Eggshells on the Shores of Grace

Eggshells on the Shores of Grace

This is an attempt to explain my testimony.
But these words are ultimately not about me; they are about Him.

“God is love” or so I sang, with an on the spot melody.
Not a care in the world but attracted to the Light that loved me.
A faith so strong, a mind so sure.

But cares came quickly, and I started to flee from the Light.
Trying to run from disapproving glares, only to run into snares.
I took my eyes off of Truth and stared at the waves I created instead.

Unintentional middle fingers and petty thievery,
Webs of lies and never satisfied jealousy,
I was only a child but able to feel condemnation upon me.

Reading words that felt like a heavy burden,
I cried myself to sleep believing I surely blew it.
Fear spread through me like an uncontrolled tumor.

I was only in the single digits, but definitely double-minded.
Unstable in all things, I was the storm and the storm was in me,
Seemingly ripped in two, torn between God and this world.

Still, a part of me kept hoping for redemption,
Believing that God’s grace might indeed be for me.
This hope was a flicker of light in the darkness of night.

That fire, though dim, stayed lit through all these years,
Long smoldering coals, never fully extinguished,
A testament to His great grace and mercy.

But my soul seemed legally blind to the grace being offered,
Able to sense light’s presence but not see what it illuminated.
Pride held me like an abusive lover, and I held it closer.

In Sunday school, I became well versed in basic knowledge,
Like one who has read about and studied the ocean,
But never been in the actual water.

Day by day, clearly definable wrongdoings matured,
Becoming more and more covert, yet with a stronger hold.
Pride was my ultimate hunger, fuel, and ulterior motive.

And in that pride, I played a warped version of a favorite childhood game,
Except instead of pretending to be a princess, I pretended to be okay.
I managed to fool some, and even myself for a time.

The masks of this twisted dress up game became thick and elaborate,
Seeming to ever widen the distance between the Creator and me.
My anxieties grew exponentially, and rest completely evaded me.

And as the years went by,
I found myself walking on eggshells
When He had called me to walk on the water.

I couldn’t fully believe that God could love me,
Every step closer to the water made me tremble with fear,
I felt I was drowning with my feet firmly in the sand.

So I tiptoed along the shores of grace,
All while carrying heavy burdens that
I was never meant to carry.

I kept pursuing the world’s glimmering pyrite,
Plenty of ‘good’ things, but never the Best thing.
But all chase and no rest left me weary and stressed.

Every day felt like more than I could bear,
But even in the darkest darkness, He was there,
He sustained me even when I couldn’t see Him.

Never once did He stop pursing me,
The Light kept calling my name in that darkness,
Through songs, sermons, and studies.

He is the hero of this story, and not me,
He gave me more than I could handle so that
He could give me more of Him.

He took that spirit of fear that paralyzed me,
He gives me His spirit to replace it.
And He is faithful when I stumble and falter.

My sin was great but He is greater,
My guilt was strong but He is stronger,
And I am His both now and forever.

When troubles and doubts come to harass me,
And the fears once again charge against me,
He is my rock, my refuge, my protector.

He began a good work in me,
And He will be faithful to complete it,
For He lives in me and I am hidden in Him.

And in His goodness, He beacons me each and every morning,
To leave these eggshells on the shore and join Him on the sea.
And by His grace alone, I can do that indeed.

A Known Enigma

A Known Enigma

I am an enigma, a mystery
What I say is not necessarily what I am thinking.
And what I do doesn’t necessarily represent my motivation.

I am a thousand piece puzzle,
With less than a thousand pieces present.
Even I cannot seem to put the pieces all together.

I am something that baffles,
Both myself and perhaps many others.
Chaos and confusion housed in my physical form.

I am an ocean of secrets,
And even I am afraid to swim to the ocean’s floor.
The depths are dark and dangerous, and not for the faint of heart.

But

To Him I am as clear as day,
Transparent, an open secret.
No clever words can mask what I’m thinking,
No lovely roses can hide the abhorrent stench of my sinning,
No sweat melodies can overpower the my internal screaming,
No fancy clothes can improve my being.

And

This is terrifying.
This is liberating.
This is the worst news.
This is the best news.

For healing can come only when the Healer knows what is ailing.

Clenched Fist: A Poem About Letting Go

the words "Clenched Fist" over a black and white image of a clenched fist

I’ve held on so tightly to what is not mine to hold,
Grasping for control like a drowning man violently flails,
Trying to save himself from sinking when the lifeguard is approaching.
Clinging to the shimmering pyrite I worked so hard to obtain,
Turning away from true treasure, the only lasting gain.

My fists have been clenched for so long now,
Knuckles white, fingers stiff –
Difficult to flex, painful to unbend.
My hands grip the remnants of my pride,
Serving the master of self that ought to be crucified.

Once a slave to sin, I know this master well,
No longer my king yet still a brutal power.
I belong to another Kingdom now,
But Pride holds on tightly to the prey it seeks to devour,
Lulling me back like a clever, abusive lover.

I’m afraid of surrender,
Defensiveness is my nature.
Fists are great for holding but also for fighting.
I’m weary and burdened yet still terrified
Of the pain it takes to loosen my grip and kill my pride.

Yet I cannot change the past,
Nor ever tame the future while still in the present –
And I cannot hold onto this good façade forever.
The control I thought I had and carefully clung to,
Was really just a figment and not something true.

This life is not my own.
I was bought with a price at Calvary.
He saw me then, He knew His purpose for me,
For I was formed by the hands that made all things,
And forever belong to the King of Kings.

By the strength of Him who opened His hands on a cross for me,
Whose arms now embrace me and whose lips call me ‘beloved,’
I can learn to slowly unclench,
To let go of this wretched pride,
To surrender and follow my Savior, my ultimate guide.

For only with open hands can I receive
His gifts that are never earned but always given freely,
The grace that abounds, the mercies that are new each morning,
And learn to stop fighting the Lifeguard who came to me,
When I was sinking under the waves of the deep sea.

Casting: A Poem About Letting Go Of Anxiety

casting

You say to cast all anxieties on You,
And going through the motions, I say that I do.
But how many times have I cast
With strings still very attached?

Like a ball and chain imprisoning,
Or like a handle for carrying?
Checking in my luggage for the baggage car,
And re-claiming it again before I get too far?

Like a pack mule with a back aching,
I’ve trudged on in a desert of my own making.
Carrying baggage I’m not meant to carry,
My soul only becoming more and more weary.

My worries are really just masks for my heart,
Filled with pride, unbelief, and spiritual rot.
Heavy façades I got used to hauling,
That only grew heavier with every new morning.

These masks may have fooled me, but not my adversary.
He knows the truth of the weight that I carry.
He prowls around with never-ending hunger,
Seeking proud souls like mine to devour.

It became too much and I fell to my knees in exhaustion,
And in a moment of surrender, I was given the gift of adoption.
The LORD lifted me up and beckoned me to follow,
And reminded me there is no room for this particular cargo.

These masks had fooled others, but not my Father.
He knows all yet still loves and to me now gives the power
To stand, to resist, to let go of the masks, and to believe
Not criteria to meet but a gift to receive.

And with His gifts of grace and mercy,
He gives strength to throw what I once struggled to carry.
He cared for me today, He’ll care for me tomorrow.
Like the anxieties I cast now, I can cast the ones tomorrow.

New Mercies For New Years & New Days

New Mercy (1)

I almost always get in a really weird, not particularly good mood on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. It’s like regrets from the year coming to a rapid close and fears about the future are combined with a bunch of sentimental crap, making a poisonous concoction. It’s isn’t exactly deadly, but it certainly is sickening.

I also get annoyed by all the fanfare. Maybe I’m just a New Year’s Scrooge, but I can’t help it. People are celebrating all things new when really the only thing new is the year listed on the calendar. And so what? The numbering of years is just an earthy construct used to organize the passing of time. It’s useful, but not exactly earth-shattering. People make ambitious resolutions (and I have too), knowing full well that they will probably fail within the first month. These resolutions are usually good things – like eating healthy, reading the Bible daily, or exercising more – but rarely does one actually succeed in a resolution without falling at least a little. People shout “new year, new me!” as if they didn’t say the same exact cliché last year, only to be stuck in their same old ways by February.

As Christians, we can celebrate true newness every single day – not just one day a year. And this newness isn’t like the newness that the world parades with. The newness that the world offers is really just a mask on the same old deadness inside. The newness that God offers reaches to the deepest darkest places in our souls. It brings what is dead back to life and replaces cold, hard hearts.

As this year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about one particular passage of scripture: Lamentations 3:22-24. Read it once, and read it again.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”

(Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV)

Did you catch that? His mercies are new every morning. Not just the day you first believed. Not just the moment you first trusted Jesus. Every morning. Every single day. His faithfulness doesn’t end. For every morning we wake, His mercies for us are new.

Of course, it doesn’t always feel that way. More often than not, our hearts and minds are flooded with worries, doubts, pain, and the weight of yesterday as soon as the alarm sounds and our eyes open. Mornings are filled with dread and not celebration. In these groggy moments, it is so easy to lose sight of truth. Just like our eyes struggle to adjust to the bright light of day after hours of darkness, our minds struggle to focus on the Light of Christ after hours of sleep. These early morning moments can easily define the rest of our day – at least, they tend to do so for me. Most mornings I struggle to get up – fighting anxiety about the past and the future, doubts, guilt, and just sheer exhaustion.

Whatever I’m feeling though, that doesn’t make truth any less true. The truth is that God is faithful and His mercies are continually new. I don’t have to carry the weight of yesterday’s shame, failures, and struggles, nor do I have to carry the worries of tomorrow. For the past few weeks, my nightly prayer as been “God, help me remember your mercies when I wake.” God is faithful. He has reminded me of them. It makes me almost teary eyed to think of it. Mornings still feel like a struggle. I have to wrestle with the thoughts that flood to my mind. It’s a battle and I don’t always win. Still – God is faithful. His mercies are continually renewed. They were new today, on the last day of 2018. They will be new tomorrow, as 2019 dawns. They will always be new. And thanks be to God.

We Rush, He Says “Be Still”

God isn't rushing. We are the ones who rush. We are the ones who race. God uses time for our good. God uses time for His glory

Everyday, we’re rushing. Rushing to get work done, rushing to check things off the ever growing to-do list, rushing to create a happier life, rushing to shape our identities with all the things we’ve done. We rush about our days to get this and that done and often wonder if we will have the time (and energy) to complete all we have to do or feel we need to do. This time of year, we rush at an even more rapid pace, as we rush to get the perfect gifts for everyone on our lists and rush to make a picture-perfect Christmas scene in our homes. We rush. We run. We race against the clock. We bow down to time. We bow down to the things our little screens scream we need. We bow down to lists and desires. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else.

But God isn’t rushing.

God isn’t frantic.

Yes, God is working. He is working every moment. Yes, God is moving. He is moving in people’s lives every second of everyday.

But God is not rushing.

God was never rushing. He is outside of time. He isn’t confined by it. We rush. He works in the best time.

I recently re-read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Verse 5 stopped me in my tracks for a moment.

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

John 11:5 (ESV)

At first glance, this verse doesn’t make a lot of sense. When a dear friend or family member is on death’s doorstep, we (rightfully and understandably) rush to their side if it is at all humanly possible. In this scenario, though, Jesus stayed where He was for two days. He didn’t do this out of apathy or selfishness. He did this because He loved Mary and Martha and by Him staying where He was for a couple days, God would receive greater glory.

In those two days, Lazarus died. His family and friends grieved and were hopeless. But that isn’t the end of the story.

Jesus arrives and sees Mary, Martha, and the others mourning. He asks where they have laid Lazarus and He goes to that place. He asks for the stone to be rolled away, which sounds crazy to all the mourners as the stench of a decaying body is strong. They do as He says though and Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Lazarus comes back to life. Hope is restored. God is glorified. And perhaps the faith of those involved grew.

Had Jesus rushed to Lazarus and healed him of his illness immediately, none of those things would have happened.

This story is one of countless examples both from the Bible and the lives of believers shows that God’s timing is perfect. His timing is sometimes (often times) a bit different from our own. Sometimes He seems painfully slow or perhaps even absent. But He is faithful. He knows how to use time in our lives to grow us in faith and to sanctify us. God isn’t confined by time but He uses it as a tool for our good and His glory.

This is something I have been struggling with. I have begged God to change certain things in my life and my growth in Him feels agonizingly slow. I want things to change with the flick of a switch. I want a painless healing. I want painless change. God is capable of that. He is capable of all things. But true growth and change don’t happen without time and sometimes pain. Instead of instant gratification for my desperate pleas, God tells me two things that I don’t really want to hear but that I need to hear:

  1. “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)
  2. “…He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

In all my worries and anxieties, in all my rushing to be good at things and succeed at work and in life, God says to be still. Stop. Slow down. Don’t rush. Know that God is here and God is in control. I may not know how many days I have and it may feel like a race against the clock for me, but God knows how many days I have and what it will take to fully sanctify me. He will bring the good work He began in me to completion – not in my time, but in His.

And while my tenancy is to rush, it’s great news to hear that God doesn’t rush. For when an artist rushes, the work of art rarely comes out well. Rushing rarely produces quality. We are God’s creation, creations being created, His masterpieces. As a dedicated Creator, He takes His time and skillfully molds us. We just have to be still and trust His promises.

Digging a Deeper Hole

Digging a Deeper Hole

Last night, someone lost control of his truck, hit (and broke) the curb on one end of my family’s property, ripped a street sign out of the ground, knocked out a mailbox, spun back into the road and ended up in a large shrubbery on the other end of the property, with one of the back wheels thrown several yards away. After hearing the thuds and burning rubber, I looked out my window to see the driver frantically trying to drive out of the bush and the hole he was in. He kept pressing down on the gas multiple times. The engine revved up and dirt flew into the sky. His efforts to drive away only deepened the hole that his remaining back wheel was in. He dug himself into a deeper hole.

When he realized that there was no hope of driving out of this predicament, he ran away on foot, thus digging himself into an even deeper hole, this time with the law. He ran fast and managed to get quite far away, but he was no match for a K-9 unit hot in pursuit of his scent. Fleeing the scene of a crime and trying to hide only adds another charge against him. He dug himself into a deeper legal hole.

Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt. This story could have had many other horrific endings for the driver, other drivers, my family or the neighbor’s family. We are very thankful about that.

Once the tow truck finally got the truck out of the shrubbery and the police left, a humbling thought came to me. How many times am I like the driver? How many times to I find myself in some sort of struggle or sin and keep frantically trying the same thing over and over again trying to escape? How many times do I try to “pull myself up by my own bootstraps?” How many times do I reply on my sheer willpower? And when I finally give up trying and trying and trying to fix the problem myself, how often do I run away? How often do I try to hide from all the shame? How many times do I dig myself into deeper holes?

The answer: more times than I’d care to admit. My tenancies are exactly like those of this driver. I try to fix my problems myself and when I finally give up on that, I try to run.

Sure, sometimes I try good deeds. But those deeds are often ruined by the stench of ulterior motives. Sometimes I try to just ignore the problem. But my mind always returns to it like a dog to its own vomit. Sometimes I try to rationalize and say my sin isn’t so bad. But the truth is that my hands are covered in blood and nothing I can do will wash me clean.

No matter how much work I do or willpower I have, I cannot overcome my sin. It is too strong and too powerful a foe. It is deeply ingrained in me. Sure, I can run, but my weary legs will only take me so far. My only hope is surrendering to God and believing in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.”

(1 John 5:4)

Of course, surrender isn’t easy. Even though I know that God knows all, it’s hard for me to admit things to Him and to just sit in His presence. It’s even harder to follow Him when He leads to tough conversations and situations. It’s also hard to admit my struggles with anyone around me, even those who seemingly want to help me. That has been especially evident the past few weeks. I know I’m not meant to carry my struggles alone but more times than not, I try to.

I keep digging myself into deeper holes of guilt, shame, fear, pain, and sin.

Thankfully, God didn’t and doesn’t and will not leave me in a hole. He doesn’t come after me in order to punish me but rather to rescue me. He takes my grimy rags and gives me new clothes. He works in me. He sanctifies me. He is patient with me. He lavishes me with His incredible love. And He is faithful to me.

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

(Philippians 1:6)

My tenancy may be to dig myself into deeper holes, but thanks be to God, that is not the entire story.

Life is Not a Masquerade

Life is not a masquerade.
Life is not a masquerade.
It may be fun to go to the ball,
But it isn’t where real life happens.
A dressed up skeleton is still lifeless,
A decorated corpse is still hopeless.

We spend hours crafting our image for others to see,
Hoping words of admiration and approval
will satisfy the darkness gnawing deep inside.
Smile for the camera, boast of successes,
We bury the brokenness only to find we are digging our grave.

We paint on a mask at such an early age,
And curtail it to match what we perceive others desire.
When one version no longer suits us,
we add another layer. The mask grows thicker,
And day by day, our hearts also become harder.

We do it so well we don’t always realize we are doing it at all,
Masters of individual PR, masters of deception.
Wearing a mask daily, letting it become our identity.
With each layer, with each empty word,
We only dig our graves deeper.

It may be what we do, but it’s not what we were made to do.
Life was not given just to be lived under a disguise,
Nor our energy be exhausted to keep up an image.
Life sometimes beats us up all black and blue,
But in the scars and bruises, the light can seep through.

Life does not have to be a masquerade.
A masquerade is not where real life happens.
Real life is messy, complicated, and sometimes painful.
But it is only when the masks are taken off,
That the darkness within can see the light.

Live authentically - only then can the darkness see the light..png

Music Monday | Something Wild

Music Monday Something wild

Fun fact about me: I really love violin music. To some, this is surprising, given my other tastes in music. I’ve always loved it though, ever since I can remember. And I especially love it when it can also be described as “epic.” Knowing this, it’s no surprise that I enjoy Lindsey Stirling’s music. My absolute favorite song of hers is “Something Wild,” which she performed with Andrew McMahon.

While the song appeared in the movie Pete’s Dragon, I associate it with Narnia, and more precisely, my favorite quote from the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Susan asks Mr. Beaver if Aslan the lion is safe, to which Mr. Beaver replies: “Safe?…Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

The line blew me away the first time I heard it, and helped me see God in a new light. It’s no secret that the Chronicles of Narnia often parallel Biblical narrative, with Aslan symbolizing Jesus. The idea that this King is not safe, but good, is a powerful truth.

Modern Christianity often seems to gloss over the hard parts of Jesus’ words and teachings. A “safe” God is more appealing to the public and more comfortable for us to follow. We try to fit Him inside a box of what we think we need to make our lives better, sometimes treating Him more like a genie than a loving God and Father. We ask Him for safety and we ask Him for comfort. We often only turn to Him fully when our lives are crashing down around us and we’re left with no where else to turn. And then we beg Him to take away the pain. In our struggles, it’s easy to see God as just a safe haven to run to. And while He does indeed protect His children and does give them rest, He is also incredibly powerful, strong, and just. God is not safe. He is wild. He calls His followers to do things that don’t make sense to the world. He calls us to love everyone, even those who hate us. He calls us to pick up our cross daily. He doesn’t promise riches or comfortable, stylish earthly dwellings – in fact He promises troubles and hardships in this world! But He is good. He is good beyond human comprehension.

While the thought of God not being safe but good blew me away, it also brought on a twinge of anxiety. Like most people, I don’t like going out of my comfort zone or security. I do not have a natural inclination to risk great amounts for other people. Anxiety has been a strong force in my life. But I still want to follow the great, wild God who created me, loves me, and called me.

“If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home”

-“Something Wild” by Lindsey Stirling & Andrew McMahon

The word “home” can mean many different things, but perhaps the most beautiful definition is a place where you belong. Christians know that their home lies not in the world, but in the one to come, the new heaven and new earth that God is preparing for His children. That home is only home because we will dwell with Him. In Him, we find where we belong. In Him, we find our true home.

Living in a way that follows Jesus requires stepping out of the comfort zone. It requires facing fears that keep us frozen in complacency and apathy. And when we do, when we follow where Jesus calls, we find that good, unsafe, wild God and we find where we belong.

“You’ve got a big heart
The way you see the world
It got you this far
You might have some bruises
And a few of scars
But you know you’re gonna be okay.”

-“Something Wild” by Lindsey Stirling & Andrew McMahon

In living a life in pursuit of Jesus and following where He leads, we’re bound to get beat up a bit, physically and/or emotionally. As Rich Mullins put it, when you die, “it’s not gonna matter if you have a few scars. It will matter if you didn’t live.” At the end of it all, something Wild is calling you, calling you after Him, and eventually calling you home with Him.