The Good Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd and He knows my name,
And He spoke it to lead me out of my shame.
He found me when I was the sheep that had gone astray,
And brought me back to the flock where I now long to stay.

He is the good Shepherd, not merely a hired hand –
The one who cares so deeply, more than I can understand!
He laid down His life for me on His own accord,
And paid a ransom I could never afford.

Each day He leads me to green pastures full of provision,
Where life and restoration are freely and fully given.
There, I walk near streams of living water,
Not as a slave but as the Father’s daughter.

As I learn to recognize His voice, I learn more of His ways too,
And He guides me to do what is righteous and true.
Sometimes I try my own way but find His rod is there,
Not to harm but to keep me from a deadly snare.

Some days I also find myself in the valley for a duration,
But He leads me through it for it is not my final destination.
I have no need to fear, for even then He is near,
And though I cling to Him, He holds me more dear.

He invites me to a table where my enemies can clearly see,
That the one who is His will always His be.
They cannot prevail or snatch me from His hand,
For in His presence, they are too weak to even stand!

Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all my days,
And I will dwell with Him both now and always.
The Lord is my shepherd and He knows my name,
And because of that – I will never be the same.

God with Us

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
And man dwelled in the garden without façade.
But sin shattered communion like glass beyond repair,
And sorrow became our inherited share.

Yet even on that day when all was made broken,
A promise of hope was firmly spoken.
For Love would not abandon His creation,
And so, He planned a way for salvation.

His promise was passed down through prophets of old,
Yet in time, the hope of many grew cold.
It seemed as if God were no longer there,
And if He was, perhaps He didn’t care.

Yet when God seemed silent and far away,
He sent messengers into the world to pave the way.
Emmanuel was coming into our mess!
Light would shine again in the deep darkness.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among the broken,
Fulfilling what God Himself had long ago spoken.
But He came in what many deemed a pitiful sight,
Not robed in royal splendor nor with weapons to fight.

Indeed, He entered in one of the most vulnerable states!
For He came to draw near to those in desperate, dire straits.
Grief and affliction were His chosen lot.
And He carried our sorrows though we esteemed him not.

By His presence, grace was made known,
And by His blood, God’s mercy shown.
On Him, our transgressions and iniquity were laid,
So our insurmountable debt could be finally paid.

Communion was restored for all who would believe,
And a promise was given that He would not leave.
Emmanuel, God with us, to the age’s end!
Our Savior, brother, and truest friend.

Centuries have passed, yet His promise and presence remain,
And He is still with us through every sorrow and pain.
God has not left us nor will He go away,
Emmanuel who was is still Emmanuel today.

Tossed at Sea

Tossed by every problem, and every word with its tone,
Anxiety has set deeply into every single bone.
My stomach is seasick, my body is tense,
And my mind is jaded from all this violent turbulence

The waves of circumstance and others’ opinions rage,
And I find myself drowning in fear’s cruel cage.
I cannot hold my pride-fueled façade much longer.
For these waves are many and all of them stronger.

My energy is finite and fading fast,
By my own power alone I cannot last.
I cannot help but fear that I will perish in these waves,
To be buried alive among the watery graves.

Yet in this desperate predicament, I’m learning I’m not alone,
There is One who has been with me for longer than I’ve known.
He is the one who even the wind and waves obey,
Who came to me though I’ve tried to sail away.

To Him, the deep waters are thoroughly charted,
And He knew my life’s journey before it had started.
He is good and His love will never fail,
So here I am now, with a white flag as my sail.

In this storm, like every other, He chooses to stay,
He will not abandon, give up, or betray.
He leads me and helps me navigate the ocean by His grace,
And in time, I forget all about my attempts of saving face.

He sometimes even calls me walk on the waves that should swallow,
To do what I thought was impossible before I began to follow.
He calls me His daughter and tells me I am now free,
I no longer need bow to the whim of the fickle sea,

The sea around still seems so deep and vast,
But only when I take my eyes off of Him who is steadfast.
Storms will still rage and my mind will still sometimes tire,
But He is with me now, no matter what may transpire.

A peace I do not understand descends,
As I grow in the One on whom my soul depends.
Slowly, I know it will set deeply into every single bone,
I will not be tossed by every problem and word with its tone.

Remember to Rest

We rush, with fear-fueled precision and strife,
Trying to accomplish so much in this fleeting life.

We are Sisyphus under the cruel taskmaster of Pride,
Slaves of busyness, afraid of downward spiral and slide.

We pursue so much, and some of it is good,
And so strive for those things, indeed we should.

But so much of what we chase is mere glittering pyrite,
Empty of all substance and value though pleasing to our sight.

Like a thirsty body drinking salt water will never be satisfied,
A rushing soul will only find its troubles multiplied.

Doing it all is too heavy a burden to carry,
Letting go is hard but sometimes it is necessary.

Our resources are measured and our strength is finite,
We all have an end to our strength and our might.

But maybe that’s okay, maybe we don’t have to do it all,
And maybe there is freedom in not answering every call.

Even the fastest runner trained to run a race,
Cannot maintain a forever fast and steady pace.

Rest is necessary for both mortal shell and soul,
Neglect of it will, in time, take a deadly toll.

But, there is hope in acknowledging the need to rest,
When we look to Him and step away from our pride-fueled quest.

His yoke is easy, His burden is light,
Not because of its contents but because of His might.

We are not alone, nor can we do everything on our own.
But we are fully loved despite our weakness being fully known.

A runner at rest is still a runner indeed,
And so, we are cherished even when we lower our speed.

In Him, we can rest and trust that His grace is beyond all measure,
And when we work, work for things greater than fake or fading treasure.

Growing Still

Watching the grass grow gets a reputation quite jaded,
For if you watch it for an hour, you will have an hour wasted.

There is no difference to the inpatient eye in that short time,
Yet it keeps growing, embarking on its upward climb.

Give it a few days’ time away from your eye,
And my, oh my, you will notice it grows high.

Uninhibited and in the right conditions, it reaches higher towards the light,
Just not at a speed that can be perceived by our partial sight.

It was always growing, even in that seemingly wasted hour,
By the strength of the sun and a little rain shower.

We don’t see it growing but we can see its growth in time,
And maybe that is true of us too, here in this lifetime.

If we look inward and try to see growth in a short time frame,
We will find ourselves weighed down by frustration and shame.

But by the power of the Son and God’s careful leading hand,
We are growing too, according to the ways He has planned.

And in His patience, He watches us grow hour by hour, day by day,
For He is the one who brings about our growth and leads us along the way.

He sees the growth we cannot perceive in our current state,
And in His mercy, He continues to create.

In time, we will look back and more clearly see,
What He saw all along, the good works He has done in you and me.

And He will complete every good work He began,
All according to His will, and His perfect plan.

Through It All

Through It All

Through every hour of every day and every night,
Even in the moments I do not have the strength to fight,
You are present, holding me in Your capable hands,
And fighting for me, leading according to Your perfect plans.

Through all the tumultuous storms of this life,
And every kind of mortal earthside strife,
You assure me that You are still in control,
And You draw near to comfort and console.

Through the endless stream of man-made turmoil too,
And all the hurt us mortal beings to one another do,
You promise that Your way will prevail in the end,
And until then, You lead the way to love, reconcile, and mend.

Through the times I am overcome with fear,
And all the moments I cannot feel You near,
You say to cast my anxieties on You because you care for me,
And tell me that feelings do not always correspond with reality.

Through every tear I have ever cried,
And all the times I have come to You tongue-tied,
You listen and understand all that I need,
And when I have no words, Your Spirit is there to intercede.

Through all the moments when all hope seems gone,
When I am weary and not sure I can continue on,
You offer me the rest my soul does yearn for,
And remind me, once again, that I do not walk alone anymore.

Through all the dead ends I find myself stuck in,
By my action and inaction, that is, by my sin,
You make a way where there is no way,
And lead me out, never leading me on or astray.

Through all the walls I have built by my pride,
And all the times I have tried to run from You and hide,
You break through to reveal my transgression in loving conviction,
And bring me back, redeeming me from my terminal condition.

And through the valley of the shadow of death,
Even on the day that I take my last breath,
You declare that I am not alone,
And assure me that You will bring me home.

Through it all, You are faithful and true,
And You see things from a much higher view.
No circumstance here can thwart Your plans,
And even now in the chaos, I am in Your steady hands.

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.