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.

Now and Not Yet

Now and Not Yet - Crocuses & Spring

Ask any New Englander how they feel about the weather right now, and they’ll probably grumble about the April snow showers and the cold temperatures. Winter has lasted a long time, and we’re ready for sunny skies and warmer temperatures. We’re ready for spring. The weather just hasn’t caught up yet.

But the signs of spring are there. Indeed – spring is here – though it may only be in the early stages right now. At work, the crocuses are blooming amidst the shriveled up remains of last year’s gardens. New life is springing forth from the dust.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I really don’t feel like a new creation. The reminders of past sins come and haunt me. The baggage of my guilt and shame sometimes weigh down on me. The doubts and fears creep in and threaten to steal what God has given. Some days I want to just throw in the towel. Some days it seems that hope is far off. Some days it seems like the chains of yesterday will never fall completely.

But that’s not the full story. I am in Christ, and therefore I am a new creation. But I am a new creation also in the process of being recreated. I am saved, but I am still being sanctified. Jesus has won the war, but there are still battles to fight. The kingdom of God is at hand, but it is also not yet. God’s promises are both now and some time in the future. The winter is over, and spring is here, but spring is also still coming.

A crocus in spring

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.

 

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

ESSENTIALORGANICS.png

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.

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.