Create In Me

Create in Me

In the beginning, God created and saw it was good,
Creating through His word, like only He could.
All of creation is testament to His artistry,
Even in the darkness, His creativity shines brilliantly.

He made everything from the magnificent starry night sky,
Where every massive star looks like a shiny pin way up high,
To the largest whale in the sea and the tiniest insect on the ground,
From every grain of sand to every molecular compound.

He formed the whole world and He formed me,
He knit me together in secrecy, carefully and intricately.
My frame was not hidden as He knit every organ and limb,
Even the number of hairs on my head is known to Him!

Even before I ever took a breath,
He knew me and saw my mortal days from birth to death,
He also sees me on that glorious day,
When all is made new and the old has passed away.

Sometimes I feel like a hopeless case,
And some days, even just a waste of breath and space.
But out of His grace and mercy, He still calls me His workmanship,
And beacons me to live with Him in relationship and fellowship.

And in this earthly life,
There will be pain and strife.
And even when the chaos of life refuses to cease,
He is working in the mess to make a masterpiece.

I am clay in the hands of the skillful Potter,
Being carefully molded as His beloved daughter.
He shapes this lump of clay not on some whim,
But rather with a plan, so that even dust may glorify Him.

Sometimes works in progress look like something gone awry,
But a caterpillar must first become a chrysalis to become a butterfly.
The most elaborate embroidery, pleasing to the eye,
Has a messy, tangled, abstract underside.

God was not and is not afraid of my life’s complexity,
What is overwhelming to me is still subject to His sovereignty.
My past, present, and future self are fully known and fully loved,
For He called me out of sin and shame, and calls me His beloved.

For all who are in Christ, a new creation has come-
Out of death, true life now flows from!
Not because of what I have done, but because of His grace,
I will not be abandoned nor sent to my deserved fate.

Oh Lord, create in me a clean heart!
Have mercy and remove my sins and spiritual rot.
Transform my crimson-stained attire,
And change my evil and selfish desires.

Oh Lord, You are the author of my story,
Let each word shout of Your great glory!
And help me to remember that what I now see,
Is merely a cropped image of what You are doing in me.

Oh Lord, weave together both the dark and light strands,
To create some beautiful tapestry, the work of Your hands.
Stitch me into your family of diverse believers,
Into a quilt more beautiful than myself or any individuals.

And when all I see is what I wish I could be,
Help me remember that You began a good work in me,
You will not abandon nor give up in frustration,
You entered my mess and will bring me to completion.

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 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

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 | 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.

 

The Faith of a Child

Sometimes we learn some big lessons from little children. Last Sunday, I was teaching a Sunday school class at church. The activity for the day involved the story of Jacob’s wrestling match and a craft about wondering. For part of the craft, I, being the teacher, was supposed to help the children brainstorm about what things they wonder about. Some of the examples in the book were like “I wonder if God really knows who I am” and “I wonder if God is really here with me.” One little girl blatantly said “Well…God is right here next to me. So of course He knows who I am. I don’t know His plan for me but I know that He’s right here.” I was so taken aback by the wisdom of this second grader. Her faith seems so strong and simple. She is young but knows a truth that so often gets overshadowed in our sometimes mundane day to day lives. I suppose my faith was once like that, based on stories that my parents have told me. As the years have gone by, my faith has faltered. Sometimes my mind is my own worst enemy as I try to understand things that I cannot understand right now. I forget the big picture. Yet this child recognizes a huge part of the big picture. Little does she know that she reminded me of the awesome fact that God never leaves us and he cares fo us so much that even the hairs on our heads are accounted for. I hope she never loses sight of the fact that God is here with her and all of us.

Train of Toast

Train of toast. Or so that’s what my friend calls it. It’s more commonly referred to as “Train of thought.” Ever noticed the crazy track that our minds travel sometimes? I never thought about it too much until my junior year of high school. It was second semester and I was enrolled in an English course. We had a student teacher (who was quite awesome and fun). Anyways, we were reading Catcher in the Rye. If you’ve ever read the book, you know that Holden’s thoughts easily went from one thing to another. The student teacher had us do a train of thought exercise. He would say one noun and we would all write what we thought of next. We would continue to write what came to mind next until he called time. For example:

Word given:

Penguin

Train of thought:

Penguin

Cold

Snow

Ice

Ice-cream

Dad (that’s another story)

Airplanes

Sky

Blue

Jeans

Yeah. You get the idea. Anyways, we would all go around and share our lists with the class. I noticed some frequent trends among my classmates including food, homework, and significant others.  I don’t know why but the other day I was chatting with a friend online and this exercise came to mind. (Not the friend that says train of toast) I told her about it and we did it together over the internet. Quite fun. I must admit that Doctor Who came up frequently in hers.

Have you ever noticed how our minds take reckless turns however? It can happen any day and everyday. Our minds wander to things that distract us. We may even find ourselves thinking of evil or creepy things. I think we’ve all had these thoughts. To be honest, I’m not always sure how I end up there. It’s not always easy to stop them either. These thoughts hold on tight. These thoughts also lead to similar thoughts and many times I feel like my mind in traveling in a circle.

Sometimes my mind simply wanders to uncomfortable things such as worrying about what could happen. I may try to think of something else but my mind ends up traveling in a circle. Worry is stressful. Worry is uncomfortable. Worry distracts us from the tasks at hand. Worry is going to happen at some point or other. But it shouldn’t take control of us. Nor should evil thoughts. We have an amazing and merciful God watching over us and every little thing in life. Think about it.

“So why do I worry?
Why do I freak out?
God knows what I need.

        ~ “Your Love is Strong” by Jon Foreman

We need to remember this whenever worry creeps up on us. That same God can help us fight the evil thoughts that our train of thought encounters as well. All too often however, we forget to think of Him and all that He has done. I admit that I am guilty of this quite frequently. Since God made all things though, shouldn’t we think of Him, His love, His mercy, His promises more often? I don’t mean the little passing thoughts about God that go as quickly as they came. If we think of Him more we may simply find ourselves happier, less stressed, more loved and less worried. I’m not saying that you have to focus on Him every second of your life. That’s not realistic in this life. Thinking of Him more often could do us all some good though. Your relationship with Him will grow. That relationship needs to be the basis of all you do. He already knows your thoughts. Even the creepy ones you don’t want to admit. He knows your worries. He knows every secret. He loves you despite your darkest moments. He wants your relationship with him to grow. You have to be apart of that growth however.  Just remember that He is one thought away. Help and comfort is a few whispered words away as well.