7/11/17

all things are your servants



He stood stammering for an excuse, any excuse, to get him out of his current situation. The belief that he was the most inadequate man for the job was ringing loud in his heart, and what's worse is this belief wasn't unfounded. He had screwed things up and he knew walking through the doors of the place he once left would mean returning to his past, all of his “I should haves” and “I shouldn't haves.” He was a hypocrite at best, a coward at worst. How could he return?

Have you ever felt this sort of hopelessness? Have you ever believed that you couldn't be the one to speak truth, bring justice, preach the Gospel because you knew just how deceptive, wrong, and merciless you are?

Or maybe you were aware of the hardness in the hearts you were going to. The people, the situation you were being called into---hadn't everyone else given up on it? Hadn't others tried? Wasn’t that place far too difficult? Those people far too lost? 

She was staring into his eyes and quickly prayed, “Lord, please save him.” He who she had been married to for fifteen years. He who saw his wife leave her once firmly fixed belief in Hinduism for this “Christianity nonsense.” He who refused to listen to her. He who refused to join her at church. He who for five years she had prayed for. Would he ever come to know you, she prayed. Would his heart ever soften? 

The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases. -proverbs 21:1

What if we lived like we believed that God is in control? That the word of the Lord truly directs the path of the hurricane and the king’s heart. Psalm 119 says, “your word, o Lord, is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations. You have established the earth and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day for all things are your servants.”

I want to sing for joy as I read this verse! In a world where you cannot control anything, we serve a God who commands the tossing and turning of the waves, along with the tossing and turning of man’s heart. 

What person is the Lord calling you to love who seems unlovable? What place is the Lord calling you to live which feels unlivable? What position is the Lord calling you to take which feels unattainable? 

The Bible is full of broken, inadequate people called to do the impossible. A murderer with a speech impediment called to be a spokesperson for the oppressed. An elderly couple with no children called to be the father of many. A terrorist and Pharisee called to be a missionary of grace. A greedy, friendless tax collector called to the table. A scandalous woman called to anoint our holy God for burial. 

It's easy to look at the road set before us and think there is no way---no way we can walk on it, finish it, remain on it. 

The unsettling truth is that we can't. We can't keep in step with the spirit. We can't obey the word of the Lord. We can't be a spokesperson for the oppressed, a parent in old age, a missionary, a friend of Jesus, we can't anoint our Lord. We are far too selfish, far too sinful, far too weak. 

The outrageous truth is that the Lord is with us, behind and beside and before, and he will make the impossible possible, the unnatural happen, the weak strong. 

Throughout scripture we see the Lord at work. We see victories come by his hand and missions accomplished because of his doing. 

His word says Pharaoh's heart was hardened by the Lord. It says that Ezra succeeds because his God is with him. We see Esther chosen by his favor and plan. We see Ruth brought in to the family of Christ by his mercy. 

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” -proverbs 16:9-

We can walk confidently into the path set before us, no matter how hopeless it looks, because we know by him the impossible becomes possible.

4/30/17

returning



If I'm being honest, it's been a week since I've really thought of God. Other than a couple prayers of desperation like "Lord, please somehow stop time for a couple minutes so I won't be late" I have thought an awful lot about me. About what others think of me. About anything other than God.

I can always tell when I am in this place because suddenly I can't stand silence for a second. I download all the podcasts, always have a show or music playing in the background. I know if I let myself stop I will realize... Shoot. I did it again.



I read a Psalm because it has to start somewhere. I have to pick up the Bible, I have to eventually get to the place of humiliation and confession and repentance crying, "God I am sorry. How do I continue to wander? Please forgive me."

I read and I see myself, an Israelite in the desert, rescued from oppression yet wishing to go back because I'm tired of walking and this food isn't so hot and are we there yet?


It's a frustrating thing, isn't it? To find yourself there once again when you thought you would never return to the place of apathy. When the previous season was so sweet and then all of the sudden you need both hands to count the days since you last talked with God, thanked your Father, read his Word.


"Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love." psalm 106: 44-45

God is not a god who holds back, who tries to rub it in your face how weak and wandering we are. God is our Father running towards us with open arms crying we must celebrate! This child of mine left and now has returned! Call the caterer, send out the invitations, now is the time to dance and delight in a wandering child returning home, the place of belonging.


Yes we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love. And he is faithfully there when we return, ready to remind us why we never should have left, ready to be found by a broken heart.


In the place of wandering do not let another moment go by. Return to the one who is waiting. Don't get to bogged down by guilt that you feel you can't confess and repent. Now is the time. Return to the one with open arms. 

2/12/17

so many options, so little time

We live in a time of opportunity, don't we? We can be anything we want to be, do anything we want to do. The possibilities are endless.

Have you ever sat down to watch Netflix with someone and spent the whole time trying to pick a show? There's so many options it's hard to pick one. Or tried to figure out where to go for dinner? Well, you have to pick between Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian.... On and on, options keep coming (though the obvious choice is Mexican food).

I hear it over and over in my generation that sometimes this seemingly endless amount of options can be scary more than exhilarating. If I can do this that or the other, what should I choose? Often it leaves us at a stand still. In the face of so many options we can lose focus and struggle to pick just one thing, so maybe we pick nothing because we are overwhelmed or pick a lot but do nothing well.


I find so much peace this when I think of the hope of heaven. In a time where our bucket list could be miles long I remember where we are going: to a place where all of our bucket list items will be fulfilled. 

I want to see the Great Wall of China someday, but how beautiful a thought that if its not during my short time here it will be with my brothers and sisters on the new earth. 


As I find freedom in this I try to remember to live well while I am here. I have many options but I want to be strategic in what I pick. I want to make the most of my little life here for the glory of God. This means I can't do it all, because I won't be able to do it all, and do it all well. Neither do I want to pick nothing because I'm overwhelmed. Instead I pray I seek to choose each day to live for the glory of God and the love of people, whatever that may mean my days look like. 

And I remember that what I say no to now isn't no to forever. The time will come when our bodies won't grow weary, our time won't be limited, and our desires will be fulfilled. 

2/8/17

coming closer



It happens, as it always does. The one you thought would never hurt you, hurts you. They betray your trust, leave you with your mouth hanging open as you try to stammer through your questions of how could you and your protests of I thought you were different. 

It always happens because we, the fallen and the broken, are living with, eating with, loving with, dealing with the fallen and broken. We should expect it.

But it stings, doesn't it? 

In these moments I want nothing more than to walk to my bed, curl up in fetal position and stay there for a quick three years. I want a bright screen in my eyes. Chips and guacamole by my side.

I want to retreat from people and their questions, from responsibilities, from any potential for more heartache. 

My prayer for you and me is this: don't. Don't turn away. Don't close off. Don't harden your heart. 

I look at the life of a parent. Endlessly they meet ungrateful hearts, tantrums, little people who are so dependent and so wretched. Yet how beautiful when they continue to move toward their kid. What a picture of grace as they continue to extend love, laughter, kindness, gifts on their children. 

And even more I look and remember how Jesus is ever moving toward us. As we run away, or sit in silence and ignore, or apathetically look at him he is moving fiercely toward us. He is jealous for his people. 

Move toward others, even in the hurt. Forgive and forgive and then forgive some more. Let grace be the pen you write stories with. Let kindness be on your lips. Resist the urge to retreat and choose to do the hard thing... Choose to embrace even in the hurt.

12/14/16

known yet loved



"Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John  (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),  he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.  Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)  Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?”  So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”  John 4:1-29






To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. -Tim Keller-



I was stumbling over my words, grasping for the right thing to say, the magic words to say that would somehow completely change what I needed to say. The thing that would change my answer to something I felt good about instead of the truth which was, and is, I'm ashamed of who I am, I regret what I've done, I wish that when you see me you'd see kindness and goodness and consistency, I wish that I could put this creative writing minor to good use and somehow make all my ugly sound beautiful but here I am, here's what I've done, and God knows I've prayed you wouldn't run away after I finally stop stumbling and get my feet on the ground enough to tell you the truth but I wouldn't blame you if you did. I'd probably help you lace up your sneakers.



It all began in the garden. Adam and Eve stood at one moment naked and unashamed, known and unafraid, and then we find them at the next moment desperately scrambling for any semblance of covering they could find. They saw one other for what the other truly was---they saw themselves for who they truly were---and, in fear that the other would run away, they covered up.

And we are all still covering up. Covering up the imperfections, the darkness. We cover with lies and beating around the bush and isolation and not getting too close to anyone. We try to suppress our own shame with booze and sex and food and success and exercise and Netflix. Thinking if we could just distract others and ourselves with our jokes, wisdom, experiences, maybe they wouldn't see us and bolt. We cover up so others can't see us, and we cover up so that even we aren't sure just how dark our darkness is.



It was in my old house, the one with the wrap around porch and quirky neighbors. I could hear the creek from our open window. My roommate was making pasta in the kitchen. I was sitting on our couch, the one with the broken leg and scratchy cushions, and my friend was next to me telling me about some struggle and her heart and it was all so vague and hard to pin point. I began wondering if I should ask. If I could ask. Because to ask would give her the choice to reveal or to conceal and was she ready? Was I ready to hear it? Was I prepared if she turned around and asked me the same things?

The fear of seeing too much of someone, the fear of someone seeing too much of us, it whispers to us that we must conceal.

And so our conversations become full of pretending we don't really see the monster in each other and pretending we aren't scared out of our minds at the monster in ourselves.



I look to Jesus and find the God-man who had no reason to hide. He had nothing to be ashamed of, no dark secrets, no hidden intentions, no monsters. He was, and is, and will always be, completely pure. He is good and that will not change. He is the same in all places, with all people, at all times. A lack of sleep or food or trying circumstances does not affect his choices. He always chooses what is right. He is the standard of what is right.

He does not manipulate. He does not lie. He does not sit up late at night worrying. He does not turn to food for the answer and then try to hide his overindulgence. He does not lock himself away to watch porn. He does not sleep with his girlfriend one minute and counsel others on sexual immorality the next. He does not exaggerate or try to impress.

And he looks at me and sees all that I've done and do and will do and he still reaches out to me and says “I've paid for all of that, child.” It doesn't surprise him when I confess my shame. He doesn't run away.

Jesus looks at me, looks at you, looks at us, and knows the monsters. He knows our shame. He knows our hidden intentions. He looks at us straight in the face and takes on our shame, takes on our monsters, takes on our intentions and give us his righteousness.

How in the world can God look at me and see purity? Because of Jesus. It makes no sense to me why Jesus in all his beauty and glory would take on my sin but he did. It is enough to keep me up at night and more than enough for me to have no other response but adoration.

I am fully known and yet loved. This frees me to not have to prove anything to anyone. People can see my darkness, I can see my darkness, and though it is scary I can rest that it no longer defines me. The blood of Jesus is on me and I am called holy.

So though I may let someone see my monster, and though they may run away, I know that Jesus didn't and won't. As I praise him for this I pray that I will have grace to be like him when someone reveals themselves to me… that I can look at their darkness and it won't surprise me but it will push me to say “I see you, and know your darkness, yet still I love you.”

11/16/16

scared by grace




Grace is hard. Can I get an amen? Like trying not to spill your full coffee mug while driving on gravel road hard. It takes all I have to give grace and even then I fail. Why? Because I am trying to muster up grace from within myself but believe you me: I ain't got grace to give. I have rules, expectations, disappointment to give and it crushes the people around me who need grace so desperately. 

And grace is hard to receive. Because we know when we mess up we deserve a consequence. When someone withholds it, it feels wrong, doesn't it?



Grace is scary, even offensive. Because we fear that if we say that grace abounds, that grace extends over all our continual screws up, then someone will take advantage of that. Grace flows freely? Okay, then I'll keep sinning because there is grace, right?


And it sounds wrong to say that there is grace for everyone and every sin. That's too much. Maybe grace can cover a white lie but it can't cover repeated failure, it can't cover the big sins, it can't cover the sin of someone who keeps saying they're sorry yet keeps falling into the same sins. 



Grace is scandalous and it wreaks havoc on the way we think. It is counter-culture, counter-human. It challenges what we think, believe, and the way we generally live.



I mean think about it: if you are a believer and from here on out you did nothing for the rest of your life you would remain a believer. If no good came from your life, if you never read your Bible again, never talked to the Lord again, never showed kindness or mercy to others the grace of the Lord would still surpass you. You would remain in the Father by the work of Christ.

Does that make you uncomfortable? It does me. Because I want to work for my salvation. 

Praise be to God that it is not based on my works, for even the good works are filthy to God. I have no good within me which is why I so desperately need grace. 


How can we come to terms that it is only by grace we are saved in a world that is so afraid of grace? How can we believe that it is nothing we do that saves us, it is only the grace of our Father when our nature says that we must work for everything?

We must trust the work of Christ on the cross. We must keep the cross before us each day. We must continually go to hear the preached Word of grace. We must continually partake in the Lord's supper so that we remember the work of grace in his flesh and his blood. 

As our nature screams that grace doesn't make sense I pray we marvel at the Grace-Giver, the one who does the unthinkable: he keeps us in him, continually giving us grace, even though all we deserve is death and separation. 

11/15/16

grieving and praising



"Hey, I am here for you. Call me whenever. 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. Whenever." I gave her a shoulder a squeeze and walked away. She had been crying, her heart was breaking, and I told her I would be there for her.

I've learned it's pretty easy to say you'll be there for someone. It's a lot harder to be there. 

I can think of someone I told I would be there for. I told her I would be her confidant. I had her over for cookies and conversations one evening when she told me she was lonely. But then one night she texted me, her heart in a mess, and I was irritated.

Over what? I don't know. My time was being interrupted. I wanted to be alone, or I wanted to be with my friends, or I wanted to not have to counsel someone. I don't know why but it boils down to this: sin. My own frailty. My own selfishness. 

I was so curt with this girl. So harsh.

I told myself I was just being realistic, asking her the hard questions. I wasn't though. I was being compassion-less, wanting her problem to go away so I didn't have to feel like she was my problem.



I look back at that situation and feel so much shame. That poor girl completely shut down toward me after that---and I couldn't blame her! I attempted to restore our relationship but she only let me in so much after that.


I praise the Lord that this girl's well being is not in my hands because boy would I ruin it. I am a ticking time bomb. A friend recently explained it as being kind, being kind, being kind... BOOM! Anger, irritation, malice comes up out of nowhere.


It throws your loved ones for a loop, you for a loop, and you are sitting in the mess you made asking yourself how you could've responded that way. 

Well, you could have because you're human. Because you are not God. Because you are fleshly, you are fighting sin.


In these times I pray that we do not stay too long in despair. We can grieve our sin but may we find when we look at our own wretchedness the beauty of Christ all the more glorious. 

When we see our sin for what it is may it cause us to praise God for who he is! Where we are inconsistent he is perfectly consistent. Where we are unkind, he is kind. Where we lack compassion, he abounds in compassion. Where we are unloving, his love is steadfast.

Grieve your sin, my friends. But let that look at your own sin cause you to sing even louder the holiness of our God!