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.

For Me

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
-Daniel 4:2

 

For Sarah, You kept a promise to fill her barren lands with fertile soil, producing an heir and assuring her heart of hope.

For Moses, You made his mumbles move Egyptian mountains, pulled back the curtains of the sea to let Your glory gleam a path of rescue.

For Rahab, You sent Your spies into her sultry lair and softened her heart to save her life, to keep her family from crumbling with once impenetrable walls.

For David, You took a shepherd boy and anointed his head with dripping oil, sealing his service to the power of Your kingdom.

For Esther, You held an orphan in Your arms and presented her as Queen of a nation, Your mouthpiece to save Your people.

And for Daniel, You sealed the mouths of mighty beasts and kept their claws from the skin of one who refused to bow before any name but Yours.

For me, You heard a lonely cry and caught my tears pulling me to Your protection and the warmth of Your light.

For me, You walked across the universe and slipped into a waiting world, speckled Your sandals with dust and dreams and took the trail to my redemption.

For me, You called my name upon the cross, carrying my soul through the cosmos to touch the door of death, so You would keep me at the threshold, never allowed to enter.

For me, You reached towards my trembling mouth and set Your speech upon my lips, growing my gladness at Your grace.

For me, You claimed me as Your own and bound me to Your side, where I will stay with sweet certainty and promised peace.

 

Father God, the Most High in the heavens, I thank You for the miracles and wonderful works You have done for Your people! Throughout history You have had Your hand upon Your servants and have led them to You. But what is unfathomable is that You remembered me through the generations, that You called my name to make me Yours. Let me marvel at Your grace and make my life point to You. Amen.

 

Know Your Worth

Breathe this in: you are perfect as you are. God doesn’t see imperfection, so stop berating yourself on what you perceive are flaws. Know how much He loves you. Know how delighted in you He is. Know your worth.

I praise You because I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
-Psalm 139:14

When your mind is tempted to tear yourself down, remember the words you used to sing as a little girl, the line you knew by heart and wholeheartedly believed. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

Love yourself. Your Creator does. He took delight in you and rejoices over you with singing, and His creation is always good. This includes you. Wholeheartedly.

 

This is the Sound of Loneliness

The monotonous drone of a faucet leaking beads of water. One. Drop. At. A. Time.

Filling a smooth, opaque glass full of those water beads, discerning the raise of noise compiling in the cup.

Taking it into the living room of a small, cluttered apartment on the tenth floor. Standing at the large, open window, forehead against the glass and hearing the muffled sound of cars and stereos and shouts below.

The steady click of the turquoise clock above the bookcase, passing away the time that ushers in evening from the day.

Remembering the life outside the door, once stretching without effort, now gasping at shadows to bring a bit of color to the moment.

Running fingertips against the rough patched couch, the scratch of fabric to fingers a reminder that the ability to feel still exists.

You Have Promised

Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.
-Romans 4:20-21

 

How can I doubt that You are watching over me, taking extra care in my discomfort and sheltering me in Your solid, stoic arms?

Am I that consumed with myself that I see the surface and all that swims around me and think that You have left me to fend for myself, bobbing in the deep and deliriously unaware of my surroundings?

You have provided so much for me in so many ways, so many tiny details each and every hour I cannot contain the numbers of each miniscule miracle. I play the victim in the Woe is Me one act performance, providing excuse after excuse for why I keep myself chained in confusion. Why I cannot claim to clear my conscious when deep within, I know with all certainty, that You are prodding me, chipping away at the scales that have rusted to my skin. You have my purpose resting in Your palms, and You are quietly calling me to reach to You and take what You are promising.

I have been selfish and shallow, wallowing in self-inflicted self-pity, crying out to You to help bring me from the dungeon of doubt that has locked me in. Yes, I have been tested, my walls breached. But if I would lift the shield of faith high above me, I can ward off the arrows that swiftly fly towards my soul. With Your Spirit of truth, I can trust that You are all You say You are, and that You have never left me, nor will You ever forsake me. You have Your righteous hand upon me, watching me, guiding me, and the things I think are tragic will turn to triumph for Your glory.

How dare I delve into the abyss and think You just a figure on my shoulder, a charm around my neck. You are beyond this world, You’ve brought galaxies to life and expelled evil from Your sight. How can I forget the fire You’ve set within my heart?

Forgive me for my frail faith, for not honoring You as I should and for my brittle belief. You are all You say You are, and only by Your power can I exist at all. Persuade me to pay closer attention to You, to pay closer attention to Your details in my day. Help me reconstruct my walls of wisdom and regain my fortress in Your foresight. Deliver me once again into Your corner. Let me remember that my battles are Yours to fight, and that You have the power to do all that You have promised with me.

 

Antidote

The antidote to pain…

… is praise.

Slow learner that I am, my heart has soaked in a solitary sadness that fastened steel fingers around its flesh. To dwell upon the dismal aloneness—when life does not bloom the flowers I had hoped to tend, I see wilted petals and mourn my empty garden. I pay no attention to what quietly grows in their place.

But to find a calm in the midst of raging winds, to be weather-stained and beaten down is a desperate position, when my heart swells with poisoned hope that bursts and infects my veins, how do I look up when I am paralyzed from within?

It is a moment beyond myself, a gentle prod of angels, to part my lips and praise the day for its thorns. To reach beyond myself, reminded that I originate from dust, and breath is a given wonder, never even guaranteed. Though my spirit be anchored down, each gift received is named and numbered, lifted to the One who has claim to them all. The more I usher in the blessings of this life, the more aware of just how small I am, what truly matters.

Yes, the pain may blind me. But the supernatural bounty brings sight to my heart more vivid than a snap of light. I am lifted above myself, to eternity’s embrace, and that alone does ease all discomfort.

 

No Easy Way

What part of this did You say would be easy?

You didn’t say.

 

You never guaranteed safe passage through this voyage of life. Never said I wouldn’t struggle, that I’d never be thrown curves in a series of fastballs. You said I would have troubles in this life. But You also said to take heart and not be afraid, because You have taken care of all things terrifying.

And that You would be with me every length of the way. Even when Your footprints are not seen.

You keep coaxing me out of the boat, to take a leg and swing it over the side to stand on water. To take one step into the sea, and then another.

So I do. Warily, confidently, I lift my eyes to the light a thousand yards away. I move as if my feet were touching pavement.

Then I sneak a glance over my shoulder and realize how far from the boat I am. And how far off You still seem to be. Suddenly, the ground beneath me shivers, and I find myself sinking. How fast my faith has faltered. How easily I slip beneath the surface.

I am weighed down, but You arrive where I have fallen and reach beneath the surface to grab my arm and anchor me up. You brush off my bruises and hold me as I begin to understand the need to keep straining for the shore. You hand me a life vest in case I slip again, and guide me once more through the waves. And I want to please You, so I keep moving.

You never guaranteed clarity in this murky world. You never stretched the winding streets before me into straight passage. You only warned me that the air would be full of flying arrows aimed at me heart. But You gave me a shield and a strength to navigate and protect me once I hit the open road.

And, along the trail, lingering beside me, a pair of footprints follows, closely entwined with my own.

 

 

You never said it would be easy to take up my cross and follow You. You simply encouraged me to take heart that You are with me along the way. The road is long, the course uncharted. Please navigate me and reach out to me when I veer off course. You promise to be with me. I am holding You to it. Amen.