- Grace Upon Grace
Grace will meet you in the most unexpected ways,
And shine ever bright on even the darkest days.
Creative hands bestow it to fragile jars of clay,
In abundance each and every single day.
Sometimes it will take the form of a tightly closed door,
And other times an open one you weren’t looking for.
Sometimes it will take the form of difficult words,
And other times in the gentle ones often preferred.
Sometimes it will take the form of a rainbow after a storm is done stirring,
And other times it will be a peace that enters in during.
It is sufficient, even on the days we feel so weak,
And shines brightest on the days that seem so bleak.
Each little sign of His grace is also accompanied by a multitude more,
For He knows what we need when we don’t see or ask Him for.
The love of the Lord never ceases, nor do His mercies ever end,
Grace upon grace, so generously supplied we cannot comprehend!
- What is Home?
What is home, but a cover from the weather,
A place where people can gather safely together,
A place where a table is set with today’s daily bread,
A place to nightly lay one’s head?
Surely there is more to ‘home’ than these physical necessities,
For there are other places to find such basic amenities.
What is home, then, but a refuge to run to,
A place of security when all is askew,
A place with peace and comfort confined inside,
A place where loved ones are at one’s side?
Still, these words describe only an idealized view,
And no place here fits that definition all the way through.
What is home, but a place to belong,
A place where we don’t need to pretend we are strong,
A place one knows and is known as well,
A place where the heart can openly dwell?
We’re getting closer, but even with all these answers combined,
There is something more to “home” left undefined!
Perhaps, when we feel most at home then, we are experiencing a preview,
Of something more than any place we have ever been to.
And maybe what we desire in our dwellings here is a reflection in the mirror,
While all our striving is an attempt to make the image clearer.
What if ‘home’ is not something we build but something drawing near?
Now the definition is growing increasingly clear!
For, no matter how secure we feel in what we call our abode,
We are still just sojourners out on the narrow road.
‘Home’ cannot be confined to words, time, or space,
But so I’ve learned, only in the arms of our Creator’s embrace!
We are strangers here, living in a foreign land,
Building tents for our days that He long ago planned.
What is home, but all the ways described before,
And more than we have ever imagined or hoped for?
Oh, how I long for it, though I’ve never seen it on my own!
What is home, where is home, who is home, but God alone?
- Into an Ocean of Grief
My dad passed away fairly suddenly on Valentine’s Day. I wrote these words a few days after, in a state of shock, haze, and grief. May this be a reminder of the fragility of life and of a hope that stands even when life is hard.
In the rapid falling of dominos in motion,
A whirlwind came and dropped me in the ocean.
Days drenched in hope quickly became days of despair,
With no sight of familiar shores anywhere.
His mortal shell could take no more of the domino toll,
For it was weary from all that cancer gave and stole.
Once so strong he quickly grew so weak,
And his spirit knew that the situation was bleak.
I’ll never forget those boney limbs and yellow skin,
Screaming of the multitude of cancer’s assaults within.
Nor will I forget eyes half-open yet seemingly unaware,
And arms that kept moving until our embrace found them there.
Twenty-seven years were not enough, no number ever would be,
But I didn’t expect to find myself so soon in this uncharted sea.
Normal will never return because he is not here,
Only days in and that truth is crystal clear.
Today the ocean feels so deep and vast,
Though I may see beauty too once time has passed.
For I know that the waters will someday turn tranquil,
When I look back on memories for which I am thankful.
Planes, trains, and grins that made me smile too,
And a special sense of humor that always shone through.
The smell of hazelnut coffee reminding me of my childhood,
And all the little things he did that made that time good.
Yet even in time, I know the waves will still sometimes churn,
For mourning has no timeline and tends to repeat and return.
Now and then, I will be tossed to and fro like I am today,
For that is grief’s cruel and callous way.
Yet whether now or then, I do not dwell in stormy seas alone,
For many others have been tossed into similar oceans of their own.
And even though the sea seems too deep to chart,
There is One who knows its every single part.
When the waves roar and I find myself flailing about,
He walks on water, reaching His hand out.
Though the Great High Priest and Lord of lords,
He doesn’t hide from the hurting, but instead moves towards.
I need not hide my tears or messy feelings away,
For they do not have the power to make Love sway.
Jesus Himself knows what it means to weep,
And He is present now as I swim in emotions deep.
He gives me relief in ways I would not have asked for,
Yet still it comes, in ways I cannot ignore.
He loves us both more than I can understand,
And in that hope, I now choose to stand.
- The Good Shepherd
The Lord is my shepherd and He knows my name,
And He spoke it to lead me out of my shame.
He found me when I was the sheep that had gone astray,
And brought me back to the flock where I now long to stay.
He is the good Shepherd, not merely a hired hand –
The one who cares so deeply, more than I can understand!
He laid down His life for me on His own accord,
And paid a ransom I could never afford.
Each day He leads me to green pastures full of provision,
Where life and restoration are freely and fully given.
There, I walk near streams of living water,
Not as a slave but as the Father’s daughter.
As I learn to recognize His voice, I learn more of His ways too,
And He guides me to do what is righteous and true.
Sometimes I try my own way but find His rod is there,
Not to harm but to keep me from a deadly snare.
Some days I also find myself in the valley for a duration,
But He leads me through it for it is not my final destination.
I have no need to fear, for even then He is near,
And though I cling to Him, He holds me more dear.
He invites me to a table where my enemies can clearly see,
That the one who is His will always His be.
They cannot prevail or snatch me from His hand,
For in His presence, they are too weak to even stand!
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days,
And I will dwell with Him both now and always.
The Lord is my shepherd and He knows my name,
And because of that – I will never be the same.
- God with Us
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
And man dwelled in the garden without façade.
But sin shattered communion like glass beyond repair,
And sorrow became our inherited share.
Yet even on that day when all was made broken,
A promise of hope was firmly spoken.
For Love would not abandon His creation,
And so, He planned a way for salvation.
His promise was passed down through prophets of old,
Yet in time, the hope of many grew cold.
It seemed as if God were no longer there,
And if He was, perhaps He didn’t care.
Yet when God seemed silent and far away,
He sent messengers into the world to pave the way.
Emmanuel was coming into our mess!
Light would shine again in the deep darkness.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among the broken,
Fulfilling what God Himself had long ago spoken.
But He came in what many deemed a pitiful sight,
Not robed in royal splendor nor with weapons to fight.
Indeed, He entered in one of the most vulnerable states!
For He came to draw near to those in desperate, dire straits.
Grief and affliction were His chosen lot.
And He carried our sorrows though we esteemed him not.
By His presence, grace was made known,
And by His blood, God’s mercy shown.
On Him, our transgressions and iniquity were laid,
So our insurmountable debt could be finally paid.
Communion was restored for all who would believe,
And a promise was given that He would not leave.
Emmanuel, God with us, to the age’s end!
Our Savior, brother, and truest friend.
Centuries have passed, yet His promise and presence remain,
And He is still with us through every sorrow and pain.
God has not left us nor will He go away,
Emmanuel who was is still Emmanuel today.
- Simply Come
“Come to me” is the invitation spoken,
From the heart of Christ to all who are broken.
No test to pass, no need to clean up first,
Just come to Him, all you who hunger and thirst.
Come, taste, and see that He is good,
For He is now doing all He said He would.
Seek the Lord and take refuge in His loving embrace,
And live each day in the light of His redeeming grace.
His gifts of grace and mercy are abundant and true,
And I promise they are for people even like you.
No sin is too great, no burden is too heavy,
No person is too lost, and no life is too messy.
You may be a prodigal soul out on the roam,
But celebration still awaits when you come home.
You may be heavily laden and at the end of your rope,
But I promise you, friend, there is still blessed hope.
He knows your story, He knows your name.
He knows your sin, and He knows your shame.
He knows your struggles, He knows your pain,
And He knows how to break every kind of chain.
A bruised reed He shall not break,
Nor a smoldering wick will He forsake.
A broken and contrite heart He won’t turn away.
He is present now and He chooses to stay.
He is gentle and humble in heart,
Beckoning you to a daily fresh start.
I know it is sometimes hard to believe,
But this love is not earned, it is a gift to receive.
You can wrestle, you can be confused,
But His love will not be moved.
You can argue, you can hide in fear,
But even then, Hope remains near.
You may know a thousand reasons for condemnation,
But for those who come to Christ, there is salvation.
Those who come shall not be cast out from His sight,
But instead, be drawn nearer to live in His light.
So come, confess, and lay your burdens on the ground.
See, how His grace indeed does abound!
Unfailing Love is here to support and console,
So come and find rest, rest for your weary soul.
- Mountain Perspective
An obstacle to overcome, a problem too great to bear,
Or an opportunity for a view to which none can compare.
What you call a mountain depends on your attitude,
And how you see it depends on your altitude.
If you want the majesty you’ll have to venture out,
And leave behind the baggage of comfortable doubt.
Then, once you’ve chosen to take the climb,
You must then take action one step at a time.
One step may seem small, but if you keep going you will see progress,
And you may even see beauty in the long climbing process.
For life springs forth from the decay and dirt on the ground,
Sometimes you just need to pause for a moment and look around.
So, embrace the journey as you continue the climb,
One step, one moment, one breath at a time.
The journey may get tiring, and your muscles will grow sore,
But in the pain is a lesson you cannot ignore.
Though your pride will likely protest,
Even the most athletic must come to a rest.
So, remember to rest, and to refuel too,
You must take care if you want to reach the top with its view.
After some time of rest and recuperation,
You can once more give the climb your full concentration.
Put one foot in front of the other once more and keep repeating,
Approaching the top and the promised view you are seeking.
In time and in steps, you will reach your destination,
With a combination of exhaustion and unprecedented elation.
And, if you look at the view of the mountains that now surround you,
You’ll feel so small but you’ll overflow with gratefulness too.
Mere words cannot articulate the beauty of what the eyes behold,
Some things must be experienced and not simply told.
As you take in the view so simply breathtaking,
Know that both the journey and this destination were of His making.
Keep your heart as open as your eyes and you’ll see,
That God was with you all along the journey.
He provided air in your lungs and reminders to rest,
And let you see hope and beauty in the quest.
He sustained you even when you did not notice His attention,
And He worked in ways beyond mortal comprehension.
He had every step of the way fully charted,
And was present in the valley before you even started.
A glimpse of what He is doing and what His hands have done,
Truly, there is no view that can be compared to this one.
- Tossed at Sea
Tossed by every problem, and every word with its tone,
Anxiety has set deeply into every single bone.
My stomach is seasick, my body is tense,
And my mind is jaded from all this violent turbulence
The waves of circumstance and others’ opinions rage,
And I find myself drowning in fear’s cruel cage.
I cannot hold my pride-fueled façade much longer.
For these waves are many and all of them stronger.
My energy is finite and fading fast,
By my own power alone I cannot last.
I cannot help but fear that I will perish in these waves,
To be buried alive among the watery graves.
Yet in this desperate predicament, I’m learning I’m not alone,
There is One who has been with me for longer than I’ve known.
He is the one who even the wind and waves obey,
Who came to me though I’ve tried to sail away.
To Him, the deep waters are thoroughly charted,
And He knew my life’s journey before it had started.
He is good and His love will never fail,
So here I am now, with a white flag as my sail.
In this storm, like every other, He chooses to stay,
He will not abandon, give up, or betray.
He leads me and helps me navigate the ocean by His grace,
And in time, I forget all about my attempts of saving face.
He sometimes even calls me walk on the waves that should swallow,
To do what I thought was impossible before I began to follow.
He calls me His daughter and tells me I am now free,
I no longer need bow to the whim of the fickle sea,
The sea around still seems so deep and vast,
But only when I take my eyes off of Him who is steadfast.
Storms will still rage and my mind will still sometimes tire,
But He is with me now, no matter what may transpire.
A peace I do not understand descends,
As I grow in the One on whom my soul depends.
Slowly, I know it will set deeply into every single bone,
I will not be tossed by every problem and word with its tone.
I am weary, faded, and worn,
Like a threadbare cloth almost fully torn.
The threads of the warp and woof lay bare,
From the friction of the world and inner despair.
My heart is heavy from all that I see,
And the voices that scream so loudly within me.
Some days I feel so anxious and frail,
And overwhelmed by suffering’s massive scale.
How many times can a garment be repaired?
Is there hope that a worn one might still be spared?
Sometimes I feel like I’m just too far gone,
And I forget the promised hope of dawn.
My words are feeble, and I fear to speak.
But Lord, help me believe even when things look so bleak!
Don’t let me settle for mismatched, unshrunk patches,
Nor abandon myself to destructive fire and ashes.
Please don’t let these fragile threads break,
But oh, if they do, surely You can still make.
For, in Your skilled hands, nothing goes to waste,
Even holes and stubborn stains can be wholly erased.
You promised to finish every good work You ever began,
So help me to trust that You still have a plan.
You are still working, making like only You can do,
Making even seemingly hopeless things new.
- Remember to Rest
We rush, with fear-fueled precision and strife,
Trying to accomplish so much in this fleeting life.
We are Sisyphus under the cruel taskmaster of Pride,
Slaves of busyness, afraid of downward spiral and slide.
We pursue so much, and some of it is good,
And so strive for those things, indeed we should.
But so much of what we chase is mere glittering pyrite,
Empty of all substance and value though pleasing to our sight.
Like a thirsty body drinking salt water will never be satisfied,
A rushing soul will only find its troubles multiplied.
Doing it all is too heavy a burden to carry,
Letting go is hard but sometimes it is necessary.
Our resources are measured and our strength is finite,
We all have an end to our strength and our might.
But maybe that’s okay, maybe we don’t have to do it all,
And maybe there is freedom in not answering every call.
Even the fastest runner trained to run a race,
Cannot maintain a forever fast and steady pace.
Rest is necessary for both mortal shell and soul,
Neglect of it will, in time, take a deadly toll.
But, there is hope in acknowledging the need to rest,
When we look to Him and step away from our pride-fueled quest.
His yoke is easy, His burden is light,
Not because of its contents but because of His might.
We are not alone, nor can we do everything on our own.
But we are fully loved despite our weakness being fully known.
A runner at rest is still a runner indeed,
And so, we are cherished even when we lower our speed.
In Him, we can rest and trust that His grace is beyond all measure,
And when we work, work for things greater than fake or fading treasure.
- Like a Tree
Roots must grow first in the darkness of the earth away from the eye,
Before a seedling sprouts out of the soil and reaches upward towards the sky.
And even when the tree starts to grow above the dirt for all to see,
The roots must keep expanding to support the growing tree.
Not all growth is visible to our incomplete vision,
Nor can all be measured and quantified with scientific precision.
You may not be able to see the steady growth under the dirt and decay,
But in time, you’ll see the proof of it in the light of day.
A tree grows upwards and out and eventually bears fruits,
Which only further proves the growth of those hidden roots.
So we, too, grow in some ways that are invisible
But even slow and hidden growth can lead to something visible.
Like a tree planted by the water is the one who trusts the Lord on high,
With roots growing steadily away from the human eye.
In the heat of the day, its leaves remain green,
Nourished by living water and supported by roots unseen.
In its season, it blooms and bears fruit like He designed it to,
For He was and is faithful to seeds planted and hidden from view.
He saw the result before the process had even begun,
And what He’s promised to do is as good as done.
Like this poem? Check out Growing Still! Keep growing, friends. And remember, God is faithful and will complete what He began.
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 ESV
- New Days
Often, I dread the dawn on new days,
For they come already heavy with the weight of yesterdays.
The light hurts my eyes that are accustomed to the night,
And I feel too tired to give much of a fight.
My strength is depleted by carrying so many fears,
And the baggage of regrets from over the years.
I long to remain in the dark comfort of my blanket cocoon,
But my alarm screams that I must arise from it soon.
And that alarm is not the only sound I hear,
The adversary is already speaking to my groggy ears.
My body may be at rest but my mind is quickly in full gear.
And I begin to doubt that Hope remains near.
Even with the glory of the rising bright sun,
It sometimes feels as though the darkness has won.
But the darkness is not dark to Him on high,
Even in the night, He remains present and close by.
He knew me before this tired mortal shell came to form,
And He will not abandon me in this tumultuous storm.
Amidst these waves that seek to drown me,
Hope stands firm and steady on the raging sea.
He calls my name again and reaches His hand out,
And shows me grace despite my fearful doubt.
Even in the uttermost parts of this raging sea,
Hope is still with me, along with new and abundant mercy.
His steadfast love continues on and does not come to an end,
He is the rock on which I can build and depend.
I don’t know what this new day holds in store for me,
But He who is with me can clearly see.
And so, with the arrival of this new day,
I choose to hope and trust, come what may.
I cannot carry the weight of this day on my own,
But He is with me; I am not alone.
- His [story]
History repeats itself and even when it doesn’t, it tends to rhyme.
Sometimes I find myself losing hope that it will be different this time.
The journey is a cycle disguised as an upward climb,
And soon I find myself in the same place, just at a different time.
Even poets need a break for a time,
From this scheme of never-ending rhyme.
I’m dizzy from these never-ending circles, I want to walk a straight line,
Yet I feel trapped within this dark labyrinth’s twisted confine.
But maybe there is still more to the story than these cynical words I speak,
Maybe there is still hope when all looks dark and bleak.
The past isn’t written with pencil upon paper, it’s carved in stone.
But to You on the throne, the future is just as well known.
My perspective is distorted, that is for certain.
But the truth is that You are still present here, among the hurting.
How long, oh Lord? How long must I wrestle with sorrow in my heart?
Give light to my eyes, for this night is dark and my heart is ripped apart.
The voices inside and outside of me snide and sneer,
Questioning why it seems You are no longer near.
Still, I’ve seen Your love in action and so I choose to trust,
Your love prevails even here in the thick cloud of pride-blown dust.
You see the beauty of the majestic mountaintop view You are creating,
When I see only the dirt and decay on the ground here in this time of waiting.
You are present and will make all things new,
And someday I will see things from a much higher view.
Now I see in a dim mirror confined by linear timeline,
But even in the darkest night, I see Your love’s sign.
History repeats itself and even when it doesn’t, it tends to rhyme.
Lord, I know You will make it different, in Your due time.
- Love’s Communication
Our world is filled with every kind of mass-produced platitude,
But hollow words of encouragement yield only a hardened attitude.
Words are important but sometimes they are cheap too,
If not accompanied by some sort of follow-through.
For, I can say you are loved, I can say you are seen,
But without my presence, these words are almost mean.
Like a twisted blade instead of a carefully yielded scalpel,
The truth can be freeing or it can be just another shackle.
Nobody is helped by half-hearted, anemic words of comfort,
Shared by a desire to ease one’s own guilt and discomfort.
Communication is truly more than the words I am speaking,
So let me communicate with all of my being, following Christ’s leading.
Jesus saw the ones society tried to hide,
He spoke their name, calling them to His side.
He cherished the ones society abandoned to their transgression,
Giving them a clean start and the unmerited gift of redemption.
He ate with those known only by their shame,
Never condoning their sin but instead giving them a new name.
He took on a humble role of servitude,
Giving His life as a ransom for a multitude.
He cared for even the one who would betray,
For that is true Love’s chosen way.
He loved us with His life and loves us still today,
And calls us by name to humbly follow Him along His way.
To go to Samaria even when there is a way around,
Showing and telling of His grace that does abound.
To reach out to the weak, the sick, and the downtrodden,
Reminding them that they are not alone nor forgotten.
To love thy neighbor as thyself,
Serving without thought of praising self.
To bow down like our Savior did to wash His disciple’s feet,
Extending care and compassion to all that we meet.
To believe that the God who has plans for us has plans for them too,
Knowing that He can make even hopeless things new.
To speak life and not just words devoid of genuine care,
Pointing to the God who loves and came to repair.
He loved us first, and so by His Spirit we can love each other,
And not only by the words our lips can utter.
Words are indeed a vital tool of communication,
But true love speaks with both words and their application.
The tongue of the wise can indeed bring help and healing,
But only if it follows true Love’s council and leading.
- Growing Still
Watching the grass grow gets a reputation quite jaded,
For if you watch it for an hour, you will have an hour wasted.
There is no difference to the inpatient eye in that short time,
Yet it keeps growing, embarking on its upward climb.
Give it a few days’ time away from your eye,
And my, oh my, you will notice it grows high.
Uninhibited and in the right conditions, it reaches higher towards the light,
Just not at a speed that can be perceived by our partial sight.
It was always growing, even in that seemingly wasted hour,
By the strength of the sun and a little rain shower.
We don’t see it growing but we can see its growth in time,
And maybe that is true of us too, here in this lifetime.
If we look inward and try to see growth in a short time frame,
We will find ourselves weighed down by frustration and shame.
But by the power of the Son and God’s careful leading hand,
We are growing too, according to the ways He has planned.
And in His patience, He watches us grow hour by hour, day by day,
For He is the one who brings about our growth and leads us along the way.
He sees the growth we cannot perceive in our current state,
And in His mercy, He continues to create.
In time, we will look back and more clearly see,
What He saw all along, the good works He has done in you and me.
And He will complete every good work He began,
All according to His will, and His perfect plan.
- Through It All
Through every hour of every day and every night,
Even in the moments I do not have the strength to fight,
You are present, holding me in Your capable hands,
And fighting for me, leading according to Your perfect plans.
Through all the tumultuous storms of this life,
And every kind of mortal earthside strife,
You assure me that You are still in control,
And You draw near to comfort and console.
Through the endless stream of man-made turmoil too,
And all the hurt us mortal beings to one another do,
You promise that Your way will prevail in the end,
And until then, You lead the way to love, reconcile, and mend.
Through the times I am overcome with fear,
And all the moments I cannot feel You near,
You say to cast my anxieties on You because you care for me,
And tell me that feelings do not always correspond with reality.
Through every tear I have ever cried,
And all the times I have come to You tongue-tied,
You listen and understand all that I need,
And when I have no words, Your Spirit is there to intercede.
Through all the moments when all hope seems gone,
When I am weary and not sure I can continue on,
You offer me the rest my soul does yearn for,
And remind me, once again, that I do not walk alone anymore.
Through all the dead ends I find myself stuck in,
By my action and inaction, that is, by my sin,
You make a way where there is no way,
And lead me out, never leading me on or astray.
Through all the walls I have built by my pride,
And all the times I have tried to run from You and hide,
You break through to reveal my transgression in loving conviction,
And bring me back, redeeming me from my terminal condition.
And through the valley of the shadow of death,
Even on the day that I take my last breath,
You declare that I am not alone,
And assure me that You will bring me home.
Through it all, You are faithful and true,
And You see things from a much higher view.
No circumstance here can thwart Your plans,
And even now in the chaos, I am in Your steady hands.
Three, two, one, another year is said and done.
The earth has made another revolution around the distant sun.
We’ve passed another quantitative marker on life’s journey,
Thanks to His provision and abundant mercy.
Nothing has really changed but the date,
But it marks another chance to love, serve, and create.
Life is not a sprint; it is a marathon.
And so, with the stroke of midnight, we must still continue on.
Continue to walk the narrow road and follow our Savior,
And grow in love for Him and our neighbor.
Continue to listen to the words He is speaking,
And believe those words even when they don’t match our feeling.
Continue to believe when doubt threatens to overtake,
And remember that He promised to never forsake.
Continue to acknowledge Him in all of our ways,
And know that He will never lead us astray.
Continue to embrace new mercies for new days,
And trust that His love for us continues now and always.
Continue to continue on only by His mercy and power,
And rest in Him and not our own resolve or willpower.
Each moment is a moment closer to dawn,
And so, as long as we have breath, we can continue on.
God is still working in us and He is not yet done.
Three, two, one, another year has begun.
- Empathy in the Rain
These days, empathy feels like a heavy burden to carry.
The road feels endless, though this time is temporary.
I try to remember the sun is still there when the weather is dreary,
But with so much bad news and hurt, I am weary.
I tend to internalize and swallow it all down,
Yet I know that the inevitable conclusion of that is a breakdown.
This burden is more than I can carry.
Casting it on Him is necessary.
When the burden is laid in His capable hand,
Empathy is a gift to help me do what He has planned.
To love when it hurts and it cuts so deep,
To be patient and kind with my fellow hurting sheep.
No dark valley is outside His watchful eye.
And in the rain, hope still shines in the sky.
None of this is okay, and neither am I.
But the Hope of the world still draws nigh.
He is teaching me to love as He has loved me,
And in that love, I am truly free.
Not free of hurt, not free of pain,
But free to love, and to praise Him while out in the rain.
- Passion for CompassionIn Your love, oh Lord, let my passion be compassion, For brother, sister, and stranger, in word and in action. Stirred by love for You and neighbor, Help me to proclaim Christ, my loving savior. For, You loved me first and showed me great compassion, Your grace is greater than I can imagine. You have set me free and who You have set free is free indeed! Help me to follow You and Your lead. To be kind to others, tenderhearted, and forgiving, Not to grieve the Spirit by the way I am living. To be generous in every possible way, With grace, patience, and mercy – not just in things that will fade away. To rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep, To love even when it hurts and cuts so deep. To speak words that reflect You and Your light, For they are Your words and sharing them is right. You have given me gifts of grace, love, and words, Help me to be a good steward while I live in this World. To care for those I encounter in this world, As I learn from You and follow the Word.
- Just Happy to Be Here
This piece was inspired by a writing prompt from Tanner Olson
(@writtentospeak on Instagram)
So many times I’ve wanted to disappear,
To run away, escape the clutch of all my fears.
“Maybe if things were different,” I say,
“Things wouldn’t be this way.”
But I cannot ever escape from me,
So maybe here is where I need to be.
For here is where God designated,
Before my bones were even created.
Every circumstance I face is a tool in His hand,
That He uses to create the masterpiece He planned.
And wherever here is, whatever time and place,
He can meet me here, in that space.
And indeed, He meets me here,
He calms the waves of all my fears.
I am never alone, for He is here with me.
And where He is, is where I want to be.
Here will not last forever,
But I am His forever and ever.
So while I’m here I can be content,
Wherever I find myself in the present.
And maybe I can even truthfully say,
That I am just happy to be here today.
- Healing Together in the Light
Bringing the plight of someone to light,
Whether brother or sister or stranger,
Doesn’t mean we are saying that everyone else is all alright.
It simply means we are caring for one who is suffering or in danger.
Pain is not a competition,
Nor is comparing it particularly helpful.
In fact, comparing it gives the enemy more ammunition,
And creates a vicious cycle if we are not careful.
God created us with emotions and feeling.
He is not intimidated by our inner turmoil or outer weeping.
Lamenting is not the opposite of believing,
If anything, it only means that we are more fully seeing.
He is near to the brokenhearted and crushed in spirit.
And if we are following Him closely,
Being among the hurting will be more than a short visit.
He did not call us out of death to live for our comfort only.
The cost of our own comfort or semblance thereof can be high,
It sometimes means further wounding those already hurting deeply inside.
But that truth is easy to ignore if you drown out their cry,
And live according to the desires of your foolish, selfish pride.
That pride seeks every way to devour,
But the Lord calls us to humble ourselves and be patient,
To grow in His love and to trust in His power,
Not to be self-absorbed, apathetic, and complacent.
Our Savior we claim to follow was no stranger to affliction.
He humbled Himself too and became the Lamb on the altar.
He forgave even those who conducted His crucifixion.
And by His blood, He reconciled us with the Father.
And if we belong to Him, then we also belong to each other.
For He did not give us life to live on our own in isolation.
We are strangers brought together to be sisters and brothers,
A family united in Christ, who is the firm foundation.
This family is not just a community for good times,
We are to share one another’s burdens and serve each other.
Any group of broken people inevitably gets messy sometimes,
But we are still better off together.
We are children of the Light, lamps made to illuminate the night.
We cannot leave hurt or injustice in the dark, concealed.
Our wounds and our sins must be brought out into the Light,
For only when we are vulnerable together, can we truly be healed.
Let us build up and encourage those we encounter,
And point to the Light of the world, Hope that is forever.
Remember we are sons and daughters of Him who has the power,
Through Him, we can learn to reconcile and love each other better.
- For a Moment
For a moment I am in this moment,
One moment following another and another moment.
Too many moments on my mind and I become stressed,
But with so many unknowns and so much to do, how can I rest?
In the noise of the day, He still calls me to come and be –
Here, in this moment, for a moment, to taste and see.
Not to worry about what has been or what will come,
But to rest and remember where my hope comes from.
Be still and be in His presence.
To be in awe of His love and omnipresence.
For though He is outside of time and I am bound by it for now,
He chooses to meet me here in this moment somehow.
With His grace that abounds, He covers me,
For this moment and all of my moments that will be.
And though my mind inevitably wanders and goes astray,
He doesn’t leave me but faithfully, He stays.
In this moment He tells me to just be still,
To listen attentively and learn of His will.
In my doubts He reassures me,
That He is sufficient and in Him I’m free.
And as one moment with Him turns to another,
My anxiety begins to lose its great, overwhelming power.
He reminds me that these moments will someday be a memory,
And I will be with Him for all of eternity.
All the moments of this life together do indeed overwhelm me,
But that is not all there is to this story.
This life shall last but for a moment and that moment is short,
But I will cherish it each day until He welcomes me to His courts.
Until that day, He is with me for this moment,
And for the next moment and every other moment.
Too many moments on my mind and I become stressed,
But by His grace and power, I can rest.
Listen to a spoken version below:
- Words on Prayer
He beacons me to come to Him in prayer,
But so often I am lackadaisical.
Sometimes I’m tired and sometimes I just don’t feel Him near,
Sometimes I’m too paralyzed by my pride and my fear.
And what words can I bring and say to the Word?
Before I’ve spoken, He has already heard.
And He knows the true motivations of every thought,
Even the words that come from a place of spiritual rot.
Sometimes it seems I have too many,
And other times, I don’t have any.
Sometimes I mean them with all my being,
And other times they are just words my lips are speaking.
There are some words I can barely articulate,
They feel like a burden of crushing weight.
Others feel like I’m just saying what is expected,
Even though I feel quite disconnected.
But thank God almighty that He understands what He hears,
Even when I have nothing but uncontrollable tears.
He hears the words that my lips do carry,
As well as the ones I seek to hide and bury.
And if I’m honest, that gratitude is often combined with a bit of dread,
For He knows all I’ve said and all that I’ve left unsaid.
Yet somehow though He fully knows me, He still loves me.
And beacons me each day to taste and see.
He is patient and kind with me and my attempts at prayer,
My brokenness is never too much for Him to bear.
He is teaching me what it means to pray without ceasing,
As long as this heart in my chest keeps beating.
I do not know what to pray for as I ought to,
But the Spirit intercedes and follows through.
I am broken and I am weak,
But by the Spirit, still I shall speak.
I am Yours and You are mine,
And in all of my running I’m still in Love’s confine.
For where can I hide from Your sight?
Darkness to You is just more light.
To You I am fully known and fully seen,
And by the cross, You are making me clean.
Day by day You are teaching me,
To live for more than what I can see.
I’m a long way from done,
But the war was long ago won.
Sometimes I still try to put up a fight,
And I chase that glimmering pyrite.
Pride’s hunger is never satisfied, it tries to devour,
I cannot beat it by my semblance of power.
But You, Oh Lord, are good and strong,
You have been with me all along.
You made me a daughter though I was a traitor,
For my sin was great but Your grace is greater.
I believe, help me in my unbelief, Lord!
And give me the strength to keep moving forward.
And in Your grace, help me follow You and Your pace,
Until that day I finally see You face to face.
- The Sea & WeThe sea is His, for He made it, He knows every molecule within it. He told the waves how far to go, And created the creatures that call it home. The sea is His, deep and vast, Seemingly endless to us yet a mere drop to Him. For we are finite but He is infinite. No part remains uncharted or hidden to Him. The sea is His, and sometimes He leads us to it, And He commands even the winds that churn it. Sometimes He calls us to walk on the water, And is there to catch us when our doubts try to swallow. The sea is His, and He has been known to use it, And sometimes He uses even the big fish within it, The fish isn’t appointed to simply devour, But to rescue and change us, by His mighty power. The sea is deep but we are in His hands. For even if we find ourselves in its deepest depths, Still we will be held in His righteous right hand. Whether we are high or low, He remains firm like land. We are His, for He made us, He knows the number of hairs on our heads, And sees all the days that we have breath. Billions of people but no identical fingerprints. We are His, vessels of wrath redeemed for His glory, He knows us fully yet still loves us radically. His love is more vast than any sea we encounter, He has made us a part of His family forever. We are His, and even when we start to doubt, No waves intimidate Him from reaching His hand out, No darkness impairs Him from seeing all. When we are weak, He remains strong. We are His, bought with a price at Calvary. And in Christ there is no condemnation. Nothing in all creation – not even the most raging seas – Can separate Him from you and me.
- Create In Me
In the beginning, God created and saw it was good,
Creating through His word, like only He could.
All of creation is testament to His artistry,
Even in the darkness, His creativity shines brilliantly.
He made everything from the magnificent starry night sky,
Where every massive star looks like a shiny pin way up high,
To the largest whale in the sea and the tiniest insect on the ground,
From every grain of sand to every molecular compound.
He formed the whole world and He formed me,
He knit me together in secrecy, carefully and intricately.
My frame was not hidden as He knit every organ and limb,
Even the number of hairs on my head is known to Him!
Even before I ever took a breath,
He knew me and saw my mortal days from birth to death,
He also sees me on that glorious day,
When all is made new and the old has passed away.
Sometimes I feel like a hopeless case,
And some days, even just a waste of breath and space.
But out of His grace and mercy, He still calls me His workmanship,
And beacons me to live with Him in relationship and fellowship.
And in this earthly life,
There will be pain and strife.
And even when the chaos of life refuses to cease,
He is working in the mess to make a masterpiece.
I am clay in the hands of the skillful Potter,
Being carefully molded as His beloved daughter.
He shapes this lump of clay not on some whim,
But rather with a plan, so that even dust may glorify Him.
Sometimes works in progress look like something gone awry,
But a caterpillar must first become a chrysalis to become a butterfly.
The most elaborate embroidery, pleasing to the eye,
Has a messy, tangled, abstract underside.
God was not and is not afraid of my life’s complexity,
What is overwhelming to me is still subject to His sovereignty.
My past, present, and future self are fully known and fully loved,
For He called me out of sin and shame, and calls me His beloved.
For all who are in Christ, a new creation has come-
Out of death, true life now flows from!
Not because of what I have done, but because of His grace,
I will not be abandoned nor sent to my deserved fate.
Oh Lord, create in me a clean heart!
Have mercy and remove my sins and spiritual rot.
Transform my crimson-stained attire,
And change my evil and selfish desires.
Oh Lord, You are the author of my story,
Let each word shout of Your great glory!
And help me to remember that what I now see,
Is merely a cropped image of what You are doing in me.
Oh Lord, weave together both the dark and light strands,
To create some beautiful tapestry, the work of Your hands.
Stitch me into your family of diverse believers,
Into a quilt more beautiful than myself or any individuals.
And when all I see is what I wish I could be,
Help me remember that You began a good work in me,
You will not abandon nor give up in frustration,
You entered my mess and will bring me to completion.
- The Crazy Quilt Church
We all have ragged edges,
yet somehow fit together beautifully,
A crazy quilt of splendid variety,
Stitched together with elaborate red stitchery.
Each piece unique in color and shape,
With different backgrounds and histories,
Yet united together to tell of the Maker’s glory,
More beautiful together than each piece separately.
Whether emotional and dramatic,
Or more somber and even partly tragic,
Every scrap has a story to tell,
Not just the bold but the quiet as well.
All coming from different places,
And purposefully placed in designated locations,
He brings together even clashing pieces,
And makes them united through His love.
Apart, not very helpful in longevity,
Yet together, purposeful for all of eternity.
Even the most odd piece can be a part,
Each piece He stitches in belongs in His work of art.
- Lessons From FlowersThe flowers in the garden may be unable to speak audibly, but they can teach us and remind us of so much visibly. They speak through metaphors and brilliant imagery. They all need sun and water to grow and survive, But like us, only under certain conditions will they thrive. There is more to life than being labeled as “alive.” The first crocuses of early spring, Tell of the promises that the season will bring. Reminding us of the nows and not yets, promised by our King. As the season marches on, flowers grow and reach towards the sun, They remind us to set our gaze on God’s Son, To grow in relationship with our Savior, the risen One. Their mere existence on even cloudy and stormy days, is a testament to the sun’s presence when we cannot see its rays. And like the sun, hope remains when we cannot see it through life’s haze. The flowers in a garden don’t all bloom concurrently, They all grow but their times and rates of growth vary considerably. But they don’t compare their speeds, or fret about the future wearily. They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors, But that diversity makes a garden full of beauty and wonders, Reminding us to love and appreciate our different sisters and brothers. Some flowers are deemed as nothing more than weeds, But what is a weed to some is a treasure to others indeed. A reminder that a little perspective is something we all need. The lilies of the field neither toil nor spin, Yet God adorns them, reminding us to not be anxious within. We can trust Him who is, will be, and always has been. And as the grass withers and flowers fade, Our earthly bodies will die and decay. So let us be thankful and content today.
- Living in the SaturdayThe events that unfold in this world can shake us to our core, The dreams we once had can fall and shatter on the floor. Darkness descends and weighs heavy upon our souls, And then we truly realize we were never in control. We may wonder if there is any reason to continue on, Forgetting the promise of the coming dawn. For even in the darkness, hope is never lost – It was forever won long ago on the cross. Love was nailed to a rugged tree, A disturbing truth, a gruesome reality. In fear, His followers were scattered, And in grief, their hearts were shattered. But the tears they cried were not the end of the story, God gets the last word and all of the glory. His followers then did not remember his prediction, But his followers now know that after mourning came celebration. Like those followers of ancient days, We don’t always understand His mysterious ways. It’s easy to slip under the raging waves, Taking our eyes off the One who saves. We live in the Saturday, and the tension is too much to bear some days. But in the darkest of dark nights, Our HOPE still shines bright. We live in the Saturday, but our HOPE will not betray. Our God is the Master Storyteller, And will be faithful to us forever. We live in the Saturday, and while these vessels do decay, He will make all things new, His word is forever true. So in all our sorrows, pain, and strife, We can hold fast to the giver of true Life. Our hope is steadfast, We will see Sunday come to pass.
- Constant as the Sun
The sun remains fixed in the sky at all times,
And even when we cannot see it, we can see its signs.
For every tree, shrub, and flower,
Is a testament to the sun’s power.
And while every sunny day must come to an end,
The sun is not gone even when darkness descends.
For when the sun sets in one place it rises in another,
And night comes to both the first and the latter.
You may not see it from your place on the earth,
But no matter how long the night, a new day will come forth.
Hope is present like the sun is present,
For in every moment, hope is existent.
We cannot always see it because of our perspective,
But sometimes our thoughts and feelings are subjective.
Hope remains fixed and true, and beckons us to continue on,
The darkest night of the soul will end with the coming dawn.
- A Thousand Words & An Incomplete StoryA picture may tell a thousand words, but sometimes a thousand words aren’t enough. A thousand words may tell quite a story, but sometimes that story is fiction. Sometimes the story the photo tells, is not be the story the subject knows. Sometimes the photo has pieces missing, or intentionally cropped out. Sometimes the photo is retouched, altered, distorted, with filters applied. What we see is not always enough to know the full extent of the truth. Your feelings may speak a thousand words too. but they don’t always tell the full story. Those feelings are indeed valid, but they are not always truthful. Sometimes we are like a thousand-piece puzzles with less than a thousand pieces present. Sometimes there’s not enough ink to express all that we think. Sometimes the story your feelings share Is the exact opposite of truth. What we feel is not always enough, to know who we are or to Whom we belong.
- 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 EnigmaI 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 GoI’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 AnxietyYou 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.
- A Blow to my Pride & Splendid Relief: I am a SheepThis past weekend, I went to a young adult conference. I was admittedly very cynical and a little anxious about it, but I went anyways. I have to say I am glad I did. The final session was supposed to be about authenticity in missions, but the speaker (Miles Fidell) felt led by the Holy Spirit to completely change the subject after the first session that had taken place the night before. He changed his talk to the topic of anxiety, using John 10: 1-18 (Jesus as the Good Shepherd) and Psalm 23 as the major scriptural references. He started the session with a lot of talk about sheep. He discussed how sheep are defenseless in the face of predators and not particularly smart when it comes to survival. Sheep need a good caretaker to ensure that they eat, drink, and don’t become paralyzed under the weight of unshorn wool. Like sheep, we, too, need a Good Shepherd to lead us. We need Jesus. When we admit that we are not in control and that we are like sheep who need a Shepherd, there is a peace unlike any that the world offers. The Good Shepherd takes care of all the things that make us anxious in the best ways like only he can. At this point, I really couldn’t help but smile and laugh quietly from my seat. First, this speaker was talking about anxiety when he had not originally planned to. Anxiety is an enemy that has a stronghold in my life right now. Anxiety almost kept me from going to the conference. Anxiety about work-related stuff and the future led to two complete breakdowns in the week leading up to the conference. Anxiety impacts my work, my sleep, my relationships, my energy levels, my faith, and every other aspect of my life. Second, he was talking about sheep. I currently work at a museum with two flocks of sheep. I have more pictures of sheep on my phone and computer than any normal person should have. I have spent time in a sheep pen, trying to film them even though they kept trying to get away from me, the scary stranger who invaded their pen. I have seen the farmers shear the sheep and I have seen the wool cleaned, carded, dyed, and spun into yarn. I may not have grown up on a farm or in an agricultural society, but I am very familiar with sheep. Reflecting on the message after the fact, I really couldn’t help but think of our sheep at work. Every afternoon at around 3:00, our main flock of sheep is let out of their fenced-in enclosure and they run across the Village common to their nighttime home in the barn. There, they are sheltered, fed, and kept safe from the predators that lurk about at night. The sheep are familiar with this routine. If someone approaches the gate around 2:30 or so, they all come up to the gate, expecting it to be opened. Those unfamiliar with this daily routine (mainly, young lambs in the spring) simply follow those who do know the routine. It’s a sight to see:While the sheep are familiar with this daily routine and they are going to a good thing (that is, food and shelter), occasionally they get distracted. Once on a beautiful spring day, we had a great crowd of visitors in the museum, many more people than usual. When one of the farmers opened the gate, the sheep ran out but some of them (especially the younger ones) got distracted by all the people around them (many of whom were laughing and squealing in excitement at the sight). They dispersed all over the town common, not really seeming to know where they were going. The farmers had to run after the sheep and carry some of them all the way to the barn where they would be safe. How often are we like these distracted sheep? We know that our Shepherd (that is, Jesus) leads us to good things (the bread of life, protection from the evil one, etc.) but we get distracted by the circumstances around us. We see the situations in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, and world or we compare ourselves to others and we lose our focus. We flee. We run from the path that our Shepherd has for us. We run in the opposite direction of the truest food and the shelter that he wants us to be in. We run away from what is gold and chase after what is fool’s gold. We run after plans, individualistic paths, and glimmers of what the world calls freedom. We run away and we do not usually realize that we are running towards destruction. If the farmers didn’t go after the sheep who had gone astray all over the common, those sheep would likely not survive for long. They certainly would not thrive. Though it is a major blow to our pride, the same can be said of us. Left alone and to our own devices, we can’t survive for long. The evil one will eventually overtake us. We are like prey to be devoured either now or later. If we do manage to survive for a little while, we certainly will not thrive. Jesus came so we could have life and life abundant. Apart from him, true life is not possible. Thankfully, our Savior is also a Shepherd who cares deeply for his sheep, so much he laid his life down for them, knows each one by name, and will not lose a single one. He goes after the one that is lost and brings it safely to the fold.
“So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10: 7-11, ESV)Sheep can also be a bit stubborn in their running away and ignorance. This past spring, one of the sheep ran away from the farmer who was shearing it and managed to escape capture for some time. Shearing is a good (necessary) thing for the sheep but it still ran. The sheep would likely feel much freer and cool in the warmer weather but it tried to evade shearing. Multiple farmers had to work together to corner the sheep and eventually get it back to the skilled hands of the shearer. How often do we run away from what is good for us (that is, God and His promises for us) like a sheep runs away from a shearer? I know my answer: more times than I can count. Thankfully, the Good Shepherd is one who does not abandon his wayward sheep. In the words of David, shepherd boy later turned king, the Lord is a shepherd who cares for all needs, leads in all good ways, and seeks more than contractual business meetings. The speaker at the conference also helped bring the often cliche feeling words of Psalm 23 to life. If the Lord is our Good Shepherd, the often recited words of Psalm 23 carry great comfort, and not just for funerals. For if the Lord is our shepherd, He is provider and provision. There is no need to worry and fret about getting what we need. A shepherd makes sure his flock is fed. With Jesus, not only does he provide, but he provides himself. He leads us to places of rest in a world that never sleeps and restores our souls. He leads us along His path and not our own for the sake of His name. Sometimes the Shepherd does things that do not make sense to us. He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. We don’t want to go there but He leads us there. The key is that He leads us through the valley – not just to it. In the valley, He is with us. He prepares a table for a relational dinner where it is easy to lose track of time because we are enjoying one another’s company, not just a fast food working lunch that will result in a list of to-dos and plans to act on afterward. Our enemies (even anxiety) are around as He prepares this dinner, but they cannot stand long in His glorious presence. And with the Good Shepherd, all of his sheep shall dwell in God’s house forever.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23, ESV)We are easily distracted and often stubborn sheep who are not in control of our own stories no matter how much we plan or try to figure things out – but we belong to a faithful Shepherd who knows how to care for his sheep and help them when they are in trouble. That is a splendid relief for the burdened and anxious heart. We may be easily distracted sheep, but the Shepherd never takes his eyes or focus off of us, our needs, or our ultimate good.
- New Mercies For New Years & New DaysI 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”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:
- “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)
- “…He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
- Digging a Deeper HoleLast 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 MasqueradeLife 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.
- Music Monday | Something WildFun 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 McMahonThe 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 McMahonIn 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.
- The Circle & The Tangent LineI’m tired of running in circles, But afraid of running a tangent line. In the circle, I find my comfortable masks that I know too well, But on the line there is no room for façades, only authenticity. In the circle, there are lies and warped truths to lull me to fitful sleep, But on the line there is truth and rest and life. In the circle, there is no true, permanent hope, But on the line there is hope that doesn’t put the holder to shame. In the circle, there are chains to hold me down and keep me spinning, But on the line, I am free and the one who Christ sets free is free indeed. I’ve ridden the circle many times, more than I can count. But I long to walk the narrow line with my Savior. My feet are inclined to turn and walk the curves, I’m dizzy from the circle and cannot always stand. In the circle, I ran alone, desperate and tired. But on the line, I do not walk by myself. In the circle, I relied on my own strength, But on the line, my Savior steadies me and keeps me from a deadly fall. In the circle, I followed a predictable cycle, But on the line I walk in sweet, pure freedom. I have run in circles all my life long, But now I want to walk the line.
- Music Monday | StarsI just came back from a wonderful weekend at Soul Fest, a three day music festival devoted to faith, love, and action. It is such an amazing (physically tiring but spiritually restful) event, especially for the region I live in. The last act of the festival was Skillet, one of my many favorite bands. Most of the set list was hard rocking, but in the middle of their show, they played an acoustic rendition of the song “Stars.” I’ve loved this song ever since I heard it for the first time, but hearing it live while being outside, under the stars, was an awe-inspiring experience.
If You can hold the stars in place You can hold my heart the same Whenever I fall away Whenever I start to break So here I am, lifting up my heart -“Stars” by SkilletAs they played the song, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and lift my arms high in worship of the One who made and holds the stars. I’ve heard it said that the best things in life are unseen, and that that is why we often close our eyes when we laugh, dream, worship, etc. For a moment while Skillet played this tune, this sentiment was indeed very true. At the same time, however, I think it is equally true that sometimes we need to consciously open our eyes. When I opened mine and looked up, I was looking at the actual stars – a magnificent work of our artistic God. The moment became even more special. To us, the stars look like pin heads dotting the sky. The dark canvas of the night sky is beautifully interrupted by these tiny specs of light. While they look like tiny dots to us, the stars are in fact gigantic. The smallest known star is approximately 0.12 solar radii or 167,000 km across1. Perspective is the key. How we see the stars in the sky doesn’t change how massive they truly are. I can’t help but think that we often see God similarly to how we see the stars. I mean, in our minds, we know that God is bigger and greater than anything we can really fathom. We often make Him too small though. I for one often find myself thinking that my problems and sins are too much for Him to fix; that I’ve screwed up too many times for Him to still be faithful to me. My faith falters and pride takes over. In those moments, my belief in God doesn’t disappear, but it becomes distorted. The darkness overwhelms me. I tend to distance myself and suddenly I’m trying to live life fully on my own strength. I end up seeing Him as a small, far away, unreachable spec in the dark canvas of my life, even though He is the reason for every cell of my being and every breath in my lungs. My perspective doesn’t match reality. Thankfully, in those moments where faith falters and I stumble and fall, God is faithful beyond comprehension. He doesn’t abandon me even if it sometimes feels like He has.
The deepest depths, the darkest nights Can’t separate, can’t keep me from Your sight I get so lost, forget my way But still You love and You don’t forget my name -“Stars” by SkilletWhen I find myself in the deepest depths, stumbling through the darkest nights, God still sees me. Psalm 139:12 says it perfectly: “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Whatever my feelings, whatever my perspective, God sees me. Whatever your feelings, whatever your perspective, God sees you. He made us, He loves us, and He holds us in the palm of His hand just as He holds the stars in the sky. God is bigger and greater than we can ever fully imagine or fathom while in these mortal shells. He is bigger than every fear, doubt, sickness, tragedy, problem, and sin. That is the glorious reality, no matter what we feel or see with our finite, sometimes distorted perspectives.
If You can calm the raging sea You can calm the storm in me You’re never too far away You never show up too late So here I am, lifting up my heart To the one who holds the stars “Stars” by Skillet
- Cain, F. (2015, December 25). What is the Smallest Star? Retrieved August 5, 2018, from https://www.universetoday.com/25348/what-is-the-smallest-star/
- Lessons From the Garden | The Sensitive PlantI’m a firm believer that the natural world around us can show us things of God’s character and give us important reminders as we journey through this life. After all, He is the creator of it all. Art reflects the artist. We just have to open our eyes and pay attention. Where I work, we have several gardens and probably a couple hundred different flowers, vegetables, herbs, etc. There is one particular plant that has fascinated me ever since a co-worker showed it to me last summer: the sensitive plant, also known as the “shame plant” or “shy plant.” It gets its name from the fact that when you touch it, it immediately folds inward and droops on the ground, as the picture below shows. In a few minutes, it starts to perk up again and soon, it is as if it never drooped at all! Sometimes life’s circumstances seem like a sudden punch to the gut. Sometimes we crash and burn. Sometimes our faith falters. Sometimes our situations look hopeless. We may turn inward. We may see our lives looking like the shriveled up leaves this plant has when it is touched. Things looks dead and hopeless. But as long as we have breath in our lungs and are still rooted in Jesus like the plant is rooted in the ground, there is hope. Things aren’t always the way they look at first glance. That’s a frequent theme in scripture and in life. Sometimes our senses and our feelings fail us. They are not 100% accurate. There is always hope even when all seems hopeless. Even on the most hopeless day in history, the day that Jesus died a gruesome death on the cross, there was hope. He came back and will come back again. If Jesus could come back from the grave, then we can know for certain that there is hope in the seemingly hopeless in our lives too. Of course, it may take exponentially longer to get up than it did to fall down. The same is true with this plant. It folds inward almost immediately upon being touched, but takes five or ten minutes to come back out and face the sun again. It doesn’t happen all at once either. It’s a slow, moment by moment comeback. And that’s the important thing: there is a comeback. One touch from some other force beyond the plant’s control does not keep the plant down. It is resilient. As God’s sojourning children in this world, who do not fight evil forces on our own but with the power of God, we can be resilient too. We do not fight this battle alone. We can and will rise again.
“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8)
- The Pieces of My Shattered HeartWhen my glass heart was shattered, Some pieces went missing. I tried to pick them up, But the shards only caused more bleeding. Yet every day I return to the ruins, And once again I try to pick up the pieces on the floor. But I drop them again as more blood falls, Causing the few fragments to become many more. See the flesh on my hands was never capable of truly repairing. All they can do is collect some of the pieces, As I wince in pain and bite my lip, And attempt to apply some temporary adhesive. But there are minute pieces that are still missing. No mortal hand could find the full amount. Some hide in crevices, some in the dust. There are more pieces than I can understand or even count. And even if every piece was accounted for, No human effort could put them all together. It would be a puzzle beyond one’s finite comprehension, Not a question of “if” but an answer of “never.” But there is one called the Great Physician, Whose hands are stronger, whose eyes see deeper. His skills are unfathomable and unmatchable, He is the ultimate Healer – not just a reliever. He takes the shards of my sin-sick heart, And carefully trims, shapes, constructs, and assembles. Sometimes it cuts, sometimes it stings, But He knows when to apply pressure and when to be gentle. He is not just repairing, But rather He is creating. A new heart, pristine and beautiful. The process hurts now, but ultimately, it’s liberating. My cold, hard, once dead heart, Is being transformed to one that is full of life and His beauty. And while this life may still batter it, It will not and cannot destroy it completely. For it sits in its Maker’s hands, strong and good From His throne on high it will not fall, His steady hands hold it now and for always, I know He will see it through it all.
- Music Monday | TerminalDeath is the ever constant elephant in the room. Everyone knows about it, everyone knows it is eventually inevitable, yet rarely does anyone want to think or talk about it. Yet death, as cruel as it is, is a necessity in this world. Everything that is now alive in this world relies on something that died. The plants that sprout from the ground and feed animals and humans grow from the dirt – made of decomposed plants and animals that came before. Even in the new heaven and earth to come, all who live there will be alive because of Jesus’ death on the cross and dying to themselves. Lately death has been on my mind. Perhaps it is kind of morbid, but it’s hard to not think of it, with all the stories on the news and all the young people I have known to meet untimely ends. Death is prevalent, and it isn’t going away until the day Jesus returns. It’s the elephant in the room we have to address if we want to live this life like the gift that it is. None of us are getting any younger, and none of us know how many days we have left. I’m in my twenties, but I’m just as mortal as anyone in their supposed “sunset” years.
“The doctor says I’m dying I die a little every day But he’s got no prescription that could Take my death away The doctor says it don’t look so good It’s terminal. Some folks die in offices one day at a time They could live a hundred years But their soul’s already dead Don’t let your spirit die before your body does We’re terminal, we’re terminal.” “Terminal” – Jon ForemanEvery day is one day closer. And in the mundane tasks of everyday life, it’s easy to forget what a gift this life is. I find it very difficult to remember this as I get caught up in the pressures and stresses at work. Perhaps that’s why the line quoted above about folks dying in offices cuts so deep. Sometimes it feels like I’m wasting precious time, caught up in the drudgery of getting my work done and just surviving. It’s easy to take all the little things – like breath, food, friends, and nature – for granted. It’s easy to lose wonder in the world. It easy to fall to cynicism and frustration. It’s a fight everyday, but I refuse to let my spirit die one day at a time as I go about my work. I want to live for something more. I want to live for Someone more. Not only that, but I want to live BECAUSE of Someone more, that is, Christ. My hope is that you want this too. And there comes the concept of death yet again. See, in order to be in Christ, one has to die. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” I am alive in Christ. And I am alive in Christ because of Christ’s death 2,000 years ago. Yet this new, eternal life is currently housed in a mortal shell, a vessel that will die. And even though I have been born again of God, part of the promise is not yet realized and will not be so until the day Jesus returns. As Christians, we live in both the now and the not yet. For now, while we inhabit this world of tension between physical birth and death, so too our souls lives in the tension of being saved yet not fully resurrected.
“We are, we are the living souls With terminal hearts, terminal parts Flickering like candles, shimmering like candles We’re fatally flawed in the image of God.” “Terminal” – Jon ForemanWe are living souls with terminal bodies. So even as Christians, our physical predicament hasn’t changed. But because of the new life that God has given and because of His promises, we can live this life in our mortal shells with hope and purpose. Because of Christ’s death, we are free to live for and because of God. Because of Christ’s death, we can live this life with hope and with longing for a world we have not yet seen. Because of our own eventual deaths, we can live this life like the gift it truly is. We can flicker and shimmer like candles, shining a light in a world that is so dark. As we shine our light and acknowledge our own mortality, it also behooves us to take a breath, take a step back, and treat our fellow eternal souls in mortal bodies with decency and respect. While we may be different in looks, skills, status, or reputation, one thing is the same across the board – we are all dying. All of us face that predicament.
“Whenever I start cursing at the traffic or the phone I remind myself that we have all got cancer in our bones Don’t yell at the dead, show a little respect It’s terminal, it’s terminal.” “Terminal” – Jon ForemanEveryone has some baggage they are carrying, even if it’s not easily noticeable. Knowing that everyone is dealing with something, whether it is grief, physical illness, emotional problems, financial instability, etc., we ought to show love towards all, just as our Savior did. Getting mad about someone cutting you off on the highway isn’t going to do anything good for you or them. On your deathbed, you won’t care about that sort of thing. So let’s be slow to anger, quick to love, and willing to serve our fellow mortal beings. We’re all terminal, but for the time being, we can shine like candles, helping illuminate a dark world with the hope and love.
- The Potter and the ClayI know the clay has no right to say Why the Potter shaped it some particular way. Yet I cannot help but wonder And so, I sit, I cry, I question, I ponder… Why did the Potter make me so– Prone to anxiety, Easily swept by pride, Overcome with feelings so deep, So shy and awkward, And easily afraid? Quickly jealous, Painfully indecisive, Susceptible to crippling doubts, Often impatient, And lonely? My hope is that these things aren’t me. That these things are not the end of the story He wrote for me. That these things may somehow be used to glorify Him, As he skillfully shapes this lump of clay with a plan and not on some whim. That He won’t abandon this mess I’m in, And that He sees a brighter future, not just where I’ve been. That His hands will shape, trim, and cut when needed, And that He won’t leave me uncompleted. That I will not be burned up in that fiery kiln, But that he will take away all my burdens and sin within. That the vessel that comes out is beautiful and purposeful, Pointing to the Maker and His grace so bountiful. That I am a creation being created, Now and for all my days that He allocated.
- Music Monday | PolarisThe world seems rather bleak these days. Somewhat ironically, the bright screens we hold at our fingertips scream of the darkness that covers the world – the corruption, injustice, greed, pain, sorrow, violence, suffering, and death that surround us. Whatever stories make the news, these are only the tips of the immense icebergs of human suffering. Still, these stories alone are overwhelming. There is so much pain, so much misery, so much darkness in this world. It’s easy to feel helpless. It’s easy to think that our individual actions are meaningless. It’s easy to crawl under the covers in a comfortable bed of apathy. As Christians, we know that God is a just God. We know that He will make all right on a glorious day to come. This knowledge doesn’t give us an excuse to not act though. God beckons us to get up and follow Him. He calls us to love our neighbors and our enemies; to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God; to love others as He has loved us. God is the Light of the world, and as His children, we are to let our light shine in this world of darkness too. But what can one person do in a world of immeasurable suffering and seemingly infinite darkness? One person can have more impact than you think. Think about a flickering candle flame. In a dark room, this little flame stands out. It pierces the darkness. It lights up its immediate surroundings. No longer is the entire room shrouded in darkness. It makes a difference in its own once dark corner. Add some more lit candles, and the whole room will be illuminated. We are each a candle in this world. Each of us can shine a light and make a difference where we have been placed. An ordinary white wax candlestick can be a light just like a fancy scented candle in a jar. Regardless of who we are or where we are, we can be a light. And just as one flame can light many others, they same may indeed be true for us. One flame can become so much more. This thought is echoed by the lyrics of “Polaris” by Remedy Drive on their latest album, The North Star. One particular part of the song immediately stood out to me:
“Stay strong, be brave Ripples turn to tidal waves Don’t you know? You use your pen when you don’t have a sword You’ve got your fingertips on the keyboard And you’ve got the sphere of your influence Nobody else has got your fingerprints” “Polaris” – Remedy DriveJust like one flame can light many others and light up a room, a ripple action can turn into a tidal wave movement. One action can spur others. A group of people working towards something can have a monumental impact. That’s how abolition, women’s suffrage, and the outlawing of child labor happened in the United States. We’ve made some progress, but there are still many miles to go – both here in the United States and around the world. But we also don’t go alone; we follow a God of justice, mercy, and power who goes before us. This God that we follow has also made us unique – with our own fingerprints and skill sets. We were made in the image of an amazing creator, and we have been given creative impulses. Creativity takes infinite forms such as painting, music, engineering, writing, teaching, and more. Our creative impulses are diverse. The important thing is to use the talents, skills, and ideas that God gives us for good in this world and the furtherance of His kingdom. One person may use their pen as a sword and write speeches, songs, and poems to spread awareness of an issue and to give hope. Another person may engineer a system to provide clean water to a community. Someone else might teach others new skills and foster the ones their students already possess. Another may rescue and counsel a victim of abuse. Yet another may work to find the right remedies to heal wounds and illnesses. An ordinary person in any vocation can do something to love, serve, and help other people. Let our prayer be that God would help us use whatever talents, interests, and resources we have to shine His light ever more brightly in this dark world. May we not waste our lives asleep in apathy, but rather face the darkness knowing that we don’t do it alone. May we be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that desperately needs His grace and mercy. May we let our light shine as long as there is breath in our lungs. After all, ripples can and will turn to tidal waves.
- Now and Not YetAsk any New Englander how they feel about the weather right now, and they’ll probably grumble about the April snow showers and the cold temperatures. Winter has lasted a long time, and we’re ready for sunny skies and warmer temperatures. We’re ready for spring. The weather just hasn’t caught up yet. But the signs of spring are there. Indeed – spring is here – though it may only be in the early stages right now. At work, the crocuses are blooming amidst the shriveled up remains of last year’s gardens. New life is springing forth from the dust. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really don’t feel like a new creation. The reminders of past sins come and haunt me. The baggage of my guilt and shame sometimes weigh down on me. The doubts and fears creep in and threaten to steal what God has given. Some days I want to just throw in the towel. Some days it seems that hope is far off. Some days it seems like the chains of yesterday will never fall completely. But that’s not the full story. I am in Christ, and therefore I am a new creation. But I am a new creation also in the process of being recreated. I am saved, but I am still being sanctified. Jesus has won the war, but there are still battles to fight. The kingdom of God is at hand, but it is also not yet. God’s promises are both now and some time in the future. The winter is over, and spring is here, but spring is also still coming.
- Music Monday | Twenty FourI turned 24 a week ago today. As such, it seemed only fitting to play the song “Twenty Four” by Switchfoot on repeat on my birthday, and for it to be my unofficial song of the year. Jon Foreman wrote this song right before he turned 25, but it’s a fitting song for any age really. It seems especially fitting for where I am in my life right now. When talking about the song, Jon was quoted saying:
“Sometimes I feel like my soul is polluted with politicians, each with a different point of view. With all 24 of them in disagreement, each voice is yelling to be heard. And so I am divided against myself. I feel that I am a hypocrite until I am one, when all of the yelling inside of me dies down. I’ve heard that the truth will set you free. That’s what I’m living for: freedom of spirit. I find unity and peace in none of the diversions that this world offers. But I’ve seen glimpses of truth and that’s where I want to run.”Like Jon, and really anyone I suppose, there are many voices screaming in my head, begging for my attention on any given day. Some of the voices pierce my soul like daggers. Some of the voices distract me from more important things. Some of the voices are fueled by my selfish pride and ambition. Every year and everyday so far, I have fallen to these voices. I’ve bowed down to things that are lies or from the father of lies. I’ve created clever masks and disguises to hide the filth underneath. I will continue to fall for however many years I live in this world. Everyday I battle my flesh and the voices in my head. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But never does my failure change God’s word. Hearing the Voice of Truth over the voices of the world and the voices in my head is not easy. In fact, it’s downright difficult. On my own, I could never manage it. But I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and to Him I want to run, even when the voices are there to distract me, break me, and cause me to stumble. And He is faithful, through every stumble. It’s a long, hard, painful process, but He is raising the dead in me.
“And You’re raising these twenty-four voices With twenty-four hearts With all of my symphonies in twenty-four parts But I want to be one today Centered and true. I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You You’re raising the dead in me.” “Twenty Four” – Switchfoot
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