Eggshells on the Shores of Grace

Eggshells on the Shores of Grace

This is an attempt to explain my testimony.
But these words are ultimately not about me; they are about Him.

“God is love” or so I sang, with an on the spot melody.
Not a care in the world but attracted to the Light that loved me.
A faith so strong, a mind so sure.

But cares came quickly, and I started to flee from the Light.
Trying to run from disapproving glares, only to run into snares.
I took my eyes off of Truth and stared at the waves I created instead.

Unintentional middle fingers and petty thievery,
Webs of lies and never satisfied jealousy,
I was only a child but able to feel condemnation upon me.

Reading words that felt like a heavy burden,
I cried myself to sleep believing I surely blew it.
Fear spread through me like an uncontrolled tumor.

I was only in the single digits, but definitely double-minded.
Unstable in all things, I was the storm and the storm was in me,
Seemingly ripped in two, torn between God and this world.

Still, a part of me kept hoping for redemption,
Believing that God’s grace might indeed be for me.
This hope was a flicker of light in the darkness of night.

That fire, though dim, stayed lit through all these years,
Long smoldering coals, never fully extinguished,
A testament to His great grace and mercy.

But my soul seemed legally blind to the grace being offered,
Able to sense light’s presence but not see what it illuminated.
Pride held me like an abusive lover, and I held it closer.

In Sunday school, I became well versed in basic knowledge,
Like one who has read about and studied the ocean,
But never been in the actual water.

Day by day, clearly definable wrongdoings matured,
Becoming more and more covert, yet with a stronger hold.
Pride was my ultimate hunger, fuel, and ulterior motive.

And in that pride, I played a warped version of a favorite childhood game,
Except instead of pretending to be a princess, I pretended to be okay.
I managed to fool some, and even myself for a time.

The masks of this twisted dress up game became thick and elaborate,
Seeming to ever widen the distance between the Creator and me.
My anxieties grew exponentially, and rest completely evaded me.

And as the years went by,
I found myself walking on eggshells
When He had called me to walk on the water.

I couldn’t fully believe that God could love me,
Every step closer to the water made me tremble with fear,
I felt I was drowning with my feet firmly in the sand.

So I tiptoed along the shores of grace,
All while carrying heavy burdens that
I was never meant to carry.

I kept pursuing the world’s glimmering pyrite,
Plenty of ‘good’ things, but never the Best thing.
But all chase and no rest left me weary and stressed.

Every day felt like more than I could bear,
But even in the darkest darkness, He was there,
He sustained me even when I couldn’t see Him.

Never once did He stop pursing me,
The Light kept calling my name in that darkness,
Through songs, sermons, and studies.

He is the hero of this story, and not me,
He gave me more than I could handle so that
He could give me more of Him.

He took that spirit of fear that paralyzed me,
He gives me His spirit to replace it.
And He is faithful when I stumble and falter.

My sin was great but He is greater,
My guilt was strong but He is stronger,
And I am His both now and forever.

When troubles and doubts come to harass me,
And the fears once again charge against me,
He is my rock, my refuge, my protector.

He began a good work in me,
And He will be faithful to complete it,
For He lives in me and I am hidden in Him.

And in His goodness, He beacons me each and every morning,
To leave these eggshells on the shore and join Him on the sea.
And by His grace alone, I can do that indeed.

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.

Music Monday | Stars

Music Monday Stars

I just came back from a wonderful weekend at Soul Fest, a three day music festival devoted to faith, love, and action. It is such an amazing (physically tiring but spiritually restful) event, especially for the region I live in. The last act of the festival was Skillet, one of my many favorite bands. Most of the set list was hard rocking, but in the middle of their show, they played an acoustic rendition of the song “Stars.” I’ve loved this song ever since I heard it for the first time, but hearing it live while being outside, under the stars, was an awe-inspiring experience.

If You can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart

-“Stars” by Skillet

As they played the song, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and lift my arms high in worship of the One who made and holds the stars. I’ve heard it said that the best things in life are unseen, and that that is why we often close our eyes when we laugh, dream, worship, etc. For a moment while Skillet played this tune, this sentiment was indeed very true.

At the same time, however, I think it is equally true that sometimes we need to consciously open our eyes. When I opened mine and looked up, I was looking at the actual stars – a magnificent work of our artistic God. The moment became even more special.

To us, the stars look like pin heads dotting the sky. The dark canvas of the night sky is beautifully interrupted by these tiny specs of light. While they look like tiny dots to us, the stars are in fact gigantic. The smallest known star is approximately 0.12 solar radii or 167,000 km across1.

Perspective is the key. How we see the stars in the sky doesn’t change how massive they truly are. 

I can’t help but think that we often see God similarly to how we see the stars. I mean, in our minds, we know that God is bigger and greater than anything we can really fathom. We often make Him too small though. I for one often find myself thinking that my problems and sins are too much for Him to fix; that I’ve screwed up too many times for Him to still be faithful to me. My faith falters and pride takes over. In those moments, my belief in God doesn’t disappear, but it becomes distorted. The darkness overwhelms me. I tend to distance myself and suddenly I’m trying to live life fully on my own strength. I end up seeing Him as a small, far away, unreachable spec in the dark canvas of my life, even though He is the reason for every cell of my being and every breath in my lungs. My perspective doesn’t match reality.

Thankfully, in those moments where faith falters and I stumble and fall, God is faithful beyond comprehension. He doesn’t abandon me even if it sometimes feels like He has.

The deepest depths, the darkest nights
Can’t separate, can’t keep me from Your sight
I get so lost, forget my way
But still You love and You don’t forget my name

-“Stars” by Skillet

When I find myself in the deepest depths, stumbling through the darkest nights, God still sees me. Psalm 139:12 says it perfectly: “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Whatever my feelings, whatever my perspective, God sees me. Whatever your feelings, whatever your perspective, God sees you. He made us, He loves us, and He holds us in the palm of His hand just as He holds the stars in the sky. God is bigger and greater than we can ever fully imagine or fathom while in these mortal shells. He is bigger than every fear, doubt, sickness, tragedy, problem, and sin. That is the glorious reality, no matter what we feel or see with our finite, sometimes distorted perspectives.

If You can calm the raging sea
You can calm the storm in me
You’re never too far away
You never show up too late
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars

“Stars” by Skillet

  1. Cain, F. (2015, December 25). What is the Smallest Star? Retrieved August 5, 2018, from https://www.universetoday.com/25348/what-is-the-smallest-star/

 

The Pieces of My Shattered Heart

God can take the shattered pieces and make something full of life & beauty

When my glass heart was shattered,
Some pieces went missing.
I tried to pick them up,
But the shards only caused more bleeding.

Yet every day I return to the ruins,
And once again I try to pick up the pieces on the floor.
But I drop them again as more blood falls,
Causing the few fragments to become many more.

See the flesh on my hands was never capable of truly repairing.
All they can do is collect some of the pieces,
As I wince in pain and bite my lip,
And attempt to apply some temporary adhesive.

But there are minute pieces that are still missing.
No mortal hand could find the full amount.
Some hide in crevices, some in the dust.
There are more pieces than I can understand or even count.

And even if every piece was accounted for,
No human effort could put them all together.
It would be a puzzle beyond one’s finite comprehension,
Not a question of “if” but an answer of “never.”

But there is one called the Great Physician,
Whose hands are stronger, whose eyes see deeper.
His skills are unfathomable and unmatchable,
He is the ultimate Healer – not just a reliever.

He takes the shards of my sin-sick heart,
And carefully trims, shapes, constructs, and assembles.
Sometimes it cuts, sometimes it stings,
But He knows when to apply pressure and when to be gentle.

He is not just repairing,
But rather He is creating.
A new heart, pristine and beautiful.
The process hurts now, but ultimately, it’s liberating.

My cold, hard, once dead heart,
Is being transformed to one that is full of life and His beauty.
And while this life may still batter it,
It will not and cannot destroy it completely.

For it sits in its Maker’s hands, strong and good
From His throne on high it will not fall,
His steady hands hold it now and for always,
I know He will see it through it all.

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.”

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.

There’s Not Enough Ink (Layla’s Words in My Mind)

horse racing

Layla* said  “there’s not enough ink.”
And what she said is what I think.

There are not enough words to describe the feelings buried deep and suppressed.
Somehow it’s not enough to just say I’m depressed.

All I know is that I’m so tired, in every way a person can be.
Drained physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

I guess the seeds I unintentionally sowed were really the heartiest of weeds.
They took root and choked out anything and everything good.

You say to come to You and You will give me rest,
Yet even when I try to pray, I often feel such distress.

These words are hollow,
like the feeling harbored deep in my chest.

And as I sink deeper beneath these waves,
I hear a whisper that He is there even in the depths.

He made the sea and He made me.
He knows both intricately.

No height nor depth – not even the Mariana trench –
can clutch me from His fist so carefully clenched.

There may not be enough ink,
but there is enough grace and mercy to keep me from the going beyond the brink.

The sea swallows sin, but it won’t swallow me.
There’s not enough ink, but there is enough of Him.


*Layla is a good friend of mine. She wrote a poem that contained the phrase “there’s not enough ink” and ever since she shared that poem with me, the phrase comes to my mind as an accurate description of how I sometimes feel. Her poem, as well as her love and the fact that she continually points to God, inspired this version.

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.

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.