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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Emeralds of Earth

Restless.

Soul shocked in discomfort. Nothing satisfies, nothing sates my thirst.

Jump in my car, windows down, sun roof hatched, music through the speakers. Ditch the condensed city structures for country roads, open air. Span of land that stretches on and on, rolling up and over smooth bumps of earth that spray across the soil.

Two roads diverge at a stop. I coax the wheel left, keep driving, foot on the gas, ease the grip on my heart. Small town appears from nowhere, old shops of downtown, half abandoned, half holding on to the history that built a community from the ground up. Brake into a park, kids spread on ballfields, not enough numbers to form a league, so practice on a Sunday afternoon brings parents to the stands to watch.

Gravel trail at the edge of the park clearing, canopied by tall trees I’ve missed so I have almost forgotten how to crane my neck in wonder. Sturdy ground beneath my feet, I take the trail weaving through open sky and tall grass, hugging the bank of a wide creek that hums easy as the water smooths itself over stone. Chirp of birds relaxed in branches; some black feathered free themselves into the sky, beautiful synchronized liftoff.

Deeper through I go, noting the slap of ball to glove and calm grace it takes to be absolutely still and let the day unfold. Wind speaks to the grass overgrown to a sea of mint; they bow their heads to hear what she has to say. My feet keep the time languid; I do not pick up speed, nor do I slow down.

Around a curve of rooted trees slanting from the creek embankment, a bench beckons. My body folds into its seat and breath slips freely from my lungs, jumps from my lips. Distanced from everything, I am again a little girl lost away from the world. It is a hard thing, searching for God. But the very moment I stop seeking, He brushes a hand across my heart and says, “Here I am.”

Sweet scent of sun on skin, dry and harvested from my flesh filled with the nutrients of nature. Brilliance of green, dappled light cascading through a chandelier of leaves. Cluttered thoughts dissolve in the silence. I have spun myself tight in knots trying to make sense of my life, and in a few slow moments of sitting under tree and sky I am unraveled, loosened by the presence of a God who sees and knows how to hold my heart.

This is enough. To arch my spirit into the emeralds of earth, converse with the Creator of meadow and moss, and settle into the unseen particles of the universe—my universe—soundwaves and matter. Here, in the thicket of nothingness, all makes sense.

Quiet. Faint strum of heart. Lulled to life by soft pulse of solitude. Reading of the holiness of God, He gently guides my eyes to the vines that wrap their limbs around damp soil, fallen bark. For once I am reminded how to feel, the expanse of God’s mystery swollen in the pools of my eyes. The revealing of my heart to just be abounds.

It is good. Breathe in. Static crackles, stills. Undisturbed, the dance of clarity comes forth with calm steps. All settles, without one word spoken. Without breaking the bond of eternity, holiness glides on finite moments, gold-dusted truth touching beyond all expanse between mere body and blood. Belonging bursts; I am called to an other-worldly understanding right where I’ve been drifting before I even came to be.

Restless no more. This gemmed rest renews.

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.

 

Place of My Own

I am not meant for the fast-paced whirl of the world, for loud sounds and shifting ideas, for the roar of motorcycles out my window, blast of exhaust and engines, crowds of people.

My pace—my soul—is slow, takes its time to expand and receive the world in quiet breaths, savored moments. The tapping of leaves against the wind, ruffle of bird feather, the pull of rain down a heather gray sky. To sit and pay attention, to invest deeply in a few valued relationships, to immerse myself in a small community—this is what fuels me, energizes in the right way. Nature was carved by God and so am I; we are linked in an eternal purpose following the here and now. The slow way of life allows me to notice, to examine, to unearth my feelings, the way of the world and my place in it.

Do not give me a rush, a schedule, an examination. Rather, set me in the middle of a limestone beach, the crest of a jutting cliff, the glass water of Lake Michigan, and let my heart fill, form and feel. Let me wander for the sake of wandering, to pause and praise the One who made the shape of my spirit and set eternity in my mind, one slow breath at a time. //

Languid, listening to the murmur of stars, stretched across time. No hurry, no order, simply being present. This is my gift, my design.

When we slow down, we see, and I don’t ever want to lose my sight. The day is for wonder, and so is dusk, and the deep evening shadows. It all has its place, and in the quiet swing of seasons, of scenes, I nestle in and find a place of my own.

 

**

Continuing my attempt at the Five Minute Friday weekly writing challenge. Five minutes to write on the assigned topic. Raw and unedited. (Yikes!) This week’s topic: Slow.   // symbolizes where five minutes started and/or stopped.

Glory in the Good

God is glorified in our suffering, yes. But He is also glorified in the good. Through joy, hope, wonder.

“I will cause all of My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence.”  -Exodus 33:19

He causes all His goodness to pass in front. On purpose. Intentionally and specifically. I swipe my fingers over the thin pages of Exodus over until I reach 2 Peter, find what I’m looking for, and peer in the page:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  -2 Peter 1:3

Glory and goodness go together. Appear together in the same breath.

I am learning to grow with God is to grow in goodness, that goodness makes way for glory.

Nine months ago, did I know what this was? Nine minutes ago, I didn’t know.

In the confusion and reset and health mountains, adjustments, so much newness. I have never fully experienced His goodness as an intentional set up for the display of His glory.

But this is what God calls us to. What He invites me to experience. Abounding goodness, displayed for His glory.

Back to Genesis, to look closer at Moses and His friendship with God. Moses isn’t satisfied with simply hearing from the LORD; he hungers for more. He dares to ask boldly: “Now show me Your glory.”  (Exodus 33:18) And, in a surprising response, God grants him a portion of his request. No one can see God’s face, but He hides Moses in the cleft of a rock and walk by, allowing him to see His back.

Moses dares to ask.

What do I dare to do? Do I even dare? Is a part of my hindrance to seeing the glory of God my passivity?

Boldness belies the breadth and depth of my faith. Confidence that I can come before Him with whatever I dare to ask. I may find comfort in the crack of a rock, tucked tight to glimpse the goodness of the LORD and His glory.

 

***

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.