The Dark, Cold Waters of Depravity

On the day I should be humble, Lord

Stricken with grief and despair

I find myself looking up at You and

mocking you with my stare.

“If you are the son of God,” I yell

“then get off that cross. Do SOMEthing.

Save yourself. Call the angels. How foolish

that you do nothing!”

I watch you speak to the criminals as your lungs start to collapse,

offering a seat in Paradise? Please. You’re nothing but a man.

Eventually you die and as the sky and ground split in two,

I shrug off the scream of creation, my eyes are fixed only on you.

You are dead, Jesus. That’s what I see.

I feel nothing but disappointed.

What a joke I played on my heart, to think you were somehow anointed.

Now here I am, generations removed from the actual moment that you died

and I am so so angry Lord. I want to do nothing but scream and cry.

At You.

It alarms me because I have always been for you, with you, trusting every move you have made.

Now I find myself retreating from the wings that gave me shade.

Do you see what’s happening around here, God? Do you hear the bombs and screams?

As girls are ripped from their innocence and the heads of children fill the streets?

I’m back at the foot of the Cross and I am yelling at you again to move, to ACT

my voice catches in my throat because it’s actually desperation I feel. Not anger.

I am so tired of holding out nothing but hope. It seems so not enough for that mourning mother.

What of that child who watched themselves become an orphan? WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THEM?

For years I have recited the rhetoric. I have looked at the cross with deep sorrow yet JOY.

But this year, God I am struggling SO HARD to believe this isn’t just a big ploy.

I have broken down for the broken down and feel entirely spent.

I know you offer eternal life, but does it matter when this life, for so many, is hell?

Yet, before your eyes close in death on the cross, before you surrender your life,

You look down into my hateful heart and am compelled, for me, to die.

You know that I will doubt you, that I will try and flee from your presence.

You have gone with me every place I am, You will continue into the next one.

God I weep at my unbelief, at the doubt I have nurtured, coddled and kept

But just as you saw me, clear as day on that cross, you saw billions and billions… and wept.

So even though sometimes it’s hard to swallow the truth lodged in my imperfect, wayward spirit,

I will proclaim to the nations, to neighbors, to friends, to anyone who will hear it:

God saw and He moved and He entered into our hate. He suffocated under our darkness.

Today, RIGHT NOW, the Enemy tears through flesh and nations to convince us that our God is absent.

Oh friend, skeptic, critic, and saint – do not be deceived any longer.

The glimpses of terror we have seen in our time, are a fraction of what laid on Christ’s shoulders.

We will not ever fully know the dark, cold waters of our depravity, as Christ has known them.

The Enemy likes to make us think those waters will drown us in despair and pain,

But Jesus’ death gives every soul the chance to come up for air, and remain.

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Addressing the chronic dreamers

Do you know what separates the dreamers from the doers? – Action.

Dreamers live in the ethereal. They are often visionaries and they’re motivational and inspiring and their ideals are beautiful. We need dreamers! We need people who can see what is and dream about what could be.

But we need more dreamers to become doers.

Doers write down their dreams and then they try it. They go. They work. And doers fail a lot and cry a lot and doubt a lot. And doers WIN a lot. Just by showing up and trying. Doers have tasted the bitter bile of disappointment. They have swallowed it and they have tried again.

I have always been a dreamer. I love to wonder and think big and describe great truths and marvel at how great God is.

But I am often too scared to be a doer. Because I’ve “failed” a lot with dreams. My plan A’s are so often turned into Plan “WTF”’s. At least that’s how I’ve seen my efforts since the beginning of this year. I haven’t written 15 minutes every day, I certainly haven’t blogged consistently and my efforts to train for a half-marathon have been completely reset by 2 weeks out with an injury and nasty head cold.

I’m paralyzed by how imperfect my dream-doing is. I’m so tired of making promises I haven’t been able to keep to myself – there’s only so much self-inflicted shame one person can handle. So instead of trying I’m tempted to just stop everything. Give up. I cannot disappoint myself or anyone else if I stop making promises altogether, right?

But here’s what I’ve been missing about the dream equation – a setback is not a broken promise. It’s not a reason to give up on a dream or beat myself up. A setback is just that. It sets me a little farther back. It causes me to re-trace my steps.

New Kicks! Taking it one step at a time.

New Kicks! Taking it one step at a time.

Failure is not found in the working out of a dream – it’s found in the premature abandonment of it. If you want to dream – dream! If you want to change your life – DO. Go for it. Get back up again, reevaluate, tweak, and push forward.

The process of a dream is such a mess isn’t it? I know people who are aspiring authors, nurses, marathoners, and musicians and if you peek into the middle of their “doing” it looks nothing like the end result. The first nursing shift began after countless hours of burning through highlighters and flashcards and studying. The finish line started at 5am, day after day after day, months before race day. It was achieved through uncomfortable, tiring, focused, effort.

We need less “A dream is a wish your heart makes” and more “A dream comes at a cost, and you’re heart may break a thousand times in the process.” No Disney princess jumped on that rendition. I mean, what rhymes with “process”? And no way that can fit on a pillowcase. Let’s be real.

This is all part of me trying to process what I learned from a women’s conference at

2016-02-05 22.13.56my church last weekend. Nobody explicitly talked about dreaming and doing but there were enough exhortations to make my head spin by the end of it, “Drop your water jar! (you had to be there) Take up your cross! Love your next-door neighbor! Reach the world! Free the captives! Sponsor a child! Give! Go! Be!” So I’m working on untangling all the truth I heard by pulling on one strand at a time.

Today I pulled the thread that examines my inactivity towards my dreams. My tendency to be paralyzed when I’m faced with missed expectations. I know now that I have permission to dream but a responsibility to DO. What does that look like in my life right now? Well on Sunday, I laced up my running shoes again and got back out there. Nevermind the herds of women in matching outfits and free-flying ponytails who breezed by me while they chatted. UGH. People who “chat” while running past me. Ugh. I just. You are hard for me to love. But nevermind all that!

My doing looks like running and writing. What’s yours? Could I encourage you to get

2016-02-06 18.24.03back at it? If you are a chronic dreamer like me, let this act as a swift kick in the rear to get at it. To stop circling the dream over and over in your mind, analyzing all of the potential heartache that comes from going for it and just deciding once and for all that it’s too important to let it sit dormant in your mind and it must make waves in your actual life.
ONWARD!

Following Wisdom

IMG_4890“When he established the heavens, I [wisdom] was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned the sea its limit so that the water might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” – Proverbs 8: 27-31

I get goosebumps when I read accounts in Scripture about the creation of the world. The wordsmith in me is in love with the pictures that are painted in this account. Circles drawn on the face of the deep, marked foundations, firm skies, fountains of the deep. Oh! To know this God better. To walk alongside of Him and marvel in all that He’s doing in my neighborhood and around the world.

May I choose to follow wisdom into deeper places with this powerful, holy God. May I reject the status quo of wandering in the wilderness and embrace the unknown of communing with the Holy of Holies. 

Who is it that gets to enter into His Presence? How can a young woman keep her way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)

Reading the Bible is not a checklist item, even when it feels like it is  —  it protects my heart, guides my steps, and pulls me closer to the God who established the foundations of the world, and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Faith in this God is a humbling, challenging, beautiful reality.

Grace for the ball-droppers and rule-followers

IMG_0622Well, folks. I just got done reading the entire week’s worth of Bible reading this afternoon. That’s right. Monday through Saturday reading turned into an hour on the couch on Saturday. In case you were counting how far along we are into the New Year, we’ve yet to break open the second out of twelve months. So, when it comes to goal-achieving — let’s just say, I’m terrible at it.

Also, I had another goal set up for the New Year — write one blog post a week. Seems reasonable and achievable right? RIGHT! Not that anyone is tracking this but uhh, I didn’t write a post last week. So here I am, hands clammy and mind racing for something to write about when I realize, I need to write about what it’s like to need grace. All those little things that remind you for the umpteenth time: you aren’t perfect.

If I look deeper into why I didn’t meet my two simple goals this week and last, it boils down to one thing: priority. In short, I prioritized watching Friends on Netflix and sleeping in until the last possible second over making time for Bible reading or disciplining myself to sit down and write.

The truth about me is I’m a ball-dropper. I’m a “yes-girl” with good ideas and little follow-through. I’m lazy and I struggle to get motivated. I’m scared to write because I’m never satisfied with the end result. I want accolades without effort and pats on the back without putting my time in. I’m selfish and cruel, I think dark and ugly things about other people, I hurt people who mean the world to me. I choose comfort over service 9 times out of 10. I don’t like sharing all of this because it may give you a more realistic view of who I am and that’s always scary. I don’t like letting people in because I know what’s on the other side of small talk and it’s usually uncomfortable.

I’m married to a rule-follower. A disciplinarian like I have never seen. His demons run in the direction of perfectionism, nagging at him to prove to the world that he is  A-B-C or X-Y-Z. He struggles to hold plans loosely, worry can sometimes keep him up at night and he’s constantly haunted by the past. (His paragraph is shorter than mine, but I’m leaving stuff out ok?!)

Yet we’ve both been changed  by grace. Him in his desperate attempts to have it all figured out and mine in my haphazard attempts to please everybody while parading around in a false confidence that everything will sort itself out in the end. Grace reminds us that our sins are no longer counted under the sacrifice of Jesus, even if we like to keep score with each other (Which is so healthy, right? We should get an award for how petty we can be at times.)

But grace isn’t just a blanket to cover our sins, it’s manifested in a God who gets under our skin. He digs into our unhealthy habits and slowly removes the tar of fear and worry and apathy. He is faithful to acknowledge not only how miserably lost we are without Him, but to move us towards a life that is marked by faith-filled contentment, open hands, and a desire to serve rather than be served.

God brings grace to the ball-droppers and the rule-followers.

I think one of the greatest attributes of grace is that it moves us towards hope. God sees our days, each of them is numbered until we see Him face to face — He sees our beginning and end and in-between. He hears our thoughts and sees our intentions and He enters into it — not carrying a blank check for a “do whatever you want” life but ushering in a lifestyle marked by a desire to “do whatever I can for the good of people around me to the glory of a God who compels me with grace.”

Grace does not condone us to keep on sinning, it compels us into a life of righteous living.

So, next week if  when I find myself sitting at the couch cramming in my Bible reading or snapping at my husband, I will also find grace to get up the next day and walk with a God who never runs out of mercies, delights in having me in His family, and loves me even when I skim through all the lineage chapters of the Old Testament.

 

 

 

 

My Song of the Sea

IMG_7559My women’s small group is currently going through the book of Exodus. Last week we talked about Exodus 15 – The Israelites sang their “Song of the Sea” after watching God destroy the Egyptian army in the waters of the Red Sea. It’s a beautiful, poignant picture of a people who are so ready to worship and revere their God. As a takeaway idea, I suggested we try and write our own “Song of the Sea” to declare God’s goodness and faithfulness to us during our own lives. Since I’m a leader of the group I figured maybe I should follow through on my own idea (which happens probably about 30% of the time), and I’m really glad I did! This was a great exercise in worship and reflection.

Rachel’s Song of the Sea

Lord, Your ways are unsearchable to me. Your grace is unavoidable.
You stand on my behalf in the presence of the Father.
You have claimed me for Yourself and I am irreversibly Yours.

Your hands have formed galaxies even as Your mind imagined the human race.
You are altogether good and trustworthy in Your design. You do not make mistakes or have second thoughts.

With You, there is no plan B.
In You there is no condemnation for all who worship You.

You patiently deliberate with me in my doubt.
In truth You respond to my anger and uncertainty.
In love You rebuke my arrogance and conceit.

When I hated Your plan for me, You heard and knew and felt that pain.
And You comforted me.
You lifted my chin and turned my eyes to a tomorrow that I can only dimly comprehend.

Great is Your faithfulness!

When I shake my fist in Your face, You put me in my place.
You destroy my wobbly attempts at being someone I’m not, simply by reminding me that I am Yours.

You free me to risk and to try because everyday I wake up in Your mercies.
Where can I go from You?

I chase after the wind as You chase my wayward heart.
You sing over me even as I reach for other gods.

I don’t understand You, God. You don’t fit into my boxes.

At times I’m silent before You, seething and lonely and scared.
At times You are silent before me, present and listening and leading.

Your Spirit is an anchor in the fickle seas of my flesh.
I am caught and pulled and tempted and fail.
You are steadfast, available, and ready to redeem.

The Enemy sits in my comfort zone, I have made him a friend as I seek and search for how to be god.
He prompts me and urges me towards forbidden fruit, towards the empty, glittery promises of lust, pride, greed, and hate.

When I do not trust You, I am trusting him instead.
Forgive me, Lord. Teach me to trust Truth.

You overturn his lies in righteous anger. You pull me from the depths of the pit and place me on high ground.
You are my high ground.

Your Kingdom is marked by truth and righteousness.
You opened Paradise to the ungrateful beggar.

Your mystery dwells in the hearts of everyone who calls upon Your name.
You are deep in the DNA of Your people.

No one can know what You know and still love like You love.
No one saves like You.

You are both my hiding place and my courage.
You are my Savior and my Maker.

Great is Your faithfulness!

The Question That Curdled my Sabbath Day Pancakes

IMG_3807 I settled into my chair, belly full of Saturday morning pancakes, and opened my Bible. I read  one sentence and immediately wanted to shut it and unremember what I had just read. I don’t  know if you’re like me when it comes to walking with Jesus but I have all these really grandiose intentions and about a 30% follow-through rate.

I like when He tells me how cherished I am by Him, I don’t like when He challenges me to live differently because of it.

When Jesus talks in parables I love it because imagery is my favorite. I remember learning about similes and metaphors for the first time in middle school — I went home and couldn’t stop describing things with ‘like’ and ‘as’ – “My stomach is rumbling like thunder!” “Mom is as beautiful as the sunset!” etc. I was clearly a budding writer even at such a young age. And a brown-noser.

The parts of the gospels that I am least comfortable with are when Jesus asks straightforward, no-hidden-meaning, you- can’t- interpret- this- differently, kind of questions.

Like the one I encountered this morning (Luke 6:46): “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”

Crap.

I think He actually wants me to answer that.

The thing about God asking us questions is He always asks them for our advantage. He’s not awaiting our response with pen and paper, eagerly hoping to gain some hidden insight into our hearts. He already knows the answer, which is exactly why he asks the question.

So, here’s my reasons for not doing what He tells me to do:

1) Fear of Man – Always first on my list. “What will people think of me?” God asks you to do weird stuff sometimes so if you’re all in, you have to be prepared to be misunderstood and judged. That terrifies me.

2) Apathy – This is where I lean almost entirely into the “Jesus loves me this I know” side of my faith, where I am forever protected and secured in His grace, and I completely abandon the “Go, tell the world about me and be my witnesses even to the ends of the earth” command. This is when I abuse grace.

3) Mistrust – Deep, deep down I don’t know always believe that God really knows what He’s doing all the time. Like my great-great (etc etc) grandma Eve, I often listen to the slippery voice that says, “How do you know that God isn’t holding out on you? What if He’s not all He says He is?” Doubt paralyzes me from obedience.

There you have it. If you thought I was some shiny Christian Wonder Woman before this, I have certainly set the record straight.

I still struggle with these things and I think a part of me always will this side of heaven — but the big “G” Gospel of Jesus Christ is what reorients my priorities when I feel like I deserve to be sucked into the black hole of pity and shame.

His Grace is limitless even when our obedience is so limited. We simply miss out on more of God when we choose not to obey.

He is not held back by our excuses and insecurities, we are. 

What are your reasons, reader? If you are a follower of Jesus, why is it that you call HIm ‘Lord’ and yet choose not to listen to His voice?

I just wanna say: I’m right there with you. None of us do this faith thing perfectly, but we have a perfect and good Advocate who empowers us to get up and keep going. So, keep going! We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Good and Faithful

IMG_0635Every person I know who follows Jesus, longs to hear Him say the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” when their time on Earth is done.

But somewhere along the way we’ve convinced ourselves that a good and faithful life takes shape in some extravagant display of radical living.  We start thinking, “If I really take Jesus seriously I need to move to a nation hostile to Christianity, adopt a child from overseas, choose a life of celibacy, write a best-selling book etc.” None of those choices/circumstances are wrong, they just aren’t ultimate. They aren’t the standard to which we, as people who love Jesus, ought to hold our lives up to.

Instead, we hold our lives up next to Jesus — imitating him, listening to his words, letting him direct us towards the life he has purposed for us. So many of us are going to lead lives that will receive no standing ovation from the world. And that’s a great thing.

Faithful living is not elaborate or fancy, it’s by nature — quite the opposite. It’s stubbornly moving towards the same goal, day after day, hour to hour. Every person I have talked with whose walk with God I desire to emulate, teach me that faith is a million little decisions you make every moment of every day that are influenced by a common belief: God is real and trustworthy and bigger.

God is real — His existence ought to change the way we see our own.

God is trustworthy — All the promises He says in the Bible, will be fulfilled. Regardless of what the current state of the world leads us to believe.

God is bigger — Nothing is too difficult for Him, but not everything He does or does not do will make sense to us. He is always bigger than the boxes we make for Him. 

IMG_0633 A few months ago I sat on the couch with a woman who is so familiar with faith playing out in  the ordinary. She lives a normal life, raising her kids and loving her husband and spending her  days basically up to her ears in the nitty-gritty of life – laundry, bills, soccer games, all while battling a sickness that has pushed her into new depths of dependence on God.

As we tucked our slippered feet under the couch cushions and cradled our mugs of steaming hot coffee, I asked her a million things. We talked about marriage, careers, sex, parenting,  vacations. We just talked about life. And I realized as I sat across from this woman that she was a difference-maker and a world-changer in her sphere of influence. She was not looking for fame or applause or approval from a sea of faceless people she’s never met. She was consistently looking to Jesus and it filled me just up to be near her.

Her faithfulness to show up and do it all again and believe it all again, even when no one was watching — THAT is the stuff that changes people and communities and churches. 

It all starts with surrender. Every good and faithful life is born out of a genuine desire to submit to the will of God. In my experience, whenever I do this I almost inevitably end up connecting with people.  In fact, whenever I give Him free reign over my day or week or season of life — He runs with it. He runs straight to people and says, “This. This is where I want you.”

It’s almost like he meant what he said when he tells us to love our neighbors. Imagine that.

When you lay your life at the feet of Jesus, the most difficult thing He’s going to ask you to do is trust Him with it. Wherever you are, in whatever season or storm, you cannot lose by surrendering to Jesus.

Instead of trying to make your life measure up alongside of anybody else’s, live your own. Give it a rest. Put down the measuring stick and run with endurance the race that was set before you. Cheer on those whom you see doing the same thing. Let’s arrive together at the throne of grace and just dump all of our wild misconceptions about what a good and faithful life “should” be and  start trusting that the Author of our faith knows what that looks like way better than we ever will.