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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Reconstruct Me

But He knows the way I take;
When He has tested me,
I will come forth as gold.
-Job 23:10

 

I step through jagged
stones of glass,
cutting the innocent
softness of the underside
of my feet.
though I tread carefully,
pieces of the pain
embed into me,
a reminder that where I go,
I am fallen.
Walk with me.
when I crumble,
be the One
to reconstruct me.
You know my paths,
know which sands
will slice my skin.
You see me scream
my confusion into the
silent sheet of night.
Observe me,
but ready Your hand
to pull me from the mire
when I slip into
its cunning grasp.

 

Love Like That

The crowds. The echoing screams. The choice. They released a murderer and sent Him to the cross. As it was meant to be. Because while His face swelled with bruises and lips tasted sour vinegar, as His breathing labored and the sky draped itself in dreary mourning, your face flashed through His mind. Your name rested on His tongue, which was parched and took every last ounce to utter words that sealed fate: “It is finished.” Then He dropped his head, crown of thorns wrapped in matted hair, and the temple curtain tore in two, breaking the barrier between your spot in darkness and the welcoming embrace from the mighty Creator of the heavens and earth. For while He fought sin, became immersed in every thought, word and action you would cast, He know the trade was worth it. Worth the pain and humility this lowly death would take to raise you up with Him into eternity. He chose the blows that bled His breath from His lungs, because He saw the love of the Father reflected in your clear, searching eyes, begging to be rescued.

So He fought. Laid His life down for you to lift yours to sit at His right hand, the hand that held the nails and secured your salvation.

 

You’ve never experienced a love like that before. I guarantee it.

 

Prayer:

Thank You for thinking of me while I was not yet a glimpse in this life. Thank You for the nails, and for the battle against death won to save me from my sins. Please let me remember how You love, so I may show that love to others around me. Amen.

 

No More Mourning

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
-Revelation 21:4

 

You came for us while we mourned, while we wailed against the injustice, the suffering, the sting of heart that stayed a companion as we strained our eyes to catch a glimpse of You. Your heart understood ours, cracked and bled and gnarled itself up in sorrow, well acquainted with grief. Did we ever understand? Could we?

How You wept into the city, seeing how we couldn’t see. All around, religious piety and rules, regulations that wrapped us in a choke hold, one You broke free for us. But it took the shadows, the whispers, the exchange of hands for slick coins, the passing of Your body from one inquisitor to the next. And You stood silent, a lamb come for the stain of the world. Your body, blistered from whips and crushed by a crown of thorns, and still they made You climb with a cross close to You, a reminder of what was coming. Hands drilled, ankles torn by nails, a life-size painting perched for all to watch. Breath, rattled, eyes smeared with blood.

Did You imagine what it would feel like, when You nodded consent to the Father and took our  form? Did you knowingly shed glory for gore? Was it my face that crossed Your mind as You trembled on the wood?

All that Your beautiful hands had done. Crafted tables, turned them over, stroked your mother’s hair. Mixing mud and saliva so a man could see, tearing the bread, holding Mary as she wept for her brother. Those mangled hands held galaxies, transformed fish into a banquet.

You have made rough places smooth. Life from death. Light from dark. Air from clumps of earth. While we mourned, You made things new. We came to You, ourselves broken and bleeding, belief on the brink. We were so helpless and scared, yet You took mercy, even while we hurled our insults. Did we know what we were doing? Did we understand?

Our hearts are tired of crying. And You said we’d mourn no more. So we looked to You, as Your voice scratched out that it was finished, and You gave us a lifeline, revival for our searching souls.

 

Prayer:

You made a way where there was none. You gave up Your glory to become like us, misunderstood, mistreated. And You stayed the Father’s course, obedient until the last breath. Thank You for Your sacrifice, thank You for the love that permeated every inch of You, every heartbeat that broke for this world. Thank You that You have made a way for us to see the Father. Amen.