Who Indeed Restores

You are a restoring God. You number and name the stars, and You know our names, too. You care, You pay attention.

 

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
-Psalm 147:3

 

I want to believe in good things. I want to get excited for what is coming, look forward in expectancy. Such a battle.

Trust is a choice. So is hope. They are also mandates, but it’s a choosing in my heart. Choosing to believe that You are good. Choosing to believe that You have good things for me. Choosing to be expectant, to look in positive anticipation for what You are going to do, what You are bringing.

Such a battle. But You, O LORD, are my banner and strength, the God who indeed restores.

 

***

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.

Empty and Alive

When things are empty, it’s usually not a good sign.

An empty wallet signifies a lack of money, hardest when bills pile up and income wobbles.

An empty glass means you’re out of your favorite beverage, or out of a positive outlook.

An empty brain signals no one’s home upstairs. Usually not good in a school setting.

An empty room- void of warmth and activity.

An empty promise is a hard burden to bear.

An empty heart cries out from the depth of its echo, longing for another soul to smile and let them know they are not alone.

 

But an empty tomb… now that is a very good thing.

A beautiful sign.

A refreshment to our souls.

Because an empty tomb means a risen King! Because the stones scraped together could not contain the power and the glory of the One whom was placed behind the boulder three days previous. When the tomb was opened and no one lay inside, a light pierced the hearts of those who turned and saw the Savior standing before them, with a beating heart and mankind’s hope fulfilled.

A chamber cleansed of death. A new arrival that lifted us to life. A symbol of sadness turned to joy. A bare room, empty and alive. The Son of God, full of flesh. Vibrant. Victorious.

 

An empty tomb took us to a place of astonishment, as the impossible turned possible before our eyes and the breath in our hearts cried out, “Hallelujah! He is risen!”

 

He is risen, indeed!

 

Prayer:

You conquered death and the wrath of God for my sake. Not simply for the whole of the earth, but for ME, the tiny one who stumbles and shakes with fear. You have made me victorious through Your scars, so I may stand cleansed in front of the Father. Because of Your triumph, I am Yours. Thank You for this new and enchanting, eternal life! 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.

 

Calm Yourself

Stop yourself for a moment. Do you hear what you are saying? The same words flow off your tongue, the same questions quiver in your mind. Over and over again, you stitch them together so no answer can slip through the barrier you have constructed by your own human heart.

You are wearing yourself thin, spinning in circles as you are. You say you want answers, yet when I speak, you push over My words as if you did not hear them, as if they could not be the answer I would give you. So you press on, raising more doubts, entangling yourself in lies when it has been My truth holding onto you this entire time.

You walk with blinders, you rub yourself raw. You keep your head directed to the ground and tune your ears to the noise that swirls around you. Can you not see Me? I am right in front of you. Lift your weary, heavy head and see Me, leading you on, holding out My hand to guide you.

I am here. Always have been. But you have been so persistent, scanning your eyes for what you already know. Round and round you go, winding yourself up so tightly in your mind your heart has no room to breathe, to beat in tune to what I am singing. You are a broken record that skips the best parts of your favorite song. You are a clinging vine of fear that coils around your mind, squeezes tight and clamps down and spills a paralyzing poison in your heart. How you writhe and in place and choke the most important pieces of you!

Relax; don’t strain. Don’t flail in desperation or forsake how far you’ve come. Don’t get so distracted with the roaming rambles of your worries. Your heels are scratching into the sand from attempting to draw near to Me on your own. And you are not moving.

Stand still. Allow Me to come to you. Loosen your limbs, release what you can never control. Close your eyes and feel the whisper of My voice, flowing in your ear and washing through your heart. Let it take root, find its footing and settle in for the long haul. What I have for you may not be what you expected, but I am with you and wish for you so ardently to see and accept.

So calm yourself, beloved. Calm yourself. Sit down beside Me and open your heart. You cannot let Me love you if you are clutching so tightly to your own thoughts. What you have is fine. The way you are has worked alright until this point. This is true. You have been ok.

But you are meant to be more than ok. You are meant to be so much more.

Will you listen for Me? Can you clear your heart and mind and let Me in to revive you, to untangle you from the webs you have spun so haphazardly around your soul?

Unclench your deepest hurt, that vulnerability you try desperately to hide. Let it into the light. Let Me touch those wounded places, that we may be gentle together and begin in a safe place to heal.

 

I promise, it will be worth it.

 

Prayer:

Father, can I relinquish all that I have been holding to You? You promise me it is worth it, though it isn’t easy. I have held so tightly to my own thoughts and ways, yet I see they have gotten me nowhere. Oh Lord, how I long to release myself and trust You! Help me to be strong, and have the courage to follow where You lead. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Stand Wherever I Am

Tired after just day three back to work and counseling this morning. I’m feeling the effects of the week, up again in the night, thinking and heaving through fears and emotions. But I had a good talk with one of the baristas this afternoon at the cafe, talk of hope and hurt and the will to keep going. This is a reminder to hold fast.

Good. You are good, Papa. In my tiredness, in my fears and suppressed emotions, in my doubts. And You allow rest for restoration.

I’ve been off pace. Show me the right cadence, I briefly pray. And soon enough, I find my response in the vein-like pages of a poetry book I’ve picked up and am combing through.

Sometimes I need
  only to stand
    wherever I am
          to be blessed,

-Mary Oliver, “It Was Early”

 

Poetry is a textbook God uses to teach me beauty and reverence. This alone could be my prayer that reminds me to see and worship where I am, see the small, see the beauty, see the good.

 

***

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.

Coming Home

Your words are like coming home.

 

Each line, like a gate enveloping a warm butter yellow house, latch loose and swinging open easily to walk the path up to the painted wood porch that awaits me.

Meaning blooms from the page of Your persistency, fragrant violets and azaleas assailing my senses as the roots You plant in me strike deeply in the soil.

“I will not give you up.” Each letter delves into the fervency of Your declaration.

“You are Mine.” Each syllable strikes through the thunderstorms raining down on me, seeking to drown as I reach for You.

I was a vagabond. Dust-drenched and dry, cracking in a stagnant stubbornness. My own wandering quickly caught me in a trap of thistles. The more I shook to escape my discomfort, the tighter all the thorns stretched around me. I was becoming a wilting vine in a weary plot of land.

But You saw my snare and leapt to pull me from my folly. Tearing apart the weeds wrapped upon my soul, You snatched me from the thicket and brought me to a garden of refreshment, wrapped along a porch filled with laughter and dazzling sunlight, and wide, welcoming arms.

I reveled in the attention and listened to the winds whisper my arrival. How eagerly they swept in to see me, how languidly they lingered and let Your breath wash them through my stains.

This is a retreat and revival I have never known. This is the front porch peace I’ve always dreamed yet never seen. And You are the bright burning streak of light that glistens in the twilight. Your smile stretches across the covered caverns of my heart, filling the void with color and scent central to my prayer. You drift along my memory like a lilac and rose scented sky.

I am here. I am happy. I am closer to the clouds than I have ever known. Wrapped in a blanket of bliss, I serenely stare at the waltzing world, laughing and dancing and waving to me in shared revelry. And as You shift into the seat beside me, I turn to take in Your vibrant eyes and find the space my heart has forever longed for.

 

With Me

You are with me.

I am in silence, in a silky black realm of reality that reaches with needy fingers for my soul. A heaviness presses against my chest, squeezing out my air of expectancy. Who am I to fight this battle, to strike out with soft palms and slap at translucent taunts that laugh when I come up empty?

I squint my eyes to see movement, any sign that I am not alone with this confusion, but my vision is muddied and outlines carve my sight. In the blur, I am begging for breakthrough.

With faltering feet, I wander deeper into my shaded hope and uncertainty prickles my skin. I am surrounded by a ripping feeling that something stirs beneath the earth.

You tell me that You are here with me, tightly tucked to my side. My hand moves to feel You but I grasp at air. Just a fistful of particles that slip between the slivers of my nails. The sky gives no light, no assurance that when I place one foot in front of the other, I will walk with stable support beneath me. You see me standing, see me claw my way through the caverns of this mystery I have tied myself to. I am looking for answers and instead find silence. I reach my voice across the slipping sounds of night, praying they do not tangle with the pleas and prayers of every other enchantment inhabiting this blue space beyond my rational mind.

You are the One who first told me to open my eyes, to dream wide awake and decipher the stars. You brushed my heart with belief and curved my course to Your sails. Walk with Me, You whispered into my ear. Talk with Me and let Me teach you how to come alive.

So I soared into starlight, colored the cosmos with Your hues and floated in fantasy. I walked through waterfalls and slept in beds of beauty untouched by mere mortal magic. You spun me golden blankets of grace; I slept peacefully in their warmth and woke with Your breath in my lungs. Somewhere along my revelry I slipped from Your strength and weakened my will with a course of my own.

Navigate me. I am directionless in this circle of solitude. You say You are here with me, have always been beneath my heart, the key to my unsteady compass. Show me. Inhabit the wind and whisper the way to my craving soul so I will feel the brush of Your mouth on my face, ruby ribbons rushing through this damp and diminishing maze of my mind.

You are with me. Deliberately cupping my heart and leading it to the dawn of dreams once again. My hands may not be able to touch You, but my soul speaks in upturned secrets that spill out from the overwhelming presence of Your map unfolding in my memory.

 

Soft Promise

The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.  

-Psalm 145:9

It has to be a daily surrender of my life and heart.

I am too human and full of a choking selfishness to get through an hour more without turning every fiber of my being over to You. To let You take control. To let go of the life I’ve wanted, the life I’ve clamored to get back to, though You’ve continuously shown me that what I want may not be what You have for me.

I must surrender that You are God and I am not, while I sure try and act like my own mini god. It’s rebellion, pure and simple. When I pull away I am stubbornly saying I know what is right for me, that though You can fight for my calm from the chaos of this world, You can’t possibly handle my little piece of it.

I keep making a mess of this life. And I keep begging You to let me live free from my mistakes. Keep clinging to the rumors of Your goodness, eager to experience for myself. Messier and messier, I leave a trail of my clumsiness behind me. But You keep cleaning up what I have broken and finding ways to rearrange the pieces.

You don’t ask me to understand my struggles, my situations, Your mystery. It’s all just that—mysterious, as You intend. Submit to the holy shroud, take only the step enlightened before my feet. Trust in my heart that Your thoughts are not mine, nor are Your ways anything I can comprehend. And that it’s a good thing, that You really do know best, that You want to rearrange my world to rotate well with You.

One breath. One heartbeat. One blink of my eye. That’s all I get, one moment, and then, perhaps, another. To be okay with that is a beautiful surrender, mindful decision that sets me free to fall on You, fall into You, intake Your soft acceptance.

I may mistake my worth, Your care, but I have grace to get me through. And I must lay my own life down to get to Yours. Push back the screaming fear to hear the gentle tone of Your voice. The one that speaks to me and tells me what I am afraid to know.

Bring me to the truth of it, those deepest parts of me where I feel most exposed. Offer me a soft promise to fall asleep to, new mercies when I wake. Pressure erases when I cast my heart on You.

Roused and Awakened

His word is in my heart like a fire,

a fire shut up in my bones.

I am weary of holding it in;

indeed, I cannot.

-Jeremiah 20:9

Smoke and sear across my heart.

For something. For someone. I need to feel needles pricking my skin, leaving imprints on my soul. I need to be blinded by beauty, drunk on dreams. I need to cling to life like it is the only tree left in a falling forest.

My eyes- they must blaze. Must sweep in every fragment of this unending universe and zoom in on the tiny miracles happening beneath the naked eye.

My hands must shake with sweetness, must roam wide every wonder and feel their texture beneath my nails.

My feet must flash through feeling, must race to where all I dare hope for comes true. They must carry me quickly to the cross, crash into the flesh of fellow travelers in search of secrets made known.

I have been summoned. I have tasted desire and crave more. I need my blood to boil in my veins, to bubble and spit heated liquid that will overflow in my anatomy, burst my body, burn my bones. I need it to spill into my mind and turn reasoning into rapture. To slip within my skull and crack open the hardness of my stubborn streak, empty out my vanity and fill it with a stream of submission.

I have been awakened to all that howls beneath my indifference. I have been roused, and am ignited by every electric buzz that has shocked awake, gaining ground in ways I never saw open before me.

I give voice to words unspoken until now, released by love to uncage my uncontainable. Shot through the dark to white-hot light, I am reborn. My soul, set free to move and breathe and surge, for He who knit me together has let me loose for my good and His glory.

It is never too late to break the bland.

**Thank you, Dr. King, for your voice, heart, and dream, that are waking us all up.

A Time To Speak

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven… a time to be silent and a time to speak.

-Ecclesiastes 3:1,7

I once feared the echoes of my own mouth. The heaves and gasps my lips pushed forward, the noise breaking into the air. I could not fathom what formed from my voice.

Deep within my heart I stashed my sayings and kept tight hold of the key. Inside, words pounded on the door and begged to be released. I couldn’t crack open their purpose. When a matter of importance arose, I smiled politely but offered no rebuttal, while my silence led me to conform to the patterns of the people. I did not believe the lies their lives were dipped in, but my voice remained silent. My words remained lonely. Day after night they whimpered at my timidity, and again and again in vain I tried to set them free but cowered in my failing courage.

A clock ticked from somewhere beyond time, each strike of the second hand setting my mind at work.

“Whom shall I send? And who will go?”

“Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.”

“Help those who cannot help themselves.”

“In the beginning was the Word.”

Voices, sweet and honest, dove into my defenses, breaking down the door that held my captives in my heart’s cavern. If not me, who would speak? Who could hope to hear the Truth if I buried it in the belly of restraint?

A time to be silent would not work if the quiet fear I harbored held me helpless. I awoke my world to a thousand different sounds, rushed my tongue to slip into the praise it must spring forth. I called aloud the Light of my life, and how the hills of love crossed the soundwaves to those in desperate need of refreshment! Words, once so timid and small beneath my breath, now rolled with thunder, struck with strength.

In the beginning was the Word. And that Word has emboldened me to proclaim good tidings and hope eternal to those who have ears, may they hear.

It’s time to speak. May my mouth continue to soothe those in need of grace, and be empowered to keep my fears of silence forever away. I’m using my voice. I’m speaking on behalf of Him who has unblocked my words and set them soaringly free.