Prodigal

Have you been wandering? Do you feel you’ve lost your way?
Does the night seem to overcome the brightness of the day?
Are you afraid that you’re too far gone yet still sinking deeper?
Does your mind sometimes fantasize about meeting the grim reaper?

Take heart, oh weary prodigal soul, I know that place.
And I also know that you are not a hopeless case.
You may have wandered and squandered all on your own,
But you need not now starve in the desert alone.

I don’t know what you’ve done or what’s been done to you,
But I do know that none of those things disqualify you.
No brokenness is beyond His ability to restore,
And where sin abounds, grace still abounds more!

While we were enemies, Christ died so we could be reconciled,
And the Father is not ashamed to call a prodigal His child.
He is running with arms to rescue and embrace,
To bestow on you a celebration of amazing grace!

How do I know that these words are true?
Well, I’ve been the running prodigal more times than a few.
Yet, He has been faithful to me through all my years,
And He has called me back, delivering me from all my fears.

I speak these words today because of His grace alone,
And I do not speak them by any strength of my own.
God is faithful, steadfast, patient, generous, and true;
And His grace is for people like me and like you.

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.

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.

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.

The Samarias of the Modern World

The Samarias of The Modern World

Who are the Samaritans in the modern world?
The ones who remain individually nameless despite having names.
The ones despised because of some perceived difference or deficiency.
The ones infected and inflicted by the ills and plagues of our sometimes-shady societies.

What can be done about the Samaritans?
It seems we tend to simply avoid them.
It seems that it is easier to just walk around them.
It seems like dull guilt or ignorance is easier to bear than the forfeit of our comfort.

When did the Samaritans become so utterly rejected?
Perhaps it was when differences divided.
Perhaps it was when we fell asleep in our own cocoons of comfort.
Perhaps it was when we made the problems in the Samarias bigger than our God.

Where are the Samarias in today’s world?
Places forgotten by the constantly streaming media fanfare.
Places avoided by those too fearful of losing their own pristine self-made image.
Places privileged society ignores unless there is some possible and probable reapable benefit.

Why are the Samaritans ignored?
Because they are seen as different and potentially dangerous.
Because there is no economical or reputational gain in serving them.
Because messy situations are a challenge – it’s easier to just pretend they don’t exist.

Who are the Samaritans in the modern world?
The ones who were last but will someday be first.
The ones ignored by many but loved and seen by the Father.
The ones with whom even the Lord speaks to and knows intimately.

What are you going to do about the Samarias in your part of the world?
We each ought to soberly ponder this question.
We have a Savior who has led the way before and will lead us now.
We have been called His children, and now we have His light to carry to all peoples.

When are you going to stop ignoring the Samaritans around the world?
Time waits for no man.
Time may indeed be running out.
Time is of the essence, for neither us nor them have been promised another tomorrow.

Where are the Samarias?
The city next to comfortable suburbia.
The shelters, rehab centers, hospitals, refugee camps, and prisons.
The places you perhaps don’t want to go to, but the places that God is calling you to.

Who are the Samaritans?
They are your neighbors, whom you are called to love.
They are the ones with unexpected stories and talents to share.
They are people like you and me – beloved, created, and never too far from Redemption’s hand.


These words were inspired by the story of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4. If Jesus spoke with and loved even a Samaritan woman, then surely we ought to love the people in our own Samarias – whether they be across the street or across the world. We ought to look them in the eyes as equals, value their stories, and love them. It’s hard, but nothing is impossible with God. Let our prayer be that God would help us love the “Samaritans” in our lives, wherever and whenever we encounter them. 

Even the Hairs on Our Heads

God Knows Them All

I was recently in New York City, the largest city in the United States. His presence with me was so obvious throughout the anxiety-inducing trip, but there was a particular moment that He spoke to me to remind me of a mind-blowing fact that many of us, myself included, either don’t fully believe and/or take for granted. He also used this reminder to send some much needed conviction to my heart.

There are more than 8 million people living in New York City. Sitting in my hotel room at night and looking down, I could see countless people hurrying along the bustling streets below. From my perspective on the 24th floor, the people looked tiny and I couldn’t see much detail, even though the streets were well lit with flashing billboards and bright lights. As I sat and watched, God reminded me that each of these people, though they are complete strangers to me, has a story that He is the author of.

And of course, the 8 million people in NYC are just a fraction of the 7 billion people on the planet right now. And that is just a fraction of the God only knows how many billions of people who have lived and will live on this planet. The number doesn’t even compute in human minds.

That is a lot of people. A lot of stories. And God knows them all. He doesn’t just have a summary of each person either or see them from a distance like I did from the hotel. He knows every detail of every soul and story. In fact, He knows them better than the people themselves. Matthew 10:30 says that “even the hairs on [our] head are numbered!

How incredible is that? Take a moment to ponder it. Ask God to help you believe it as much as is possible. Know that you are loved so intimately by the Creator of all things that He knows even the number of hairs on your head. You don’t even know how many hairs are on your head! He knows your past, present, and future, and despite all the muck in your life, He loves you still.

Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
    (Psalm 139: 1 – 4)

Since God is the creator of so many stories, and we are made in His image, it’s no surprise that we are people who like stories. Our societies are saturated with them! Throughout history, people have told stories, both real and imagined. We learn through stories and entertain ourselves with stories. It’s really impossible to go through a day without hearing or reading some stories. Sometimes we become engrossed in stories that we just can’t stop reading or watching until the end. We all have certain stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, that we love to hear, watch, and read about.

Some real-life stories, like those that hit the news media and trends on social media, are well known by seemingly everyone around us. Some names, like those of our political leaders and the most popular actors are a part of our vocabulary. This widespread knowing in our technologically advanced society reaches an even higher level when a man-man tragedy, like a shooting, strikes and moral outrage ensues.

What about the stories that don’t make good headlines though? What about the stories of ordinary people? What about the stories of people in your own town or city? What about the stories of the people you try not to look at as you go down the street? What about the stories of people who don’t look or dress like you? What about the stories of the people you don’t like? Do these stories matter less since they aren’t blared on every screen? Do the tragedies and issues that strike these people mean less simply because it’s not in the national spotlight for a few days?

Of course not!

Every person’s story matters. And even more than that, every person matters. That includes the people that we intentionally or unintentionally mentally categorize as “less than” in society. And as cliché as it might be, we cannot judge a book (or person) by its cover (or outward appearance).

The kingdom of God works differently than the world. In our world, those with prestige, power, money, fame, or great talents are the ones who are revered. In the kingdom of God though, “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). Jesus spoke to, healed, and hung out with the outcasts of society – the leper, the bleeding woman, the Samaritan woman, the tax collector, and so many other people that lived on the outskirts of society, shunned by the majority. Jesus saw them. If we are truly following Jesus, we will see them too, and do what we can to serve them and point them to eternal hope.

For me, that includes the people, especially the kids, living in the city next to my hometown in white suburbia. Growing up, whenever I heard people talk about the people in that city, it was rarely in a positive light. The city deals with the same problems that plague any urban area – poverty, violence, drugs, broken families, failing infrastructure, abuse, trafficking, etc. Many people on the outskirts seem to want to just sweep that whole city, and its problems, under the rug. God sees those people though. He hears the cries of the abused, oppressed, and hurting. He knows their names. He knows their struggles. He knows their pasts and futures. And as uncomfortable as it is for me sometimes, God has put it in me to want to know more of their stories too. He wants me to see them and love them as He does.

So as we begin another week, let us pray that God would help us to see the people around us with His eyes, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. May we also remember that He knows every detail of our own stories too, and loves us the same. May our stories ultimately point to Him, the author of them all. We are all living stories, and our days were known by God Almighty before they had even begun. All of us have dirt in our stories, but the best stories always have some triumph over struggle, some good overcoming bad, some hope in hopeless situations. We all have stories both to tell, and probably more often, to listen to. Let us live telling our stories and listening to the stories of even “the least of these.”

What is Peace?

peace

Peace. We hear this word thrown around a lot. It’s sung in music, written on t-shirts, talked about on TV, and offered as a greeting. Yet usually when this term is tossed out, it is merely a wishful thought in a world filled with more violence, turmoil and hate then we can even fully comprehend or fathom.

The dictionary says that “peace” is a period in which there is no fighting, a time of security, a state of concord. The world sets this “peace” as a lofty goal on a pedestal. We are told that if we just reach a little farther, work a little harder, and hope a little stronger, we can obtain it.

The problem is that this “peace” the world gives is an unreachable hope that never lasts. Even in so-called “peacetime” eras between official wars, there is plenty of strife on the streets and in homes, much of which goes unreported and unheard except by the victims. And of course even when there is peace among governments or neighbors, there is still  inner conflict hidden within the walls of every person’s chest cavity and skull.

The world says that “peace” is a lack of conflict, but “peace” means something different in God’s word. After all, the apostles certainly didn’t live lives free of conflict but instead were faced with jail, slander, and indescribable brutalities.

Knowing full well what strife his disciples would face after the ascension, Jesus tells them “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27, ESV). He takes this thought a little further in John 16:33 saying “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

So what peace is Jesus referring to, if it isn’t a life free from trouble? There are no words to adequately describe it, as Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God “surpasses all understanding.” Still, there are words to help us identify what this peace is. Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus is our peace. Our relationship with him, and through him God the Father, is our peace. We have been reconciled to Him and we belong to Him both in our life and in our death. No earlthy strife can take us from Him. As Isaiah 54:17 says, “no weapon that is fashioned against [us] shall succeed.”

This peace is resting in God’s sovereignty even when the storms of life are raging and chaos seems to be reigning. This is why the peace that Jesus gives is “not as the world gives;” it is a peace that remains and survives even in bitter outer conflict. This peace is sweeter and more filling than any “peace” the world tries to dish up. This peace allows us to live in freedom that only Christ can give us.

This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Of course, in reality life doesn’t usually feel like this. Peace sometimes seems unattainable at best. Life is full of stress and worry, and I fall victim to this as much as anyone. In fact, lately my anxiety has been even worse than usual because of my dad’s recent cancer diagnosis and a boss that gets on my nerves at work. How more wonderful is it, then, to know that God’s promises and His gifts are not reliant on human feelings? He gives His peace to us as an unmerited gift every moment. We just have to accept it, and allow Him to change our focus from earthly stress to His promises.

I’m still learning to live in this peace and freedom. I will need to continually be reminded of these promises for as long as God grants me breath. Yet in these struggles, He is still sovereign and this peace is unwavering just like His love for us.

Knowing this, let our prayer for ourselves and each other be as Paul says in Colossians 3:15; that the peace of Christ will rule our hearts, even in a world filled to the brim with every type of conflict.

God’s Word: Daily Bread that Requires Chewing

Several years ago I set out to read the entire Bible in order in a year. I figured if I was going to call myself a Christian, I should read the entire thing that I call God’s word. I had read it to check it off my “to do list” of being a Christian. I succeeded in literally reading the entire Bible. I did not study it nor did I give much thought to the cultural contexts in which it was written. I did not pray about what I read nor did I ask many questions. I read the book to say I had read the book.

After officially finishing the Bible, I figured I could set it aside and maybe refer to it once in a while. After all, I had read the entire thing. I foolishly thought I “knew” at least the high points of every story. The crazy thing is, my actions were as if I ate a big meal and then decided to not eat again after that except for the occasional small snack. If I stopped eating food, I’d slowly grow weaker until I died. A strikingly similar statement can be said about time in God’s word. God’s word truly is the bread of life and should be a staple of our daily lives. Without regular time in His word and in prayer, our soul weakens and eventually, dies.

Saying that you don’t need to read the Bible or a specific passage in the Bible because you have already read it so many times is like saying you don’t need to eat food. You have probably eaten bread thousands of times and yet it’s likely you’re going to consume some form of bread again within the next twenty-four hours.

I grew up in church and therefore there are Bible stories I’ve read or heard about thousands of times. It is so easy to look at these stories now with a glazed eye. Stories like Jesus feeding the masses with a few loaves and fishes are told so regularly that it’s easy to think that we, as Christians, don’t need to re-read them or study them. During my sophomore year of college, I joined the Bible study group on campus. We have gone over some of those stories that I’ve heard more times than I can count. Yet when I prayerfully study those passages, whether alone or in a group, God often shows me a detail I didn’t notice before or gives me some new revelation. There is so much under the surface of these stories and unless we take the time to really prayerfully study them, we only scratch the surface.

Jesus himself knew the importance of God’s word in people’s lives. When Jesus was fasting in the wilderness, the devil came along and told him to turn some stones into bread. Jesus replied:

““…It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Here, Jesus is actually referencing Deuteronomy 8:3, which refers to the Israelites. What was true for the Israelites and Jesus is true for us as well. If bread (or any sort of grain) is such a daily staple of our diets for our physical bodies, surely the Word of God is the same staple for our souls. Rather than thinking of the Bible or prayer as things to check off our to do lists, let us truly see them as our daily bread for our souls. Let us remember that bread requires chewing even in our rushed lives. Let us prayerfully meditate on each passage and word in order to get all the flavor.