Praise & Worship: July 31st, 2015

1.  Trust-  Kristene Mueller

2.  With All I Am-  Hillsong

3.  Holy (Wedding Song)-  The City Harmonic

4.  I Still Believe-  The Call

5.  Overcome-  Jeremy Camp

6.  Savior To Me-  Kerrie Roberts

7.  The River-  Meredith Andrews

8.  The Same Love-  Paul Baloche

9.  Great Are You Lord-  All Sons & Daughters

10.  O The Blood-  Selah

11.  Lawdy– The Vespers

Where is God in Our Pain?

Taken from Key Life  which is found   HERE.

You never get used to it. Starvation, war, suffering, persecution, sickness, pain, death. You never get used to it.

I’ve been doing this for a lot of years. I’ve cleaned up after more suicides, buried more babies, stood by more deathbeds and watched the pain of more people than I can even remember. And each time it’s fresh and horrible.

I remember when my father died of cancer, when my kid brother suddenly died at such a young age, and when my wife Anna and I nursed my dying mother in her final days, doing things for her that a son never thinks he will have to do. I remember the kind people from Hospice and the friends who tried to help, but could do very little.

You Don’t Get Used To It. You Never Get Used To It.

I try to remember that every time I talk to 10 people, 7 of them will have a broken heart. The abused. The afraid. Those who have lost loved ones and listen for footfalls that never come. Those who face horrible physical pain and struggle. Those who have secrets they can’t share. Those who just don’t know how they will make it financially.

I try to remember that every time I talk to 10 people, 7 of them will have a broken heart.


You Don’t Get Used To It. You Never Get Used To It.

The problem is this: If God is all-powerful and, at the same time, good and loving, why is there so much pain and evil? Using solely logic, either God isn’t all-powerful or God isn’t all-good. You can’t have it both ways.

Where is God in our pain? It is okay to ask. In fact, you’re a fool if you don’t have questions, if you don’t wince when thousands die and you don’t agonize when one loved one dies.

Every once in a while, I hear people say that they never asked “Why me?” in the face of their pain. Well, I do. If you don’t, then it didn’t hurt enough.

Job Never Stopped Asking Why. And That Fact, I Suspect, Should Give Us Permission To Do The Same.

You remember Job’s story. Satan comes into the throne room of God. God asks, “Have you seen my servant Job? Isn’t he something? Blameless, upright and turning from evil.” Then Satan says, “Big deal! You’ve given him everything. No wonder he is so good and loves you so much.” Then God gives permission to Satan to test Job, first by taking away everything Job has and then with physical suffering. (Frankly, I don’t want God to ever say that to Satan about me. I want to be just this side of blameless and upright.)

When Job had lost everything, his family and his goods, with sores all over his body, his wife comes and says to him, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” Then Job says something very important, “‘You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

To put all this into context, some other Scripture (in order) from Job: “‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him’” (Job 13:15). “‘Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)’” (Job 31:35). “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding’” (Job 38:1-3). “Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes’” (Job 42:1-6). Then the book ends with God’s restoration and blessing of Job.

In response to the problem of evil and pain, the Christian must always start with Jesus and the incarnation. Everything else is a dead end road. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). No other religious or philosophical system deals with the problem of pain in the unique way with which the Christian faith deals with it.

God Enters Time And Space, And Suffers With His People.

The infinite God says to us in our finiteness: If you could understand it, I would explain, but you can’t understand it. Instead, I will come to suffer and die, not to keep you from suffering but to suffer as you suffer…not to keep you from your loneliness but to be lonely as you are lonely…not to keep you from asking your questions but to have mine, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus Christ has been there…and sometimes that is enough. He knows how much it hurts.

Where is God in our pain? How could he? Answers in the form of questions…

Why Do You Care?

Job’s friends cared and they were there.

There is an old story about a man whose son was killed by a man who owned the neighboring farm. The murderer went through some very hard times and his crops were destroyed. The murdered son’s father climbed over the fence and planted new crops in his neighbor’s field. He was asked why he did it and said, “I planted crops in my neighbor’s field that God might exist.” I would rather suggest that he planted crops in his enemy’s field because God does exist.

Not too long ago, I was speaking at a conference and used an illustration about a friend of mine who had turned away from God, gotten into drugs and did some bad things. To my great surprise, as I talked, I began crying. Not only that, I felt such sadness that I had trouble finishing the teaching. When I later prayed, “Lord, what was that about?” he said, “It wasn’t you…It was me.”

In response to suffering, God really can manifest himself and his love through us.

At my brother’s funeral, a man came up to me and shook my hand. I asked him, “Did you know my brother?” He said, “No, but I had to come.” Then he started crying and said, “I had to be here…for you, for your mother and for your brother.”

I don’t know why there is suffering in the world. When I see it, though, something in me is filled with pathos.

When we see suffering, there is something in us that naturally reaches out in compassion. We can’t help it. We are God’s people. God’s people have God’s Spirit within them. And God’s Spirit manifests pathos in the face of great pain. That’s what the cross is all about.

Why Do You Believe?

“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15). Job, are you crazy? Are you crazy? Am I crazy too?

Someone has said that if a man from Mars landed on earth, picked up a newspaper and read about those who died in war, those who died in Africa, 9/11, the tsunami and hurricanes like Katrina, and someone then told him about a God of love, he would think we were out of our minds.

If the data suggests that there is no God or, at best, there is a malevolent God, where in the world did we get the idea that there is a God of love? Unless, that is, there really is one.

Where in the world did we get the idea that there is a God of love? Unless, that is, there really is one.

The thing is we believe some really hard stuff and the very fact that we believe it is an indication that it is true.

I could debate the existence of God…but, the truth is, I believe because I believe because I believe. It is insane that I believe but I do and the very fact that I do believe is an indication that it is true.

God is there. God is love. God can be trusted.

Why Are You Surprised?

The whole plot of the book of Job is built around a surprise that a good man would suffer so.

We are New Testament Christians though…and we shouldn’t be surprised. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation…” (John 16:33). Peter said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage in the third century, wrote to a young friend, “This seems a cheerful world, Donatus, when I view it from this fair garden, under the shadow of these vines. But if I climbed some great mountain and looked out over the wide land, you know very well what I would see…It is really a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world…”

It is and things haven’t changed.

I have some friends whose young son died. They said that the hardest thing they went through was trying to trust God again. They came out on the other side because they came to see that God had loved them and had never lied to them.

Let me ask you two questions: Has God ever loved you and shown it? Has God ever lied to you?

So hold on…until we get Home.

Why Do You Hope?

The book of Job has a happy ending. And the happy ending is, ultimately, the reality of the Christian faith.

You’re not Home yet. Try and remember that fact. Before you get there, you may have to suffer…so that the world can see the difference.

One of my past students, Bill Chapman, has a daughter. When she was five, she said that heaven will be a place “where you will never throw up…never have to brush your teeth…never get sick…live in a beautiful castle…see lots of pretty flowers…and no one will ever take your toys away.”

The Bible puts it this way: “‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Revelation 21:3-4).

So hold on to that hope. It will keep you going until we get there.

Study: Bullies Have Higher Self-Esteem, Lower Depression Rates

Taken from  CBS Atlanta  which is found   HERE.

Bullying behaviors are linked to higher self-esteem, social status, and a lower rate of depression, according to a new provocative study.

Researchers at Simon Fraser University observed a group of high school students finding that bullies had the highest self esteem, greatest social status, and were less likely to be depressed, as reported byNational Post.

“Humans tend to try to establish a rank hierarchy,” Jennifer Wong, a criminology professor who led the study, told the Post. “When you’re in high school, it’s a very limited arena in which you can establish your rank, and climbing the social ladder to be on top is one of the main ways … Bullying is a tool you can use to get there.”

Wong notes that many anti-bullying initiatives try to change the behavior of bullies, but often don’t work. This is likely because behavior is hard-wired and not learned, she says. Experts suggest that schools might expand competitive, supervised activities as an alternative outlet to channel dominating behavior.

The new study surveyed 135 teenagers from a Vancouver high school using a standard questionnaire. Questions included things like how often individuals were hit or shoved. Researchers then categorized the students into four groups: bully, bystander, victim, or victim-bully.

About 11 percent of the group was categorized as bullies and they scored highest on self-esteem, social status, and lowest on depression, according to study.

In a separate study, Tony Volk, a Brock University psychologist, found among 178 teenagers surveyed, bullies also were more sexually active.

“The average bully isn’t particularly sadistic or even deeply argumentative,” he says. “What they really are is people driven for status.”

Those working to change bullying tactics in schools are concerned that some claim the characteristic is innate and cannot be changed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines bullying as unwanted aggressive behavior that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is often repeated multiple times. The CDC notes that the behavior can inflict harm or distress in the form of physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.

Rob Frenette, co-founder of the advocacy and support group Bullying Canada, emphasizes that bullies usually have some sort of underlying issue, such as violence in the home, suggesting that bullying is triggered, not natural.

“This is kind of stepping backward and that’s concerning,” he told the Post, regarding Wong’s study. “I don’t want parents who have a child who is considered a bully to think, ‘Well, it’s something they’re born with and there’s nothing we can do to adjust their behavior.’ ”

Wong says more research is needed before considering it definitive, hoping to test the same concept with larger groups of students to strengthen the findings.

Millions Could Be Saved If Mentally Ill Received Treatment Instead Of Being Placed In Prison

Originally posted in March of 2013. Taken from the  Daily Camera   which is located    HERE.

Talk about crazy.

In the state of Colorado, people with severe bipolar disorder, major depression or schizophrenia are four times more likely to end up in jail than in treatment.

Police officers see more people with mental illness on a day-to-day basis than psychiatrists do.

And the largest “mental institution” in the United States is a wing of the Los Angeles County Jail known as the Twin Towers, where some 1,400 inmates/patients — the lines are decidedly blurred — are housed on any given day.

“Our jails and prisons are filling up with people whose only crime is that they got sick,” says former Washington Post journalist Pete Earley, whose best-selling book “Crazy: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness,” takes a disturbing look into a broken system. “And that’s costing you and your community in ways you don’t even know.”

Earley plunged into the madness after his son Mike experienced a manic break while in college. Like an estimated 40 percent of Americans with mental illness, Mike didn’t think he had a problem. His father and family knew otherwise, but because the law says only people who are an imminent danger to themselves or others deserve the attention of the system, nobody could keep him under care if he didn’t consent.

Mike “was so out of control that a nurse called hospital security,” Earley writes of one attempt to get his son help. “Maybe now they will medicate him, I thought. But before the security guard arrived, Mike dashed outside, cursing loudly. …(T)he doctor told my ex-wife that it was not illegal for someone to be mentally ill in Virginia. But it was illegal for him to treat them unless they consented.

“‘Even if he’s psychotic?’ she asked.

“Mike couldn’t be forcibly treated, the doctor elaborated, until he hurt himself or someone else.”

Eventually the young man was deemed dangerous, after he broke into a neighbor’s home to take a bubble bath.

“As a parent, I knew something was wrong. He (literally) had tinfoil wrapped around his head and said the CIA was reading his thoughts. But that wasn’t against the law. Then, when he became ‘dangerous,’ everyone wanted to punish him for it,” says Early, who will speak in Boulder on April 13 as part of the Interfaith Network on Mental Illness’ 7th Annual Spring Conference.

For the book, Earley spent time in the psychiatric cellblock at the Miami-Dade County (Fla.) jail and ferreted out why it’s so difficult to get help for mentally ill people in America. It starts with a lack of resources. Earley says that the general recommendation is to have 50 “beds” available for people with mental illness for every 100,000 of population. In Denver, he says, there are just 16.

But mental-health funding is nobody’s favorite cause. Officials are a lot more comfortable funding cancer research or police or schools than help for “the psychotic screaming out on the street.” Yet that winds up costing taxpayers more in the end. A mentally ill person walking the streets, going in and out of jail, costs between $40,000 and $60,000 a year. For half that, Earley says, we can provide housing and treatment to help them get better.

“Political leaders don’t have a lot of money to spend, but we can say, ‘Look, I can save or cost-avoid you a lot of money. … It’s the right thing to do, morally and financially,’” he says.

Before the 1960s, someone who was hearing voices simply got locked away forever; some were involuntarily lobotomized. President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act in 1963, but it was never adequately funded, Earley says.

In the ’70s the federal government threatened to withhold funds from states that didn’t shutter their “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” hospitals and get patients into more humane community treatment. But in 1980 President Ronald Reagan slashed spending on housing and treatment and thousands of patients wound up on the streets. Since then, we have expected police and courts to handle the problem (Boulder County is an outlier that does an excellent job of helping the mentally ill).

“In Alabama, the best thing to do if you want treatment is to get arrested,” Earley says. “Why do we expect the criminal-justice system to solve what is a community health problem?”

Chipping away at stigma, making smarter funding choices and recognizing that 40 percent of mentally ill patients have a “dual diagnosis” of substance abuse all are necessary to start changing the madness of our current approach.

Proper treatment works, and Earley’s son is living proof. Mike suffered three more acute incidents — including being tasered by police — after the book was published in 2007. But he’s now stable, taking medication, holding a low-level job and living in an apartment.

“People can, and do, get better,” Earley says.


Mental Illness and Guilt – Snap Out of It or Eat With Me?

Taken from Christianity. Schizophrenia. Hope.  which is found  HERE.

Author: I. Holger

I can’t say this unique site gets thousands or even hundreds of hits each day but those who come here from small and large countries around the world (Hello Croatia, Taiwan, Qatar, Fiji, Guam, beloved Ukraine, Norway, Japan, Nigeria, Australia, Russia, Brazil, India…) search the same themes over and over.  How to deal with hearing voices.  How can the church help?  Famous people with schizophrenia.  Those who have recovered.  The beasts of schizophrenia and sin.  One theme I haven’t written about enough, based on your searches, is guilt.

Guilt over treating others horribly.  Guilt about presumed laziness.  Guilt about besetting anger.  Guilt about not ‘snapping out of it.’  Guilt over a ‘wasted life.’  How many ways do you carry guilt?

Constant Indigestion

At a chain restaurant where I live customers can order chili three ways: plain, 3-way, or 5-way.  You can choose to add onions, cheese, spaghetti, or extra beef to the plain batch, but always, always, basic chili sits in the bottom of the bowl. The more ingredients you add, the higher the heap you have to consume.  Guilt comes in layered heaps, too.

For Christians, falling short of God’s revealed glory and law induces guilt.  The guilt comes when we transgress a specific scripture, though some Christians have an overactive self-condemning guilt that hangs over them no matter what they do or don’t do.  (I think we need a post on scrupulosity.) Either way, the basic chili in our bowls is spiritual guilt, between us and God.

On top of breaking the commands of specific scriptures, we might also have a sense of guilt from:

  1. Disobedience to earthly authority .  The law of man says don’t drive with a suspended license and you do.  You know the law.  You know you’re wrong and the truth stings.   Call this a spoon full of onion.
  2. Disappointment. Other people are displeased because you didn’t “get a grip,” “toughen up,” “try harder,” or “do something with your life.”  You’re disappointed with yourself, too.  You feel condemned, whether you did something wrong or not.   Weigh the bowl down with two servings of beef.  Too much.
  3. Deferral.  You keep putting off something you know will help someone else or yourself.  You know the results will be good, but you don’t take the next step.  Bury the pile of food under a tangle of spaghetti.

All angles considered, who wouldn’t end up guilty on some level?  Then what?

Heaven’s Banquet

Guilt can sit in your stomach and sour you or you can receive grace.  First, I have to admit that I didn’t grasp what ‘grace’ meant for years.  God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense is the definition many pastors taught but I’m slow to process and need a whole lot more description than that.

Three way chili works as a model for guilt but for grace we need angel food.  “Man did eat angels’ food; he sent them food to the full.” (Psalm 78:25)  The scripture refers to manna.  Free, mysterious, sustenance from heaven.  Unearned.  “This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat.” (Ex. 16:15)

The sweet ‘bread’ foreshadowed the spiritual bread of Christ’s life that would come from heaven for you and I to eat—partake of— daily.  We don’t earn this bread any more than Israel earned manna.  It came, they took it in to their homes, they ate.  Christ came, we take his life and work in by faith, we eat.

In the gospels Christ told the people they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood, which offended them, but what was he really saying?  Take me in to your heart and soul, full gulp, and sup on my teachings and relationship with you. Eat me daily, sure as you eat food.  Angel food, three ways:

  1. Daysman.  Beleaguered Job, harshly accused and suffering badly, cried out for a daysman (Job 9:33) as he searched for a way to communicate with God about the charges laid against him. A daysman mediated justice between two parties in dispute. Christ is our daysman.  He is our mediator who satisfied all charges of guilt based on God’s justice and our intercessor who assures us that the satisfaction is applied day and night, forever.  We have communion with God instead of condemnation from God because Christ stands before Him daily on our behalf.  Not guilty! Beloved!  Take this truth in. What a relief, refreshing us like the sweet honey of manna.
  2. Door.  Christ is the door to our Father’s house of favor, acceptance, and intervention.  As Roy Hession says, “The Gospel does not call us to try to be like Christ, but rather to come through Christ. We are presented with a door rather than an example.”  Our self-improvement or effort or travail is not the door to forgiveness, consolation, and strength.
    God’s face shines upon you, even when you ‘don’t have it together.’ His loving relationship with you is always immediately accessible, even at the moment you blow it, the moment you sin.  “His (Christ) blood has made Him available to the sinner as a sinner,” says Hession, “and to the failing saint as a failing saint, if he will only admit that that is what he is.”
    Acknowledge sin and failure now.  Receive—eat—your cleansing and sonship. Move on, free.
    What an amazing provision, lavishly given to meet each day’s hunger for acceptance and favor and freedom.
  3. Deliverer.  Unlike the pizza delivery man who takes his money and leaves, our deliverer (Rom. 11:26) rescues, saves, preserves and liberates.  There is a growing and continuing deliverance from sin’s power in our flesh. A growing rescue from the ways of a hardened heart, along with a liberation unto the ways of a softened heart.  A rescue from physical dangers, by means that often surprise us.  A preserving of our sonship and faith. Continually trust in this ongoing work that Christ began. What a mysterious process, like manna coming in the dark of night when we do not see anything at all.

I cannot do justice to the fullness of grace but it includes these angles and many more,  all found in Christ.  We grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, which grows loveliness and joy in us.  If you continually live under a cloud of guilt, you have some growing and knowing to receive.  Open your mouth wide and He will fill it–one way, in Christ .  .  . from a thousand loving means.

Lithium and a Prayer: A Few Thoughts on Mental Illness, Medication, and Spirituality

Taken from Patheos  which is found   HERE.

Two weeks ago spiritually-minded people from across the country flocked to Hot Springs, NC for the 2015 Wild Goose Festival. The Wild Goose Festival is a progressive Christian festival celebrating art, justice, and spirituality.

One of the talks was given by Sarah Lund, author of “Blessed Are the Crazy,” and David Hosey, Associate Chaplain for the United Methodist Protestant Community at American University in Washington, DC. Their presentation,  entitled “Christ on the Psych Ward,” explored the intersection of mental illness with Christian spirituality.  This was one of the first times the topic of mental illness had been addressed at Wild Goose. In order to continue the extremely important conversation around mental health and perpetual journey towards mental, spiritual, and physical healing, I have ceded this month’s post to David — my friend and man I plan to marry in 42 days. In 2011, David was diagnosed with a form of bipolar disorder. To read more of David’s writing or find more resources on mental health, visit his blog:Foolish Hosey


After Sarah Lund and I gave our talk on mental illness at the Wild Goose Festival a few weeks back, there have been a few things that I’ve been pondering, mainly based on stories or questions that people shared with me after the talk.

One recurring question had to do with medication. Different people asked it in different ways, but it boiled down to something like this:

“I know that since I [or a loved one] have been diagnosed with a mental illness that taking prescribed medication is the healthy thing to do. I know it’s harmful to think that if I [or my loved one] just prayed harder or had more faith, that this would go away. So why does it still feel like prayer should make this better?”

I get where they’re coming from.

At a certain, important level, this is just a case of stigma doing it’s thing. Even if I don’t hold the personal, intellectual belief that positive thinking or prayer or ‘just having more faith’ would make mental illness go away, there’s enough of that kind of thinking floating around for me to internalize it on an emotional level. Folks who have decided that even if we pray for a sickness to be healed, we should probably see a doctor, too, find the idea that mental illness is somehow in a different category a bit stickier to overcome.


But on another level, I think this feeling that prayer or faith ought to be able to get us out of mental health crises is worth paying some attention to. Because mental illness — and, I think, illness in general — really does go after us at a spiritual level, even if there is a biological or chemical or psychological explanation for it.

Here’s what I mean. When I talk about spirituality, a term that can be rather nebulous, what I’m talking about is meaning-making. I’m talking about questions like, “Who am I? What am I doing here? What’s my purpose? What are my passions? What are my deepest held beliefs?”

It’s exactly all of that — purpose, meaning, identity, worth — that mental illness attacks.

While medication can defend against those attacks by restoring some equilibrium, helping us build our resilience, moderating our out-of-control moods — it can’t actually, by itself, do the hard work of healing the damage done to the “Who am I and what am I here for?” part of our lives.

What medication can do — and this is super-important — is give us a bit of the stability that we need to do some of that hard work. ‘Cuz it’s awfully hard to spend time in, say, vocational discernment mode when your brain is trying to kill you.

I’m reminded of a passage from Barbara Brown Taylor’s hauntingly beautiful Learning to Walk in the Dark. She speaks of her guides on a cave expedition in which she and her guides spend some time sitting in the sort of absolute darkness that can only exist deep below the earth’s surface:

When it is time to go, I follow Rockwell and Marrion back out of the cave again, thinking about what good guides they are. They kept me safe while letting me practice courage. They pointed me in the right direction without telling me what to see. Though they have been here many times before, they let me explore my own cave. Maybe that is the difference between pastoral counselors and spiritual directors. We go to counselors when we want help getting out of caves. We go to directors when we are ready to be led farther in.

To ‘pastoral counselors,’ we who grapple with mental illness or mental health crises could add therapists, psychiatrists, social workers — all the people who help us out of the cave when we feel like we’re running out of oxygen.

Ultimately, we’ll need to do the work of going into our darkness, of poking around in it. Whether that’s a matter of spiritual direction or some other practice of faith, it’s only by going in and through that we can discover our true selves and begin to work out what it is that we are called to be.

But in the meantime, the medication, the counseling, the treatment — that keeps us from drowning.

I hope this is helpful for folks who are wrestling with this question. We need all the help we can get, honestly.

Back in 2011, during my series of psychiatric hospitalizations, I wrote a song called ‘sufficient.’ One line that I scribbled down in a journal kept coming back to me until it found it’s way into music: “ain’t no pill that’ll fill this hole in your heart.”

That line is true. It takes a whole lot more than a lithium pill to start to feel human again.

Take the pill, anyway.

The quote is from Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark (HarperOne, 2014), pg. 129. 

Streams In The Desert: July 25th, 2015

What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter  John 13:7

We have only a partial view here of God’s dealings, His half-completed, half-developed plan; but all will stand out in fair and graceful proportions in the great finished Temple of Eternity!

Go, in the reign of Israel’s greatest king, to the heights of Lebanon. See that noble cedar, the pride of its compeers, an old wrestler with northern blasts! Summer loves to smile upon it, night spangles its feathery foliage with dewdrops, the birds nestle on its branches, the weary pilgrim or wandering shepherd reposes under its shadows from the midday heat or from the furious storm; but all at once it is marked out to fall; The aged denizen of the forest is doomed to succumb to the woodman’s stroke!

As we see the axe making its first gash on its gnarled trunk, then the noble limbs stripped of their branches, and at last the “Tree of God,” as was its distinctive epithet, coming with a crash to the ground, we exclaim against the wanton destruction, the demolition of this proud pillar in the temple of nature. We are tempted to cry with the prophet, as if inviting the sympathy of every lowlier stem–invoking inanimate things to resent the affront–“Howl, fir tree; for the cedar has fallen!”

But wait a little. Follow that gigantic trunk as the workmen of Hiram launch it down the mountain side; thence conveyed in rafts along the blue waters of the Mediterranean; and last of all, behold it set a glorious polished beam in the Temple of God. As you see its destination, placed in the very Holy of Holies, in the diadem of the Great King–say, can you grudge that “the crown of Lebanon” was despoiled, in order that this jewel might have so noble a setting? That cedar stood as a stately prop in Nature’s sanctuary, but “the glory of the latter house was greater than the glory of the former!”

How many of our souls are like these cedars of old! God’s axes of trial have stripped and bared them. We see no reason for dealings so dark and mysterious, but He has a noble end and object in view; to set them as everlasting pillars and rafters in His Heavenly Zion; to make them a “crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of our God.”

I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see–
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand,
And follow Thee.