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.

Just.
Be.

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:

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 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.

Help me follow You and Your pace,
Until that day I finally see You face to face.

Create In 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

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 Flowers

Lessons from Flowers

The 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.

 

New Mercies For New Years & New Days

New Mercy (1)

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

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

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

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

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

(Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV)

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

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

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

4 Things I’ve Observed at the Potter’s Wheel

The Potter'sWheel.png

The Word of God is true forever, but I think sometimes certain metaphors in the Word lose a little as cultures and technology change. The truthfulness remains, but people’s understanding of it may diminish simply because of different life experiences.

Lately, one such verse that has been on my mind is Isaiah 64:8, which says “But now, O LORD, You are our father; we are the clay, and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

For many people today, the art of pottery is a lost one. After all, we can purchase factory-made ceramics for minimal costs. Many people have never seen a skilled artisan shape a pot or pitcher. If one does find and purchase a hand-made piece, it usually remains on a shelf as a memento or decoration. Yet for most of history, pottery was not only an art, but a useful and perhaps necessary trade. Hand-made clay pots were used for eating, drinking, cooking, and storage.

IMG_0474.JPGI work at a living history museum that represents life in the early nineteenth century. One of the exhibits is the Pottery Shop. Here, visitors can marvel as a skilled craftsman in nineteenth-century costume forms a beautiful redware mug in minutes on a foot-operated wheel. While the techniques of our potters are surely different from those of Biblical times, some of the same principles of shaping clay remain.

Watching this process has given me a newfound appreciation and perspective of Isaiah 64:8 that I would like to share.

First of all, pottery is a messy art. As the potter throws the clay and works the wheel, wet clay inevitably splatters. The potter’s clothes often have dried remnants even when he was wearing an apron. The window and table next to the wheel also often have dried clay splatters on them. The same can be said of God’s dealing with us. It’s a messy proposition. Jesus literally came into the mess when he was born and laid in the lowly manger. Then he lived among people, many of whom were poor, sick, and/or labeled as “dirt” by society. He wasn’t afraid of the dirt. Figuratively, God also handles the mess of our sinful selves. He heals us, sanctifies us, and loves us, even though it can be and most certainly is a messy job. The messes that we make with our lives and the crimson stains of sin that plague us don’t scare Him. He enters the mess and makes us new.

Second, pottery is a skill. I have not yet tried my hand at the wheel, but I have seen people try it for the first time and usually their first pot isn’t all that great. It takes a skillful hand to make any mug, bowl, or plate. It takes patience. It takes the right tools, steady hands, and a good eye. God is a masterful artist who created the entire universe – every star, flower, animal, and person. God is our potter, and He shapes us with His skillful hands, pressing and holding us just right, sanctifying us and molding us according to His plans and purpose. Even when we don’t understand what He is doing, we can trust His skillful hands.

Third, pottery often has to go through some sort of extreme heat or fire for it to actually be useable. In the case of the redware pottery at work, the pieces are fired in a 24 ft. tall brick kiln, heated to about 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. The complete firing process takes over 24 hours of constant monitoring and feeding of the fire. Talk about dedication! Sometimes circumstances in life hurt. Sometimes circumstances are just downright hard. Yet God remains through it all. He stays even in the darkest part of the night. He gives peace and strength to endure. He uses these circumstances to make us grow. He uses all things for the good of those who love Him. Sometimes life feels like going through a fire, but God sees us to the end.

Finally, every piece of hand-made pottery is unique. Sure, a skilled potter can make a set of mugs or bowls that look pretty similar, but they are never 100% exactly alike. The same is true of us. God made us and we all share some similarities. Yet we are also all unique. While we might share experiences, no two lives are exactly the same. God knew our days before we were born and knew us before we could even know anything. He formed us in our mother’s womb and numbered our days according to His purposes.

I truly believe God knows what He is doing when He makes us, with our unique features and talents. Then He shapes us, as a skilled artisan does, knowing what will come of it. We are the clay in His skillful hands. He is the potter. And what a messy, but lovely, thing to know.

 

The Mountains and Our Stories

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I just came back from a wonderful weekend in the mountains of Maine. Looking at the mountains, everything looks absolutely beautiful. The trees, the sky, the water below, everything. That’s the big picture and it’s beautiful. As I stood in awe of this part of IMG_2300creation, I started to think about how this stunning display of nature was formed. What about all the time it took for the mountains to take their present shape or for the little seedling trees to grow into massive forests? What about all the dirt that allows those trees and all the other plants to grow? What about all the dead and rotting plants and animals that nourish that soil and make it fertile? What about all the creepy, crawly bugs at the bottom of the food chain that are bothersome to us but vital to the entire ecosystem? The mountains are a messy place when you’re at the micro level, but the big picture is breathtaking.

Perhaps our own stories are similar. Our lives have plenty of dirt. Plenty of dead things (or things that IMG_2458should die). Plenty of mess. Sin creeps and crawls in our minds and hearts. Some things in our lives (like pride, lust, hatred, etc.) need to die for better things to take place. Our lives are covered in filth from our sin. Yet the big picture is God’s glorious masterpiece that He is creating in all of His children. God meets us at the micro level, in our sin, in our dirt. He doesn’t finish there though. Over time, He grows good things in us. In time, he makes us His masterpiece.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)

We live at the micro level. We see all the dirt. In time though, and through the dirt, God does wonders. We can’t always see it from our perspective on the ground, but in the long run, God does amazing things through His people. The big picture is God’s glorious work in us.  Even the dirty, bothersome, and dangerous things have a purpose. We are a masterpiece of His design and in His time.

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.