Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Prone to Wander

"O to Grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be
Let that grace now, like a fetter
Bind my wandering heart to thee

Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it
Seal it for thy courts above."
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1757

Oh, heavens, how that song cuts to my heart. The whole of it brings me to my knees in worship of a God who is steady and unchanging. Something I deeply love about hymns is their ability to speak truth in such eloquent ways. Their ability to use the Word as the sword that it was meant to be to cut hearts into pieces for their Lord.

They speak truth, but like David in the Psalms, they don't skirt the honest human experience. They remain genuine and vulnerable. There is something about wearing our scars as badges on our sleeves rather than hiding them away in our pockets. Those scars built us, they stitched us together piece by broken piece, why would we hide them? People who share their hard with the world are the ones who will inevitably change it for the better.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…

Oh tender hearts, don't you feel it? Our fickleness can be blinding at times. I feel it deep in my bones. This ability to so quickly lose sight of what God has done. So quick to believe the doubts that rise up and forget the truth God has gently spoken. So very quick to dismiss what He may be doing because of my own doubts, my own insecurities. My short sighted, uncertain ways get the best of me.

Let that grace now, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee… Here's my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.

God, let that be my prayer. Let your grace bind that wandering heart of mine so tightly to yours that the hard, the doubt, the insecurity can't untangle the web of grace that has sewn my heart to Yours. Let that be our cry in an age of self sufficiency, that we would only be found sufficient in you. That our own lives would be so bound to yours that all people see is a mess of Jesus. Where culture, ideologies, and the prevailing wisdom of the week seem so appealing, would you allow us to see you. To really see You. To remember your goodness. God allow our hearts to be tender to the truth, to be open to your grace. Help us to see you, when all we can see is everything but You.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Complicating the Uncomplicated

I am a master over-thinker. My super power is coming to the worst possible scenario in a matter of seconds. If over-thinking were a sport, I would win a gold medal. It’s something many of us struggle with, this ability to over analyze every little thing. I often wonder what it is like to live in someone else’s brain. What it would be like to find quiet spaces within my mind, where no more is being thought of than necessary to remain alive. But here I am. God made me this way for a reason, and as of late I’ve been contemplating the idea of complication.

I was reading an article today about marriage. In it the writer mentioned, briefly, this idea that Christians tend to over-complicate and over-think some things. I don’t even remember what he/she was referencing, but clearly the thought stuck with me. (Because over-thinker)

As I was ruminating (shocker), I realized that although theology is deep and there is much to be gained from truly analyzing and pouring over scripture and theological materials, what God calls us to is simple. So very simple.

It’s almost shocking how simple the Gospel truths are. You were born into sin. God loves you and doesn’t want to leave you in your sinful mess. So, God sent his only son to die for you because He loves you. This salvation is a free gift, one that requires nothing of you, because you have nothing to offer in return, apart from yourself. Which you willingly give because you love Him too.

These truths are uncomplicated. But we, complex as we are, often like to make it so much more difficult. We have a difficult time understanding God’s grace in a way that allows us to live in peace, knowing the goodness of God. We feel we have to do something, to be someone, in order to please Him, in order to be enough for him. The thing is, we can’t be enough. Apart from Christ, we will never measure up. Never. It is impossible. A holy God cannot allow our sin filled lives near himself. That is why “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (thank you Mr. Hopewell for making us memorize that verse in high school) Jesus died with our sin on his shoulders so that we could have life with God.

Vastly complex yet uncomplicated truth at the core. We must be willing to humble ourselves enough to accept that we cannot measure up to God’s standards, so he had to measure Jesus in our place. Imagine standing on Jesus’ shoulders so that you reach the line that says “must be this tall to ride this ride.”

Once we have finally got a slight grasp on grace, we move on to complicating everything else. We dissect each piece of the bible to fit into our finite brains that are infinitely smaller than the one who conceived it. We can’t grasp it because “Great is our Lord, abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5 His understanding is far higher than ours, yet we try to match wits with an unmatchable God.

So we think, think, think. At least I do. I complicate everything based on feelings, and days, and moments of weakness. I begin to wonder whether or not Jesus is really holding my hand or if I am a white washed tomb, clean on the outside, dead bones inside. I lose hope. I lose faith. I get lost in my thoughts. I contemplate my life, my faith, and whether or not I measure up.

Because, honestly,who measures up to an immeasurable God?

Gently, Jesus reminds me. None of that matters. He has paid for it. He rid me of my sin, in his view my once scarlet robe is now white as snow. I can’t measure up, but that’s OK because I don’t need to. He points me to Matthew 22:35-40 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  Anda second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Love God, love others. That’s it. Everything hangs on those two simple sentences.

At our church, our mission statement is “Love God, love others, live it out.” It’s an uncomplicated, profound call to action. Living under grace does not mean that we get to just say we love Jesus and all is well. No, because of God’s love and mercy we are moved to love him all the more and through that love we are propelled to love those around us.

I have more thoughts, but my verbosity is getting the best of me and I will save those for another time. Until then, in your life, what does it look like to live under this simple grace?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Settling the Ridges

Psalm 65:9-13

You visit the earth and water it;
    you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
    you provide their grain,
    for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
    settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
    and blessing its growth.
You crown the year with your bounty;
    your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
    the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
    the valleys deck themselves with grain,
    they shout and sing together for joy

There is something about poetry that stirs the depths of my soul. Putting words together in ways that ignite my often dull sensibilities. This is why I am drawn to Psalms and Isaiah. Both paint broad stroke pictures with eloquent words. Both pour out God's faithfulness and love toward his children.

These verses speak life. They give sight to truths that we can see with our eyes if we can manage to pry off the blinders and take it all in. 

The beginning of this chapter (which you should read, like yesterday) talks about God's salvation. It then morphs into this beautiful imagery of farmers planting and yielding their fruit. I especially love v 10. "You water it's furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth"

I often view the sharpening of our souls as a painful process, refining fire. This failure to see God's ability to move us and shape us gently, often leads to fear of just what sort of fire God will be walking us through next. Yet, in this verse, God's fire is rain and his refining is a gentle settling. 

This vision of a shower falling on a freshly sown field, the rain settling the hard, rigid places and providing the nourishment needed for the seedlings to break through and see the light of the sun. Doesn't that sound lovely? Isn't it so simple? God settles our hard places with his gentle rain. Allow that to sink in, don't let it drift in the shallows of your soul. 

Does God change us with the hard? Does he move in ways that challenge and stretch? Yes. A thousand times yes. But He is also a gentle rain giver who quietly softens our ridges and makes space for life to flourish. He is able to meet us and move us in the quiet spaces of life. Sometimes he will walk us through fire, but often I believe he takes us through healing rains, we just don't have eyes to see. 

How is God settling your ridges? Where is he meeting you in the quiet, simple places?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When Life Feels Like Sleep Walking

"Spirit of the Living God
come fall afresh on me,
come wake me from my sleep.
Blow through the caverns of my soul
pour in me, to overflow" Fall Afresh, Jeremy Riddle

What does one do when it feels as though walking through life has become walking in sleep? What happens when you are in a place of low hanging clouds and fog that just will not dissipate? When words fail to describe the dullness that has blanketed your senses and quieted the once blazing flame that ignited your spirit.

How do you shake the dust from your bones?

You keep going. One heavy foot in front of the other. Stepping through muck and mud, you keep moving.  Keep telling yourself truth, keep praying, keep doing.

I wholeheartedly believe that Satan uses the smog of life to snuff out our flames and throw us into a haze that clouds out the vision and passion we once had. The great threat to our faith is not only the "big" sins, but the little ones that add one on top of another until they have devoured our once bright light.

Those little lies that creep in, the ones that feel easier to believe than the truth. You are not enough. Are you sure Jesus said that? That was all in your head. Look how enlightened everyone is, are you sure He exists.

Slowly but surely, those lies grow into bigger and bigger lies that become our truth, After days or weeks or months, we wake up realizing that we don't know which way is up and the life we built around the Truth feels like a sham.

And we have to find our way back to Him.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from a friends house when I encountered the thickest fog I had ever seen. I was driving through a cloud, at night, on country roads that I knew, but not well. I began to pray: "Jesus, help us get home safe, please God let us get home safe." There was no safer option than to keep going, slowly but surely, toward home. The fog was relentless,  I could only see the lines on the road directly in front of my car, visibility was zero. We were enveloped. My fists clung tightly to the steering wheel as we headed straight, all while praising God that the road had few curves. As we approached the busy highway, I found that I could see lights, but even they were so thickly covered that they did little to illuminate the 4 lane highway stretched before me. I had to go, at some point I had to cross two lanes and go. It was the only way to safety. When it seemed there were few cars, I booked it out as quickly and cautiously as possible and began toward the light. As we approached the city, new fears became apparent. Now there were more cars, which meant more chances of accidents. So I prayed, "God, let them see us!" We kept moving.

As we entered the city, the fog remained but lifted to the degree that you could see enough to feel confident on the road. I entered the house, with my two children, thanking God that we were kept safe.

We were kept.

I have found myself having to fight, scared and broken, to find God. The only thing that has managed to get me to the city is to keep moving. It may have felt safer to stop and wait out the fog just as you would a storm, but where would that get you? Fog, true dense, earth swallowing, fog, is not easily moved. It wasn't until almost noon the next day that the sun had burned the fog away. You have to keep moving to get to the light. So we have to move, to trust Him, and go.

God is loving and he searches for his children, but we cannot be stagnant Christians, paralyzed by fear, doubt, and worry. We have to keep going, the fog will eventually burn off and clarity will return.

For me, this has looked like creating the habit of reading my bible every single day. To fill my mind with enough of God's truth that it had the ability to crowd out the lies that had taken up residence. It has meant praying and trusting God's "not yet." Because we are kept in the hands of the Almighty, do we really need to know everything? Can we not rest in knowing that we are His?

And we pray, we sing, we do whatever it takes to feel for the presence of God. The song I had at the beginning of this post is my prayer, often. God come, God fall afresh, wake me up, burn up this fog that has smudged my vision and blanketed my life. Wake me up from this dense sleepiness that has settled in my soul.

The fog will lift, and when it does I hope to be found standing firm in my faith, not run over by my fear.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bright Hope

We sang this hymnal tonight at our monthly team meeting at Church:

Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!” “Great is Thy faithfulness!”
 Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Simply a beautiful song, not only because of the depth of truth but the girl who sang has a voice that can shake a mountain. Singing truth like this, with power behind my often weak voice, brings me back to center. I feel the Holy Spirit show up and my soul is refreshed, dust shaken off.  So much of this song is relevant to me right now, really to all of us. However, one line stood out among the rest: “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.”

Isn't that what we all need, all the time? Strength for today AND hope for tomorrow. Not just any hope, bright hope, a hope that illuminates and leads the way in a dark and broken world.  Lately, I have been struggling with both. I feel worn down, overwhelmed, and have been beating myself up for not having it all together. I have lost my strength in today and can’t seem to find hope for tomorrow. I’m stuck.

We all get stuck at times. Stuck in sin. Stuck in ruts. Stuck in habits and hang ups that pull us down. Stuck in the mud of lies that the enemy feeds us. Just stuck. I had an educator once tell me that a counselor’s role is to help people get “un-stuck” which I love the thought of. But what is one to do when they are a counselor and can’t seem to get un-stuck.

Search for Jesus.

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”

We search because He is always waiting and He never changes. What grace that we have a God whose love for us is no shifting shadow; it remains our bright hope for tomorrow.

Tonight, Jesus reminded me in a variety of ways that he is present, he is with me, he has not abandoned me. Even when I can’t see my future, he holds it gently in his grasp. I feel hope rising up, and for the first time in awhile, it feels bright. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

A New Season

If anything is true of this life it is that change is inevitable. Seasons come and go. Some bright and warm like the summer sun, others cold and bitter like this past winter. Some are as still as a placid lake in fall, others abuzz with life and beauty as spring. Ever changing, always moving.

Seasons end. Always. Even in the midst of our pain and suffering, our confusion, or even our elation, they end and a new begins. Just as summer bursts into fall, our lives are in constant flux.

This is a new season. A new beginning and a new ending. A new chance to see the world through different glasses. It is bittersweet, it is lovely, it is chaotic, it is heartbreaking, heartwarming, and it is a challenge. It is new perspectives, new roles, and new identities.

I haven't spoken about it in social media much because it has been a hard transition. At first it felt like fall meeting winter, when that first cold snap hits and the reality of what lies ahead settles into your bones. However, God has had grace on me and has been showing me, ever so subtly, that this is where he wants me and it is not a failure, it is not a flaw, and He will bring good from this season. I can already see some of it, the good that can come when we release our plans to His hands and allow Him to move.

Going back to work means much for us. It means more financial peace and stability, it means moving into a career that I have longed for since the days of "counseling" my friends at the ripe old age of 10, it means facing ideological and theological terms of motherhood and wifedom that we have wrestled with. This idea that mothers aren't "full time" mothers if they don't stay home with their kids. The image I have built up in my mind of what a good wife and mother ought to do, ought to be.

You see, I have always pictured myself as a stay at home mom. Always. In all of our conversations leading up to children we always said I would stay home with the kids until they went back to school. I was determined, come hell or high water, to stay home and be the one to raise my kids. My mother didn't have that luxury and I was bent on making it happen. So we did. We sacrificed and strained and pulled and prayed. For almost two years my husband endured the financial burden of being sole provider, for two years he did all that he could to make it work. I don't know that he fully grasps the gratitude that I have for his hard work and selflessness. He has served and sacrificed for us in ways that many men would not be willing to do.

During the course of the two years I was home, God provided for us time and time again. Literally, provided money and resources that we needed. But as we began to look at the future we had to face the reality that if something didn't change, I would need to return to work. So we prayed and wept and prayed more that God would allow me to stay home, but that if that wasn't possible that God would make a way in the wilderness.

He did and He is. His way in the wilderness was a job and childcare that I trust and a new season of life for the Smiths. As I have made this transition it has been difficult and exhausting. Yet, I feel this sort of life and purpose again. This sort of fight that I had lost along the way. We have wandered a dry and weary land for months and we are beginning to see the oasis ahead and it is a beautiful vision to behold. I have much hope for this season and a lot of nervous excitement. As much as I feared this transition, there is good to be had from it.

By the grace of God, I'm moving forward in hope and full reliance on the One who establishes my steps. For this season I pray that we can find contentment in where God has placed us and a willingness to follow His lead. My career is not who I am, neither is my role of Mother, or Wife. I am many things to many people, but ultimately I am daughter to the King and there is rest to be had knowing that my Father loves me despite my insecurities.

A new adventure awaits, a new season with new life and new purpose.

Friday, July 18, 2014


As strange as it may sound, there is rest for my weary bones in scrubbing away scum from a dirty bathtub. The energy expended to clean away the dirt and stains strengthens arms to hold the weight of a stressful month. If I can scrub away the grey, if I can get it clean enough, the world will become a brighter place, one bathtub at a time.

But it returns, it always comes back. No sooner do you get the counter clean that a chocolate covered toddler hand reaches up and you are back to square one. 

That's life in a broken world isn't it? Trying hard to iron out our wrinkles and straighten our edges and the brokenness follows behind us making messes of things we once made clean. I feel it in my soul, this need to be clean, this desire to be good enough, to be enough. If I scrub hard enough, I can make myself clean, I can make things better. If I could just try harder I could be better, I could be enough. 

The divine mystery, that Jesus gives his grace freely and without reservation to the bruised people in a broken world. As my daughter's children's bible aptly says "they were lovely, because He loved them." 

Lovely, because He loved. Beloved. Important.  Enough. Not because of what we do, not because we can put on a facade of cleanliness and order in our lives. Clean only because He washes us in the rains of grace. 

I still scour and scrub and try. Its part of me, this need to be better. I'm learning. I am figuring out how to rest in his grace, to dance in the rain not cower in the storm. Because, who would give their life for someone not yet born, not yet even a thought in a mother's mind?

His ways are higher than ours. I want so badly to understand grace, and that is the problem. I don't know that we can fully grasp it, I don't know that God intended for us to be able to get it, to really get it. There is beauty in the mystery, a freedom to not have to know. To a weary soul there is respite in knowing Who loves you and fights on your behalf. Repose knowing you don't have to scour away the sin, that He has done it for you. 

But by the grace of God, I'm learning.