Praise My Way Through

You are my Redemption Song.
I praise my way through all that’s unseen,
voice echoing from the cavern of my heart,
extracting melodies made from a lonely place,
a heartbreak place,
Your Spirit accompanying with groans
I do not yet know how to utter.
Here I am, all of me,
in the middle of this storm.
Turn this storm into song
as I wait and watch for You to move
the boulders of this mountain
in front of me.
Make a way.
Lord, please,
make a way.
Lyrics take shape,
sharp and soft,
hopeful and hesitant,
as I praise my way through.

Love Head On

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
-Jeremiah 31:3

 

What is love?

What is grace?

What does it look like? Your unmerited favor, unearned, given for the taking. How many times is it talked about by preachers, read in the Bible and one of those popular discussion topics? Told a million ways, sung to a thousand tunes. Grace. Covering my sins, easing my burden.

I don’t want the paper definition, the flat word that sits on the page like You’re stiffly sitting on Your throne, tossing out grace to beggars like loaves of bread to hungry stomachs. I want the real thing, the violent, fragrant life in what You say will set me free. Somewhere, it starts in Your love. And I need You to break apart my body so that love goes from my head to my heart. So it can course through me, hot and sticky, crash into my soul time after time, furious foam waves slashing to shore. I need it turning me inside out, knocking me over at the magnitude of Your intimacy. For You to take my hand, pull me close so I can sink into Your solid side.

I want to know what comes when I let love in. When Your presence presses in so still and beats reassurance, when Your lungs move into mine and our breath lifts and falls as one. For You to be alone with me, capturing my attention. For You to fight for me fiercely; spoils of war, I am Your prize. And I’d like to know exactly what You mean when You say You have loved me with an everlasting love. How could there have been no beginning to Your delight in me, and promise it never ending?

If truth ties my heart together, bind me with Your word. Let freedom fall from Your heart to my chains, clenched around my faith. Grace. Five little letters that contain a universe of revelation. Open me to the waterfall pouring this out unobstructed, abundantly and wildly.

What does it look like to stare You square in the face and take Your roar of love head on?

 

I am in need of understanding the life that is grace. To know what You have set before me, what You have done before me to make my life free from guilt and perfection and head knowledge. You want to reach into my heart, to blaze a light inside its chambers, and I cannot quite unlatch the lock. Show me what it looks like to be loved with an everlasting love, to hold grace in my grip and never let it go. Amen.

 

Finally

I undress my soul
in the dark.
Your razor eyes
are sharp to see
and miss nothing
as I slip each layer
quietly to the floor.

I reach the end of myself;
You smile and pierce my
shallow breathing with one word
that says it all:
“Finally.”

God in the Clouds

It’s appropriate how incredibly foggy and gray it is. The weather matches my insides.

Why do I have flare-ups of God’s goodness, and I’m grateful and feel lighter, but then I go back to gray? Why an empty, lifeless feeling?

God is there in the clouds.

I can barely muster up the strength or desire for my devotional time today, yet I pry open Streams in the Desert. It’s been a good companion for my darker treks, and today’s entry does not disappoint.

God still has His secrets–hidden from “the wise and learned” (Luke 10:21). Do not fear these unknown things, but be content to accept the things you cannot understand and wait patiently. In due time He will reveal the treasures of the unknown to you–the riches of the glory of the mystery. Recognize that the mystery is simply the veil covering God’s face.   -Streams in the Desert

This speaks to me. This is the only thing I’m able to open this morning. The mysterious veil covering His face. God in the clouds.

In a quick moment, my mind flashes to a story in Exodus. I manage to exert enough strength to find my Bible and move the pages.

When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance… The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.    -Exodus 20:18,21

The people were afraid and remained at a distance. But Moses chose to lean in, move closer to the smoke and dark because it brought him to You. You were in the thick darkness.

I take Streams in the Desert back onto my lap from the end table where I set it down, pull out the string bookmark and read the accompanying words:

Do not be afraid to enter the cloud descending on your life, for God is in it.

God is in the darkness, the thickness, the clouds. He is in the waiting, but tells me not to keep away. He invites me not to remain at a distance, hesitant, terrified, but to lean in and approach the gray, the cloud, the dim–He is there, He is waiting.

 

***

This is part of an ongoing series that will share excerpts of my book-in-progress, tentatively titled Grappling for Good: Revealing grace to light the dark. It’s my journey through a year of unexpected circumstances and soul excavation to discover the goodness of God in surprising ways.

Tender to Me

… because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to use from heaven.  
-Luke 1:78

 

Tender.

Be tender to me, I ask You. To be close, near, handle me with care, for I am made of glass and feel any jolt could shatter my bones, my skin.

You are around me, but do I feel Your touch? How soft can You be?

Treat me tenderly; this breakable body and soul is worn and in need of refreshment, of gentle care. Your love is sweet, You say. Your love is faithful and true. I’ve lived it, but really, what do I know about Your love? For me, it is still incomprehensible, mysterious, hard to believe You could see me with such glow in Your eyes. To be so intimately enamored with every bit of me—that must be love if You can notice anything noteworthy.

How is it that You care for me so? Your character itself is drenched in care, embedded into You from always. But to live and breathe this and share it with my life is too wonderful for me to understand. And yet here You are, imploring me to let You into the soft spots of my heart. “Allow Me to delight you,” You seem to sweetly say.

I have shut You out from the places of my soul that have been the most love-starved when all You’ve wanted was to lay Your hands on them and soothe each tear and burn. True healing is in the work of love—see the blood at the base of the cross, the daylight blazing from the empty tomb’s opening. Real relationship happens when two people make a conscious choice to connect, to share in the beauty of brokenness and uncover their longings in a safe place. I have kept You at arm’s length, afraid to feel my heart expand, receive love in vulnerability.

But now I wonder who You really are, the extent of ardor You have to give. What could it look like if I opened the door to my heart and invited You in to sit with me a while? If I let my limbs fall into You and rested in the shade and strength You willingly offer?

I’ve fought against quieting myself with Your love and it has nearly destroyed me, drained me of everything. Nothing else can satisfy the hole within that is shaped for You. You must be the dream I need to come true.

Show me these delights You have at the ready. Speak quietly to me, tenderly, gentle, with no sudden movements so I may come closer.

You have always been waiting and ready, but You would never force me into closeness with You. You are kind. You wait so patiently. If I want it to be time now, time for tenderness, will You move? Will You show Yourself to me in ways I could never fathom but have been needing? Please, speak tenderly to me, be gentle, be loving. By Your tender mercy, soothe my weary heart and awaken me to more of You. Awe me and leave me breathless with wonder at the waterfall cascade of Your care, Your strength, and beauty.

 

Thank You that You are patient, gentle, and kind. I am weary, I am wary, I am in need of You. You are a tender God, the God who sees and knows my heart, my hurt, my hope. Please, come close to me as I make my way to You, and speak quietly to me to soothe and restore my tired places. Fill me with your everlasting and faithful love, that I can have more intimacy with You. Amen.

 

Just Believe

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
-Mark 5:36

 

It’s a simple thing, You say. To have faith. Faith in the smallest measure moves mountains, makes a way. Faith is honored, acknowledged, and in faith, I can come closer to You.

But I believe I have a brittle faith, one that still shakes and tremors. I pull into myself, bow my head and make myself unseen, not daring to lift my eyes and open my mouth to agree with You in faith for the deep things of my heart.

Why can’t I just believe? Why am I afraid to believe? I am afraid that if I release myself into freedom of believing You, I’m just tricking myself into creating an excuse to go after what I want.

I cannot equate the way I feel with anything that could be from You.

“Do not be afraid; just believe.” Your words, meant to soothe and build trust, strengthen faith. In context, You raise a man’s dead daughter. You do the impossible like it is simply Your everyday way. Because it is.

I can feel like the man’s dead daughter, lifeless, unmoving. Frozen in fear that what I want doesn’t line up with you, and if I open up to my deepest desires, I’ll be falling into sin and away from Your best for my life. I do not want to sin for the sake of my desires. Though what really calls to me the deepest are those places of desire and need nestled carefully in my tender heart. You tell me to believe, to follow You, and You give me just enough light to see the next step. But how do I know if it is You I am following when where I’m going couldn’t possibly make sense, couldn’t possibly be a part of Your plan? Even when my heart cries desperately otherwise.

Slow down. Remember to breathe. I am still breathing, and You are still here. You tell me to stop thinking, just believe, that I am missing the mark when I manifest my fears and diminish my faith.

Look to You. Look to who You are, who You have shown Yourself to be. Faithful. True. Loving. Kind. You do not want me to torment myself with wondering where I should draw my line on belief, how I should rate myself on my perspective of faith. I’ve already spent too much energy on worry that won’t come to life because it’s all in my thoughts, nothing has happened. I make it a mess and don’t sit still long enough for you to untangle me.

I am tangled, yes; my heart has slowed, yes. But I do not want to stay like this. I will sit still for You to carefully pull apart my confused thoughts, quiet me with Your love, and remind me I am fully Yours and because You are, I am.

You bring my belief back to life when I quiet myself and choose to believe my desires and heart align with Yours. Because we are connected, because I long for what You long for, because my heart beats for what Yours beats for.

It is a new awakening, holding on to hope. Lifting my face and meeting Your eyes, my heart jumping with expectancy.

Don’t be afraid; just believe.

 

Sometimes, my faith falters and I find myself doubting. But You know my heart, and You know who I can be in You. Thank You that You love me enough to still my racing thoughts and untangle the mess I make in my disbelief. Thank You that You fill me with trust in You, to remember Your character and how You love, and that You align my heart with Yours. Help me to hold tight to You, to stretch my faith and choose to believe Your truth over any fears I may have. I love You. Amen.

 

Awake, O Sleeper

“Wake up, O sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
-Ephesians 5:14

Awake, O sleeper.
Lift your eyes,
arise from the depths
and touch your heart
to the light that lies within.
Come to life
in a whisper of breath,
lean into wonder.
Listen, believe, stand true,
the Light of this world
shines in You.

 

I Remain Yours

Blessed is he whose help is the God
of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
the LORD, who remains faithful
forever.

-Psalm: 146:5-6

 

Your faithfulness is a guiding light, soft and warm and reminding me that I am never alone, no matter how dark the night may be or how far off the path I feel. It projects a glow that glistens, a veil of love that trails down to me, envelopes my heart in a comforting embrace.

Your lovingkindness goes on and on, an echo that spreads and reverberates, comes back, repeats. It never ends, always returns, assures my skittish heart that You are here, seeing me, standing with me. There is no reason for it other than You are, and You have always loved me first.

Your goodness is a strong anchor that has saved me. Many times. Held me up when I was sinking, flailing in the water and tempted to be tossed among the weight of waves. Your goodness has remained, pulling me to You, keeping me steady. What a joy when I’m lifted from the tempest and set calmly in Your arms. You have always been good, even in my deepest despair, in the unexpected shattering of life and dreams; it’s been Your love keeping me steady.

You are my Helper. You are mighty to save, soft with my heart, true to Your promise. You guide me when my map rips and the coordinates smudge, when I am standing in the unknown and am unable to see where to go. You lead, You walk beside me, You nudge and get me on my way. Creating calm from chaos, You show the way that is gentle and good, which way is best, and You join me on the journey.

You are my Hope. In You, I no longer need to fear the end, for it is only the beginning. I can trust You with my deepest hopes, my dreams I’ve kept locked away, forgotten, But You remind me to remember Who holds my dreams, too, and to remember You have my best in mind. You have taught me to trust You, to hand over my heart and keep it in Your capable hands. Hope does not disappoint, when I am rooted in the greatest Hope there is.

You are the sliver of light coming through my curtains when the day is stirring me from sleep, the drying flowers on my table fighting still for beauty, the smooth dance of flame from my morning candle. You are in all; You are all. Your presence brings me peace. My God, You have never forsaken me, You have only drawn me closer, longed for more of my love. And while I have strayed at times, forgetting my worth in You and trying to find it in cracked and crooked places, You have always stayed. Waiting, watching, still loving me with everything You are, ready to receive me back in Your embrace when I realize Whose I really am.

You are the One who sees, the One who stays, the One who fights for what is Yours. Blessed am I to find my help in You, to find that I can hope with brightest trust, a foundation that is not shaken. To Your beauty I turn, to Your wisdom I seek, and to Your heart I always run. You remain faithful; I remain Yours.

 

 

Filled to the Measure

… and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 
-Ephesians 3:19

 

Can Your fullness even be measured?

How do I count the numbers, the weight the volume to watch for the exact right amount in me until I reach the full line?

You are immeasurable. You are vast, You are wide and deep, always more. That’s why I’m urged towards the immeasurably more that life in You brings. No stop, no limit, only an overflow.

And this is the life I can have in You? Never enough, always reaching for the next dose, a refreshment that comes in wild and wondrous wave after wave? The waters rise within and my thirst for You is never sated, yet I am never more satisfied than when I am submerged in the measure of this fullness.

You long to be gracious, You yearn to be close, drawing me deeper in and wider out, until all I see is Your love surrounding me, all light and goodness and grace. And You beckon me to more. The immeasurably more that cannot be called or defined or reasoned into existence; it just is, because You are.

Love surpasses knowledge—no numbering and equating, no keeping an eye on the rising level to watch exactly when Your fullness reaches the mark. This love and intimacy cannot be shut out, overrun or diluted. It’s pure, unfiltered fullness that You keep giving and giving, forever and ever, in Christ Jesus, Amen.

Fill me, Lord, with what only You can give. I want to drink deeply and inhale Your love, let it resonate in every part of me, until there is no defining line between You and I, until I live a life aligned with You, until we are full as one.

 

Thank You for this fullness I cannot fathom, for the mystery that is made known in Christ Jesus. The fullness of Your love goes on and on, and there’s always more for me. May I have more of You, more of Your love, more of Your fullness, so I may live a life aligned with You. Amen.

 

Uninhibited

First, a finger. Grazing the water at the edge of the shore, a dainty swipe of hand beneath the cool, silky water of the lake.

The sun is hot, air heavy with humidity. Above, only blue with no covering of cloud.

Shoes come off, along with the socks, and the soles of my bare skin press into the burning sand. I make my way across the stones, step into the small waves lapping the shore. Submerge my feet, my ankles, wade to cover my shins.

This is not enough. I turn and trudge back up the sand to where my shoes lie next to washed driftwood, where my house key and phone perch on the wood. I strip off my tank top and shorts and place them over my phone, feel the air on my bare belly, my thighs, and walk slow back into the water. Lower myself in the cool currents bobbing through, take my time submerging. And then I freak out for a moment that I am in a lake with fish and they could swim up to me at any moment. My crazy phobia keeps me wary of wandering under the water, and I take a few moments in sun and water and the quiet of waves to coax me into giving in.

With a quick intake of breath, I plunge myself under the surface and am immediately swept up in the light, smooth hands of the water enveloping me into part of itself. I am weightless, rolling with the current, brush against the sand at the bottom.

I look at the wrinkles and ridges of sand under the water that current and wave have formed washing over again and again, untouched for days. But now I am here, ruffling the sand prints and smoothing them as grains dance upturned in the water.

With legs crossed, I let the waves lap against my shoulders, caress my skin. Stare above at the swirl of greenery along the shoreline, trees waving in the breeze, color pops against the clear blue.

I blink away the drops of water running down my face, feel the warmth of the sun begin to dry them. This is freedom, unabashed, joyous freedom at its most natural state. This, I believe, is how God intended us to live, uninhibited.