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Mar 23, 2018

Light (Let There Be)


I've been trying to fit words into the empty spaces between what I show on the outside and what resides in the depths of my soul. The things there are hard to dredge up these days, for I have already tasted the cost of vulnerability and I shrink from it still. And so I hover somewhere over my heart, somewhere between the physical world around me and the desperate rawness of emotional reality. I forgot, somewhere along the line, what it was like to feel, to really feel. Things like passionate love, deep sorrow, hopeful excitement, visionary faith that longs for flight and more than that--believes in it. I left those emotions behind, kept in a box somewhere in the attic of my soul, gathering dust.

When things hurt enough, you let them go. It is the natural human reaction, when burned, to release. And yet, here I stand before the refining fire of the Lord, willing myself to go in, to be burned and purified, yet afraid of the flame. Go in, says my spirit. Run, run far away, says my flesh. Once bitten, twice shy. I shall not fall in love again today.

I finger the blinds in the church. It is quiet--I am alone, but I am not alone. Golden sunlight cascades in, gently dipping behind the mountain. When it is silent, I feel as though the air around me becomes like a thousand tiny bells, ringing soft, magical tones. My head, for once, is silent, and so I listen to everything and nothing and I watch the sun slowly set. There is beauty. I am starting, once more, to see it, to grasp it in my heart and let it warm and fertilize the soil of my soul. Wonder is beginning to sprout up in me, and I delight in it--but cautiously. I hope that one day all of this hurt will only serve to bolster the beauty that I behold, but for now I still struggle with cynicism and with the walls that I would build to keep my heart safe and sound. But here in the church, there is only sunlight and the sound of bells and if I suck in, air enters my lungs--I am alive and it is well with my soul.

The Spirit of God hovered over the black void. Let there be light. And there was. Light so bright that it scattered shadows in an instant, bursting apart the prison of nothingness. But as He hovers over my fragile soul, He is gentle, coaxing out the light like a sunrise, soft and slow, yet glorious. My whisper grows stronger with each day, I will not die, but live and proclaim the works of the Lord. 

I stop at the light and distractedly flip through radio stations. My heart is quiet within me and I am relishing the simplicity. I retrace my steps on the radio as I register a song that I know and deftly turn the volume up. And as You speak... a hawk swoops down in front of me, wings outspread in breathtaking flight. A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath... it does not disappear, but continues to dip nearer and nearer to earth, as though it was there simply for me to behold its beauty. Evolving in pursuit of what You said...I lose myself in its flight and I encounter God without the confines of words. Just beauty, Just wonder. Just awe at His nature, revealed in a red-tailed hawk functioning as it was designed to by the Creator. If it all reveals Your nature so will I... the light turns and I reluctantly release the moment.

But my heart will not let go. I find that, buried under layers of callous, it is still beating, it is still tender, it is almost, almost ready to learn what it means to love again.

Feb 14, 2018

It's Not Pointless


I am tired.
The groan comes from the shallow shell of myself;
It is all that I have to draw from.
I am tired and my bones ache.
There is no profundity to this thought, no depth,
No clarity, just mud that I dump from my bucket,
Unable to serve it to the least of these for there is no cold water left.
I feel as though I wake in the bottom of Joseph’s pit,
When he, rejected by his brothers, groaned and rubbed his back
And ran his hands through his hair, Why, why?
Why have you forsaken me?
What use is the favor of his father here in the hole where all hope is lost?
What use is his heritage in the halls of Potiphar, now a slave?
What use are his talents in the prison cell as he waits, year after year,
For the butler to remember him?
Yet quietly, Joseph was faithful, and under the mercy of God,
That which was for evil intent was used for greater good,
Not just saving Jacob and his sons but preserving the line of the ultimate Savior,
Who would be born of the tribe of Judah, who sold his brother for silver—
So that the stage could be set for the Man who would hang upon the cross,
Tired, with bones aching.
So this is not pointless.
I place my palms on the ground and grab it, digging my fingernails down,
I drag myself forward and scream into the dirt,
I am tired and my bones ache but I am going to believe
Beyond a shadow of a doubt that this—
This is meaningful, this is doing something,
I am held firm in the hand of mercy, in the hand of grace,
In hand of the One who rose from the dead with healing in His wings
Because He allowed Himself to be torn and broken and battered,
Not just in body, but in soul as his closest friends forsook Him and fled,
As even His Father turned His face away.
He did not have his hand forced, rather he chose the hardest way,
He chose to bear His cross and to take upon Himself the fullness of sin,
The wrath of God, that He might go about the ministry of mercy,
Fully poured out for salvation, for love, for grace upon grace.
It was never pointless, never worthless,
For it held life for all in the balance—
Each moment of agony was a word in the story of how God so loved….
God so loved…
God so loved…
I know that it is true. I know it deeper than I know my pain,
So though my body works against itself, though I have nothing to give,
I will give my nothing to the One who makes dry bones come to life,
And watch to see what He accomplishes, for He is making me new.

Feb 7, 2018

Love That Lets Go


All is quiet and I drive into the waves of fog rolling over my windshield. It is cold and it is silent and I am learning how to let go. My hand leaves the wheel and travels up my forehead and through my hair--

I do not want to.

How long have I wrestled over this one thing? I white-knuckle grip everything from material possessions to friends to football games, and I wonder why my hands always hurt and my shoulders are always tense.

Love lets go. I hear it as a gentle whisper, but it seems a harsh shout to my soul, for I am hardened--a stiff tree with roots that tangle around rocks for fear of being uprooted. Love lets go--

I do not want to.

If I let go, it will fall and fade into painful memory laced into regret. No. No, love fights. Love grips. Love--

Kills.

Or is that love? Is it idolatry with a poor mask?

Love lets go, and still I do not want to.

I am tired of losing things, so my pockets are full of seeds, their lives dormant because I am unwilling to let them fall into the earth, where they will die. Death. So much death. So many graves that must be dug--no. I will keep them as seeds, perfect and pointless in my pocket. I will not let them go--

I do not want to! I hate this! If I let go, I will tumble into the abyss of unknown, unseen. And when I hit the ground and feet at my chest there will be empty ribs--alive, but loveless.

Love lets go? I speak the hard words to the fog that parts to make way for my headlights. Gently, it gazes into the tumult within myself. Gently, it tugs. Gently, it thickens just enough to carry in the words--

Love lets go.

Love

        Lets
  
                Go...

So that it might learn, instead, to be held in the scarred palm of the Savior. And planted there, it dies, breaking the body of the shell in groaning resurrection, and then, then love grows into a shelter that bears fruit within its season.

Jan 18, 2018

Deeper Still


Deeper, deeper still.
My heart quavers at the yawning depth before me.
All I see is blackness, pitchy and thick,
And onward, into that dark, my path leads on.
Deeper, deeper still, my Jesus is calling me,
And sometimes it seems a cruel calling, for it is the calling to more pain,
More disappointment, devastation—
To embrace and grip ever tighter to the webs of pain that crawl through my bones—
Tighter still to the gaping wound that remains open in my heart,
For to love—
To love is to be in pain.
To love is to be left open and vulnerable,
Your pain on display for all the world to see and judge—
And tear still more.
Deeper, deeper still, says the Savior,
And the rugged cross tears the flesh on His shoulders to ribbons,
The crown of thorns sends beads of blood dripping into His eyes;
He stumbles, and as He hits the ground, His lips mutter,
Deeper, deeper still
Is My love for you.
Deeper still? Deeper than these rivers of blood pouring from your side, Jesus?
Deeper than the agony of separation that tore you from your Father’s arms, Jesus?
Deeper, deeper still.
My heart, still frail, quavers also at the sheer amount of love
That has become the yawning depth before me—
Deeper, deeper still—fall deeper still in love with Me, says the Christ,
Step out onto the path of love—My love, the love that was nails upon the cross,
Nails through my palms,
My love that will tear you apart—
And remake you anew.
Let me tear into you—
Deeper, deeper still, My love.
Gentle are my hands, but there is much work to be done yet,
And your healing will be your battle cry—
Guttural, from the very core of your agony,
But it is a cry of victory, not of defeat.
Be brave and take heart,
For though your body is wasting away,
Your soul is drinking from the wellspring of life,
Deeper, deeper still.

Jan 9, 2018

No More Despair


No more despair. 

The words linger like smoke in my lungs and I cough them out. How could I have known, without traversing the trenches of the battlefield, that hope comes, not like sunlight but like dirty hands, scraped up knees, battered ribs? Hope hurts.

Despair doesn't hurt. It doesn't feel like anything at all, just another empty room that is comfortable enough to die in. It is hollow and barren and cold and I do not want it. No more despair. 

Such a battle mantra, said on the edge of the unknown. I wish that I could promise you that the worst was behind us, that we weren't headed into the fray that promises blood and bruises, wounds deeper than you have yet experienced. I cannot promise the easy road to the fields of lush green, but I can promise you that the view from the top of the rugged mountain is breathtaking. Broken things are more beautiful than you could ever imagine when they have been pieced together by the One who is making all things new.

I promise you that all of this? It's far from pointless. The pain threading its way through your body and crippling your attempts at waking up in the morning, this deficiency in your mind that feels like a prison to block out beautiful things, these wounds from friends who don't know what they're doing, these sobs that pulse through your bones when you try to worship--it's not meaningless. Instead it works in you, it breaks you but in its healing it makes you stronger, it callouses your hands and feet yet keeps your soul tender--it is working in you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. 

Take up hope, weary pilgrim. Let it grow roots into your tenderness, pushing down so hard that it feels like you are dying. Let it plunge deeper still until it upturns your fears for you to face. Cling on still harder when it disappoints you, when you are left pacing the empty sanctuary, wrestling with the One who would save you. Do not let go.

For this is the hope of glory--Christ in you. Oh my soul, it has always been enough.

Oct 11, 2017

It's Okay

rain, grunge, and umbrella resmi
from Pinterest
It is from the depths of brokenness that you start to truly be able to see. How could the blind man worship the Lord for receiving his sight if he had not first been born blind and struggled through a world of darkness? I must ponder this a moment--or an eternity. The question is often posed--how could a good God allow bad things to happen? I toyed with answers when I was a little younger and a little more hot-headed--less tempered by life happening to me. I have shoved all of those answers aside however to focus on something else--something perhaps less "theological", but more keyed in on the actual point of the Gospel, which is the perspective-altering person of Christ Himself. I can argue myself hoarse and still not prove my point, yet Christ came and He did not argue--He was. His whole life was a demonstration of His character--of love, of holiness, of sacrifice, of lovingkindness, of mercy, of justice... And all of His life was aimed toward one thing--death. He stepped in time with brokenness, was one who knew darkness well, and became the Man of All Sorrows, weeping for the loss of Lazarus, weeping in the garden for the pain (yet setting His eyes on the joy) set before Him. 

Why does God allow it? A murdered Son? An innocent Lamb led to the slaughter? Perfection met with reproach? 

Can we, for once, be stunned to silence? Not to deny the pain that we experience--for we know it deeply, and scars etch our hearts and engrave our souls. But perhaps the brokenness causes us to finally see like the once-blind man--not men as trees, walking, but Christ Himself, broken beyond belief upon the cross--for what? Because He so loved. In the breaking of His body He gave thanks and gave it to His disciples. He did not begrudge them for taking of it because He freely gave it. So if we could only look beyond that shattered soul of ours--to see more than broken pieces; to see the way that they glitter in the light of the Son because He is making all things new. What if we took our bodies--because we are, after all, one Body, and that is Christ's--and broke them and gave thanks, and then gave. The human tendency is to respond to brokenness by pouring inward, by nursing our wounds, by waiting until we're "whole" again before we reach outward. Yet Christ, even upon the Cross, dying, looked out and said to John, "Behold your mother," and to Mary, "Behold your son." John, beloved disciple, take care of my mother. Mary, take care of my friend. 

So. What if God allows brokenness not because He's powerless to disallow it, not because He's cruel, not because He doesn't care--what if He allows it because it helps us to know better the depth of love--true love, sacrificial love, the greatest love which is to lay down your life? What if He is simply breaking our shell so that He may enter in and renew all of the decaying soul that we are afraid of? What if the rain makes the trees grow deep roots? And if that is the case, then every broken heart has more meaning than a seed, planted in the soil. 

I will wait and I will watch for the Spring. 

Jul 24, 2017

I'm Not Afraid (Except I Am)


Nothing has changed. No miracle has shifted my life from the normalcy of the daily grind, no Word from the Lord has rattled through a dream to change my vision. Yet, all the same, my vision is renewed. Though it still feels as though I am crawling through the daily grind, laundry and cleaning and health issues being my mantras, though I see the same things as I have for a while now--I see them clearer. I see them for what they are: And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24) 

For some time now, I have been pondering and wrestling with the idea of life. After a grueling year of heartache, loss, and grieving, I gripped firmly to Paul's words to the Philippians--to die is gain. Yet I think that in the midst of the unbearable yearning to see my Lord face-to-face, I forgot that that was only half of the sentence--firstly, to live is Christ. True, I know that one day I shall die or Jesus will come back and I shall live forever united with Him. But at this moment, He has not called me Home. He has called me here--so thus, I must learn to live. And to learn to live, I must learn who Christ is. What His life on earth looked like. I must embrace the raw truth of the Bible--that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son...oh, if only I could know that keener every day! Oh that I would grip onto the love of God, being content in the discontentment--for yes, I am a pilgrim, I am a wanderer, but I do not wander as one lost, rather as one found. I know where I am going, and though the journey is long, I must learn to see the hand of the Lord in each moment, in each pile of laundry, in each hard question a child asks, in each offering of my most prized possession to someone who needs it more than me, in each time I stop to pump gas into my car, in each moment of failure where I provoke my dearest friends to tears, in each novel read, in each word carved from my soul and planted onto paper, in each--in each breath, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, my Jesus, He loves me, and it is enough.

Then, there is fear. Fear is a constant, it seems. It haunts my dreams--dreams of little girls torn from their homes, dreams of vicious animals, dreams of loss--and it haunts my thoughts, as I plant my feet and pray for courage, for patience, for humility. For what else will the Lord take? What will I lose? What greater beating can my heart take--I am already weak! And it is true, I fear the normalcy, because I fear that it will never end. How often I wrestle with these plaguing thoughts, how often I stumble as they grow louder and larger--yet there stands Christ, risen from the tomb, brushing off His hands because it is finished?  And this, this is why Paul urges the Galatians to not grow weary of doing good. To not grow weary of the daily grind, for in due season, we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.

No losing heart. Stand firm, whether God has called you, today, to saving souls or saving your bedroom from the massive piles of laundry. He is enough, and He will help you wield your sword.

Jun 27, 2017




June is fading into July once more. There is some small amount of grieving at the passage of time as I look back and realize that I am no longer the child that I thought that I would always remain. Things change, people grow up, relationships shift, and Junes always fade into Julys. Yet Christ, Christ, Christ--Christ remains the same, and it is enough.

I think that His steadiness has been the only anchor in my soul lately as surrender calls me to sever my ties and draw further up and further in--pushing forward, ever forward, towards Christ. I know that He is always going to be enough, but I fear the cut. I fear the moment when all that I have set up as idols in my life fall to the ground in ashes--because I always forget what it is like to look up and see Christ standing there, in all of His awesome wonder, in all of His glory. I tend to remember pain really well--I can feel the cut of losing someone, but I so often forget the miracle of finding them again and knowing them better than before.

I know that it is worth it, though. It always has been. And faith is not about forgetting that it hurts and jumping blindly into nothingness. Faith is gritting your teeth against the pain, pushing forward through the doubt, not allowing the voices in your head to rule your life. It's an action. It is gripping onto the spoken truth that Christ will walk every step with you, even when He feels so far away.

And what joy! I am beginning to understand what it means to rejoice in all trials, for every trial continually draws me closer to the One who gives joy. Honestly? I didn't understand the love of God so well until I received the sharpness of a broken heart to leave me gaping and vulnerable enough to know that love is unconditional. I didn't understand that God would never leave until everyone seemed to leave and I was left in the darkness groping around for His hand. I didn't understand that He was the Man of All Sorrows until sorrow was heavy on my shoulders like a black cloud about to rain.

And so, I see, joy is birthed out of sorrow. Joy is birthed out of pain and trial. It is like when you light a candle in a bright room--it doesn't mean much. But if you shut out the lights and close the curtains until it is pitch black, that candle is shown for what it is--a sword to slice the darkness in two.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. --Isaiah 9:2
 
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