Unashamed

Do not let me be ashamed of my hope. Ashamed of my hope for more, for deeper, for richness of life. Do not let me be ashamed of wanting to climb, to reach, to unfold myself and stretch into the impossible. I am not satisfied. I am unashamed. There will always be a hunger in me to plunge into the abyss, the unexplored; the unbecoming of the old and transformed into new.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Grit and Mercy

Though flames dance and rise
around my tender flesh,
I do not fear the scorch.
There is a cooling hand
that holds my own;
One stands with me
in the middle of the blaze.
God, You are the
Wounded Healer,
the One who has
been burned;
You know well how
to bear scars.

You are here with me,
alone together.
I bear this burden
as You promise
to keep the bladed flames
from engulfing.
You are my shadow
of grit and mercy.

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.

 

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.

 

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.