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.

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.

Yours

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.

Clenched Fist: A Poem About Letting Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casting: A Poem About Letting Go Of Anxiety

casting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Rush, He Says “Be Still”

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

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

But God isn’t rushing.

God isn’t frantic.

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

But God is not rushing.

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

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

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

John 11:5 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Circle & The Tangent Line

The Circle & The Line (2)

I’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.

Lessons From the Garden | The Sensitive Plant

Lessons from the Garden_ The Sensitive Plant

I’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!

Sensitive Plant

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)

 

 

Music Monday | Terminal

A picture of a Meetinghouse steeple and clock

Death 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 Foreman

Every 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 Foreman

We 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 Foreman

Everyone 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.