but aren’t quite who we will be. It’s scary being soup.

And to submit to entering the chrysalis whenever Dad says it’s time.

But the good news is while we’re helpless on the inside, outside we’re surrounded by an impenetrable shell each metamorphosis time. We are completely cupped in our Daddy’s strong hands.cupped butterflyI cling to you,
and your hand keeps me safe.
~ Psalm 63:8

As we emerge all weak and quivering, drying our wings, we try our new selves on for size. Clinging to Him, we absorb living Light and strength for whatever is coming. We gaze into the beams of overwhelming Love, aware of a stirring deep inside. Excitement builds and bubbles out — we know whatever’s coming it’s going be amazing. It’s going to be impossible for who we were but totally doable for who we’ve become. We know we’re going to look back on the helpless time and say without a doubt…

It was worth it.

It always is.

And as we feel our wings dry, they begin beating in time with the breeze around us…We feel ourselves pulled from the branch where our former home hangs, shriveled.

And we take to the sky and soar!
We laugh up into our Maker’s face because the updraft is Holy Spirit wind.  And underneath are Daddy’s Everlasting Arms.

blue butterfly cloudy sky