A Known Enigma

A Known Enigma

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

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

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

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

But

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

And

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

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

Digging a Deeper Hole

Digging a Deeper Hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(1 John 5:4)

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

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

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

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

(Philippians 1:6)

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

The Potter and the Clay

But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

I 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.

pottery process

Music Monday | Polaris

Music Monday | Polaris by Remedy Drive

The 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?

A lantern on a dark nightOne 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 Drive

Just 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.

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. 

Music Monday | Be Somebody

Copy of Music Monday (1)

We all search for something throughout our lives. We all search for what our role is in the world and whether we matter. We all search for an identity that we can feel good about and cling to. We all search for who we are.

And this search can feel endless and hopeless at times. Sometimes in the search we feel lost, as though we somehow strayed from the marked trail in the woods or ended up stranded on a ship lost at sea.

I’ve been there a lot lately. After graduating college, I felt like I had lost a big part of who I was up to that point: a good, studious student. I also quit performing music, something that had been a part of my life since I was 3. I was working a job, but that job was not my dream job. I didn’t (and still don’t) know what my ultimate career goal is. I felt (and sometimes still do feel) like I was floating in space with no path to follow. My general anxiety about everything and some issues at work only heightened the feelings of desperation in my soul. I felt useless. I felt like a burden. I felt like I had no discernible direction. I felt like a mistake.

We all face these feelings at one time or another. When we do, it’s tempting to drown these feelings out in whatever way we can. So we distract ourselves with entertainment, keep ourselves busy with work, and perhaps turn to a drug or drink to calm the ever nagging longing in the pit of our soul. We let our job titles, personal achievements, money, and experiences, good or bad, fully define who we are. Nowadays, we also carefully construct an image and identity for others to see on social media.

The hard truth is though, on our own, we’ll never find a full, meaningful identity that lasts. The identities we build with our careers and social media profiles are walls that will eventually crumble and fall to the ground.

This brings me to the song “Be Somebody” by Thousand Foot Krutch. It’s one of my favorite songs to sing along to in the car as I drive to work, especially when the frustrations and personal failures at work are weighing me down. It’s both a reminder of an amazing truth and a prayer.

I feel a million miles away
Still You connect me in your way
And You create in me
Something I would’ve never seen
When I could only see the floor
You made my window a door
So when they say they don’t believe
I hope that they see You in me

After all the lights go down
I’m just the words You are the sound
A strange type of chemistry
How You’ve become a part of me
And when I sit alone at night
Your thoughts burn through me like a fire
You’re the only one who knows
Who I really am.

“Be Somebody” – Thousand Foot Krutch

Sometimes I feel lost and far away from the God who created me. You probably have felt the same. But that doesn’t take away from the awesome (though often hard-to-believe) truth that God is ever-present and always creating. It also doesn’t take away from the fact that a child of God is His child forever.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…

(John 1:12)

Throughout our lives as His children on earth, the enemy will use everything in his arsenal to make us stumble and fall.  And we will fall. These battles don’t take away from the fact that throughout our lives in these mortal shells, God is sanctifying us and creating new things within us. He is creating who He made us to be. His plans, purposes, and perspectives are so much higher and so much more complex than ours. When all we see is hopeless situations and desperation, He sees all things restored and new. He is creating something in us that we would’ve never seen or even imagined in our wildest dreams.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

(Isaiah 55: 8-9)

God knows who we are. He knows every fiber of our being. He knows our likes, skills, talents, struggles, pains, sorrows, failures, guilt, and sin – yet loves us still. The proof was on a hill in Calvary. Since He loves us, we ought to live like we are His. If you tell your spouse or parent or friend that you love them, but never spend time with them or do anything to show your love, your words will sound hollow to the recipient. Perhaps it isn’t love at all. That’s where the prayer comes in this song:

So when they say they don’t believe
I hope that they see You in me

-“Be Somebody” – Thousand Foot Krutch

Let that be our prayer everyday – that God would continue to work in us, on us, and through us and that He would use us to show this dying, desperate world around us who He is. Let our identities rest in Him and what He is creating.

Music Monday | Hope is the Anthem

Music Monday

I had to get outside today. The anxiety in my mind and heart was overwhelming. I needed to walk. I needed to pray. I needed a little perspective. I needed some music from one of my favorite bands.

It was a cold and blustery day here in MASS today. It was so cold and windy I almost turned back to go to the warm office to make some hot tea instead. But the whole reason I was outside was to escape the office and to-do list for a few moments. So I trudged along the icy paths with one ear bud in and a playlist of favorite songs playing. Somewhat ironically, the wind gusts attempted to steal my breath away on numerous occasions and it got me thinking. One can’t live long without breathing. Similarly, we can’t live long without hope. A little hope can go a long way, but it is as necessary for our souls as oxygen is for our body. Without hope, what’s the point of doing anything? What is the point of working hard, striving, and living? The problem is, we often put hope in the wrong things: money, success, relationships, careers, reputations, etc. These things aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they are good things. It’s easy for them to become idols though, and that’s when they become hurtful things. These things weren’t meant to bare the weight of life in this world alone. Indeed, they cannot bare it.

My lungs and I were born to fight
Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m fighting for
But death ain’t the only end in sight
‘Cause this ain’t a battle, it’s a lifelong war
-Switchfoot (“Hope is the Anthem”)
I tend to put my hope in good things that ultimately will fade away, and that is the root cause of so much of my anxiety. God has had to remind me time and time again that my hope should not be in me or anything that I can do on my own. My hope should not be in other people or their perceptions of me. My hope needs to be in something so much bigger than me and all the responsibilities of everyday life.  My hope needs to be in Him.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
(1 Peter 1:3)

The hope that God alone gives is living and it is eternal. This hope will not put us to shame (Romans 5:5). This hope gives strength. This hope overcomes and survives through bitter adversity and seemingly hopeless situations. This hope cannot be destroyed by any weapon in the enemy’s arsenal. This hope is resilient. This hope can flourish even in desperate situations.

With this in mind, I can keep living and living it well. And so can you. As my favorite band so aptly says: Hope is the Anthem.

Hope is the anthem of my soul because it is stronger than my anxiety. Hope is the anthem of my soul because it gives me strength to carry on. Hope is the anthem of my soul because it allows me to serve and offer temporal hope to a hurting world all while pointing to the only Eternal Hope. Hope is the anthem of my soul because God has given me hope even though doubt, anxiety and shame often seek to drown me. Hope is the anthem of my soul because God loves me and has promised to never leave me. Hope is the anthem of my soul because God gave my soul this song to sing. Hope is the anthem of my soul, and may my soul sing it all my life long.

 

4 Years Ago Today

4 years ago I made a decision that I must make not just one time, but every single day of my life

Four years ago today, I recommitted my life to Christ.

Before that, I was a model church kid, involved long before I can actually remember. I went to Sunday School until I had aged out, sung in the choir, volunteered at VBS, and tried to do everything I was “supposed” to do. I had believed in God since I was old enough to verbally say so. Over the years of childhood, I had moments of doubt and faith. By my teen years though, regardless of what I was doing or not doing, my faith would more accurately be described as knowledge of God, rather than a relationship with Him. On this day four years ago, that began to change.

It was at a retreat in New Hampshire. Somewhat ironically, I was a “leader” and not a youth group kid. I was a sophomore in college trying to figure out what the heck I was doing with my life. I happened to be friends with the youth director at my church and I was well versed (pun somewhat intended) in the Bible, so she wanted me to come along as a leader. I thought I’d be helping wrangle kids, I didn’t expect to come away any different. I don’t remember exactly what the speaker said, but I remember praying to God in a way I hadn’t before and recommitting myself to Him. I came home with a rekindled faith and a renewed hope.

In a journal entry right after I returned home, I wrote:

…The strangest thing happened even before the retreat. For me, anxiety has been a way of life lately…When it came to this retreat however, I felt no anxiety…During the entire weekend, I felt an incredible peace. All I can say is that God was there. I did not feel any anxiety. It was one of the most freeing things ever.

Anxiety had been a major part of my life in the years preceding this retreat. Some days it made it almost impossible to function as a ‘normal’ adult. Even simple tasks like ordering lunch could be a challenge. A weekend without anxiety was like a drink of fresh, cool water after a long, strenuous walk in the desert.

I’m not going to say that everything changed right after that. In fact, I still struggle with some of the things I was struggling with at that point in time, including anxiety. Some days are just as hard if not more so than the times before the retreat. Sometimes I feel really down on myself that things haven’t changed as much as I would have liked. Still, God has been, is, and will remain faithful. He has shown me things in His word, given me peace in raging storms, and been a rock that doesn’t move even when everything in my life seems to be changing for the worse. In the clearer moments, I know that God will do with me according to His time and His will, not my own selfish, impatient desires. His love, power, and mercy are not dependent on me or my feelings.

The day I recommitted my life to Christ wasn’t the end. It wasn’t a one time decision fueled by the fun, excitement, and engaging conversations of a weekend retreat. In fact, I’ve had to learn the hard way that I need to make this decision every single day of my life. My heart is fickle, and many times it doesn’t want to follow Jesus. Thankfully, God’s love doesn’t shift with circumstances, feelings, or whims. Lamentations 3:22-23 says it better than I ever could:

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

On this day four years ago, some things started to change in my heart and life because of our faithful, never-changing God. Many things still need to and will change. In all things, God is faithful. He who began a work in me, before I was born, on this day four years ago, and every day of my earthly existence so far, will bring it to completion. Thanks be to God.

A Light in the Darkness

light blog

Darkness has covered the world as a shroud covers a corpse.
Light cannot ignite on its own, and hope cannot come from even the best of our works.

In this darkness, with a blanket of death wrapped around us, we lie spiritually sleeping.
Our heart may still indeed be beating, but death is really all that we are reaping.

When the time was right, and darkness seemed to permeate all of earthly existence,
The ultimate Light of the World came and shone with an unexpected brilliance.

This Light came like a small burning flame, humble and simple,
But this Light was more than just an ordinary candle flicker.

In him was life, life like mere mortals could not fathom in their comfortable sleep,
A life of peace in the midst of struggle, a hope so different and unique.

This Light was, is and will be light of people, a light that shines in the deepest of darkness,
The Word of God, alive and incarnate.

The world was made through this Light, but the world esteemed it not.
Still the Light came, without hesitation or any second thought.

The Light knew there would be rejection,
But still came to save us from our own self-destruction.

The brightness of the Light hurt the eyes used to the night,
But no matter how much the world tried to extinguish it, the Light still shone ever bright.

Darkness could not, cannot, and will not overcome it,
In fact, the darkness cannot hide and will ultimately submit.

The Light gave a hope to all who believed,
They became sons and daughters of God on high, adopted and redeemed.

By the Light, we can see and do things impossible in the dark,
The Light invites us to follow and with him to walk.

And as one flame can light many fires,
All believers have the light, though we often try to hide it because of fleshly fears.

Darkness can be comfortable, as it keeps our deepest secrets hidden
But only in and by the Light can all our sins be forgiven.

If the Lord is our Light and salvation, of whom shall we be afraid?
Though we are prone to wander, our Light does not stray.

We are children of the Light, lamps made to illuminate the night.
And in the pitch black of night, light shines spectacularly bright.

And so, our Savior says “let your light shine before others,”
That they might glorify the Father with awe, praise, and wonder.

May we live, love, and serve wholeheartedly,
As messengers of God’s great grace and artistry.

And as a candle’s wax eventually runs out,
So does the end of our days on earth eventually come about.

And while our physical forms wear down and decay,
The light of life permeates our souls forever and always.

The Light of the World is Light forever,
And so we are His, forever and ever.

 

A Ship Lost at Sea

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Sometimes it feels like I’m a ship lost at sea,

Blown off course by deep-seated anxiety.

I am left alone with inner turmoil and self-directed aggressions.

I am left with no real discernable direction.

See, this anxiety is a storm that not only batters and bruises,

Is whispers and shouts and permeates every fiber of my daily reality.

It’s told me that I am nothing, not worthy of anyone’s time.

It’s told me that I’m not good enough, and never will be.

It’s told me that every word I speak is a word too many.

It’s told me that every effort is just a waste of breath.

So here I float, alone in a sea of thoughts and tears,

Not sure which direction to take,

Afraid of the approaching night when the storm will rage again.

Will the crashing waves of fear and dread finally overtake my little boat?

Will the gusts of violent thoughts finally drag me under?

Will I drown in this sea, never to see the light of day again?

And though it seems the night will never end, hope comes in the fourth watch.

Hope shines in the darkness of night and does the impossible.

Hope walks on waves that logically should swallow.

Hope beckons me and reaches out.

Hope doesn’t throw shame on my already tired shoulders.

Hope instead speaks my name and says to “come.”

Hope invites me to share in the impossible with Him.

The wind and waves still seek to drown me,

But even they must bow to His commands.

I may feel like a ship lost at sea,

But to Him even the seemingly lost are known and seen.

And I know that being known by He who calms the waves

Means that I can continue on.

The waves will not take me prisoner forever.

He who calms the waves on the sea,

Can surely calm them within me.