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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lyric by Lyric

My closer look at a Mumford & Sons lyrical masterpiece.

Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don't leave me alone at this time
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

Roll away your stone reminds me of the resurrection. Of coming to the tomb and finding it empty. Of Jesus and life and conquering death. It reminds me of His promises, of the way He loves. It reminds me of a new start, of new life. Beginning anew in Christ is challenging. You've said goodbye to old ways, actions, attitudes and for me, it felt like a complete revamping of the way I lived. Nothing was safe from Christ's redemption. It's scary to find your junk, your sin, and have Christ wash it clean. It reminds me of the Narnian story of Eustace who can only shed his dragon scales with the help of Aslan. And I think of one of my favorite quotes from A.W. Tozer - "The Cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is RESURRECTION glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual spiritual experience the Presence of the living God."

What is often true is that life gets harder as we choose a new and different way, as we choose the cross and the empty tomb. The power of community rings so true here. There is much power in the way we are loved and cared for as we venture forward while clinging to Jesus.

You told me that I would find a home
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal
And all the while my character it steals

This reminds me of lies of the world. We cling to things of this world, things unreal. We have voids inside and we fill them with the worldly passions, pleasures, attempts at happiness. We turn away from Jesus and we choose the flesh. Our sin steals our character.But then - the beautiful, good good news of Jesus Christ. He's chosen us, loved us, given us life, saved us, and we are filled with His Spirit. That's what the mercy and grace and love of God has done for us. And we are powered by a deep, deep joy and a beautifully real love.

It seems that all my bridges have been burned
But you say, "That's exactly how this grace thing works"
It's not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start

What most stands out to me is the welcome at every start. It shouts grace in the process. At every new turn, new beginning, choice in each new moment, we are welcomed in by grace. That is the beauty of coming before the throne of grace with boldness and confidence and beginning anew in the truth of Jesus Christ. The process itself doesn't change our hearts, but by the grace of God.

And so I'll be found
With my stake stuck in the ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul

Amazing grace, how so sweet, sweet the sound. I once was lost, but now I'm found. Our newly impassioned souls are staked in Christ. We come to Christ in confession and repentance and our hearts are marked and restored by His love. When we've committed our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths to Christ, something is changed within us. Our desires are different, our dreams are different, our hopes are different, our thoughts are different, our priorities are different, our passions are different - we are new creations of Christ!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Priority of Prayer

I'm fascinated with the idea of prayer. It seems like such a wonderful gift to me. That our Heavenly Father desires for us to come before Him with all that we have and lay at His feet is astounding to me. He doesn't just let us do it - He wants us to. Lay it all down - our fears, doubts, sorrows, hopes, joys, celebrations, tribulations, weaknesses. How to parent, how to have a Godly marriage, how to succeed in work, in school, how to love Him and love people, how to be more compassionate, how to choose Jesus - bring it all before Him. Even something as simple as, "Holy Spirit, would you help me? Would you give me the right thoughts?"

It is our communion with Him.

I don't know where this post is going, but I've had a lot of important realizations about prayer in the past few months. It's not designated to morning and night, to mealtimes and test days. It's the breathing in and out, the every moment awareness of the presence of God. I believe it cures all - and not because we always get what we pray for, but because we learn to come before our God in dependency and humility and we learn to trust. We learn to trust in the sovereignty of God, in the love of the Father who desires to give His children good gifts. We learn to trust in the work of Jesus.

I'm not a passive movie watcher - I'm an active one - and there's a moment in the movie "Signs" when Mel, the embittered preacher who walked away from his church after losing his wife, says defiantly, fearfully, emphatically, "I am not wasting one more minute on prayer! Not one more minute!" Fifteen minutes later, his asthmatic son on the brink of losing breath, he offers up a prayer to God - "Don't do this to me again. Not again. I hate you."

And I think this is the beauty of real and honest prayer. Too often we program prayer to be a recitation of our day or a 'thank you for the food' type thing. Prayer becomes something we've always done because we're taught in church to do it. But the life, the breath, the honest prayer - that's the soul prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. We don't have to disguise our pain or disguise our sin or use discreet words to make it sound better. We can wrestle and use words like 'help' and 'struggle' and we can cry and be intimate with the Father. And that is the pure beauty of prayer. We are given the grace to boldly approach the throne with confidence, not shaking in shame or hiding in a facade, but in a humble realness that shouts trust in the grace and mercy of our Father.

I think it's easy to forget. At least for me, it's always a critical analysis. When prayer is selfish, when prayer is fake, when prayer forgets the Father, when prayer is forgotten. In a rough season a few months ago, I spent a lot of time journaling prayers and words to God. They were honest and they were raw and they, at first, felt.. weird. Coming from a recovering programmed pray-er, admitting to God that you're angry can feel wrong. But faith isn't based on feelings and let me tell you, the release of burden and the peace that transcends understanding - those are real concepts and they covered me. The breaking down of walls and the covering of the Father who loves me and the vulnerability to my Creator. People, the answer is prayer. Come before the Father. Cry 'Abba Father'!

God is not a friend who will gossip about what we've said. He's not a disappointing source of anger. God is not neutral about our existence. He loves us with a fiercely passionate love and when we understand what God thinks about when He thinks about us, it changes the way we pray. And when we are honest before Him in every moment, we worship Him and the work His Son did.

Make prayer a priority and pursue it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Guilt, Shame, and What Christ Did

I think I will always be blogging about the show Parenthood (because I have another post brewing in my head).

One of my favorite characters was Alex. I say 'was' because he hasn't been on the show in a long time and I'm starting to panic (I'm holding to the slim hope that he'll be back). Alex dated one of the main characters, Haddie. One of the best and most dynamic things about Alex's character was his past. He used to be an alcoholic and was homeless and now runs the same shelter where he used to live. I love that life change, no matter how fictional it may be.

But after an incident gets out of hand and the law gets involved, things start to unravel. You can feel his torment as he wrestles through feeling unworthy and questions if he's good enough. And then the climactic scene where he decides he can't be a part of the Braverman's lives anymore. And me? Oh I'm just sitting on my couch yelling, 'Alex! You don't have to do this! They love you, you are worthy!'

The trap of shame and the lies it tells.

Guilt and shame have always been confusing emotions for me. I confuse one for the other and feel shame way too often. I use the word guilt to describe things that aren't sinful. I feel shame for past events in my life that have already been redeemed, forgiven, forgotten. Once you've given your life to Christ and hunger and thirst for Him, sins and the way you previously lived your life surface and guilt and shame get tangled together down a slippery slope.

But there's a crucial distinction : take note.

Guilt is a feeling we have when we sin.
Shame is a feeling we have that makes us feel worthless.
Guilt is from God and is hardwired into our being.
Shame is a feeling that comes from the lies of satan.
Guilt is the gateway to God's forgiveness.
Shame says 'we can't be forgiven' and works to keep us from grace.

Alex's life decisions are dictated by shame. These are the lies he believes that make him think people see him as less, define him by what he's done. He walks away because shame says 'you won't be able to climb out of this. Your actions are your identity.'

But our identity is in relationship with Jesus Christ, through confession and repentance. Our sins and disobedience disrupt our fellowship with our Father. The Spirit convicts and we choose - to turn towards Jesus or away. But we never lose that relationship, His love, and it is our fellowship that is restored again when we confess and repent. Shame keeps us wallowing in the time between sin and confession and tells us we aren't worthy of forgiveness. But Hebrews 4:!6 tells us to boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence and God's mercy and grace prove deeper and more wonderful than we imagined. It's far greater than sin.

The truth is that I have new life in Christ - the old has gone away and the new has come. God looks at me and sees His Son. He looks at us and sees Jesus. I've been reading through the Old Testament and I've been thinking about the concept of God's wrath. The Israelites, those lovably irritable people of God, disobey and God's wrath burns. Because He is a just and perfectly holy and righteous God, He cannot dwell among sinfulness and disobedience. He cannot have anything to do with it. So what has absorbed that wrath? How are we counted righteous, how are we in relationship with God when we are sinful, disobedient people? How are we able to come back to God and restore that fellowship which our sin has broken?


Throw off that shame that keeps you from grace and turn to Jesus.
Turn to Jesus in confession and repentance and receive the forgiveness and new life of the cross.

"I cannot escape the exceeding wonder that not only does God look upon a guilty person in the courtroom and exercise clemency and forgive him and say 'you're guilty, I forgive you, go and sin no more.' But He also, beyond all imagination, looks upon this guilty sinner and does not just say 'you're guilty, I forgive you.' He says, YOU'RE NOT GUILTY. I mean, forgiveness is understandable, just a little bit understandable. We kind of have some way to get our hands around forgiveness. You let it go, you don't hold it against them. But this. Look me right in the face, right in the face, sinner though I am, and say righteous." John Piper

Sunday, February 12, 2012


There is much good in every day! Every day is full of good stuff because we live in the knowledge of GOOD NEWS. The good news of Jesus, the good news that His love changes everything. That perspective and those new eyes make every day, every moment, special.

I've begun the practice of a gratitude journal. It's not so much a journal - it's a massive desk calendar. In previous months, I used it for scheduling and blocking off time and meetings. But as most practices do, it fell to the wayside as I got more and more stressed out (ironic, huh?). Lately, I've been using it to make notes, jot down reminders, of how good my day was. What happened, what was funny, encouraging, uplifting.

Wednesday was a really productive work day.
Thursday saw new faces at life group. Games, the jar of questions, ADDI MAKES THE BEST DESSERTS.
Friday was day long conversation with a long distance best friend.
Saturday was Bible exhibit!! The preservation of the Word of God, my passionate Old Testament professor's tearful plug for the fruits of children's ministry, bonfires, Wendy's with Sydney.
Sunday was coffee with Mary, hearing friends preach, laughing around tables at Would You Rather.

And it's funny, because the more I dwell and remember the good, the less I wallow or dwell in the stressful, the hard. I literally cannot remember what made Wednesday hard. Or Friday - was really every moment awesome?? By God's grace, days are redeemed. And the choice to draw near to Him, to be renewed, is made.

So what becomes of the hard parts of the day?

The story of Moses is one of maturation and transformation. His lips have gone from muttering "Please, Lord, send someone else!" to interceding and leading the nation of God. He has led the people (the slow and faithless) from slavery and been the one to meet with God on the mountain. Moses has been a faithful leader, as God has been so faithful to him.

Then, a short little sentence in Numbers 20:12 ("And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them"), Moses cannot enter the promised land. His journey will stop short and he will not be able to lead his people in. That's hard to swallow. That would devastate me.

But then, in Deuteronomy 4, in one of Moses' speeches to the Israelites preparing them to enter the land under new leadership, he says - isn't our God AWESOME? Have you ever heard of a God coming down among his people? Have you ever heard of such a great thing happening in all the earth? PRAISE GOD. THERE IS NO ONE LIKE HIM.

That's what becomes of the hard parts.
The praise and worship of our God.

So it remains as a reminder to me. Keep writing down, dwelling in, remembering the blessings. There is gift and beauty and light in every moment. And specifically, when the dark days come, the days when I feel small and the fight seems gone and the wilderness is big - remember, dwell in, and receive the blessing. Remember James 1:12 and the crown of life the Lord has promised to those who persevere under trial. Take the focus off myself and my circumstances (as Moses has done) and cast them on a God who has done great, great things.

And most importantly,
PRAISE GOD. from whom all blessings flow. Have you ever heard of a greater love than this? In all the earth, have you heard of anything like this?? This love that sent Jesus to die for sin. This love that said IT IS FINISHED. There is no one like him. Praise God!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A Song and Dance

There's a painting that hangs over my bed that my dear friend Bethany made me. It's one of my favorite Scriptures and it's beautiful and it's truth and I see it more times than I can count.

I waited patiently for the LORD, He inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Psalm 40.

This passage has a repetition in my life, a significance, that raised me from the dead. This I, this author, is familiarly me. Our Father hears His children's cries and draws us up, gives us steady ground and leads us on a path everlasting. It changes everything. We are invited in to sing praise in every moment, in every action, in every word.

I like to see new creation and journey as a song. Donald Miller asks the question at the end of Blue Like Jazz, "but what song will you sing when your soul gets set free?" Sometimes the beat crashes, sometimes it skips, sometimes it's off key. Is it faithful?

My friend Marri sees it as a dance. Sometimes a punch dance, sometimes a silent rave, sometimes a lyrical ballet. It's awkward and messy and not fluid at times. But she writes, "looking back over this story, my journey, I see the sneaky ways He was working. I see landmarks along the way, I see a collection of small and deliberate emancipations. And now I'm free to dance in wild, barefoot delight, improvising with beauty I discover and always, always listening for His rhythm, music and meaning."

Free to dance in His rhythm.

I think about what it means to be always listening for His rhythm, music, meaning. I think about what it means to sing His new song. I think about the writer of Romans who says, "when I want to do good, evil is right there with me." Then I think about a God who loves us fiercely, who makes us more real because we are so loved so much. This Love changes people (it really changes them!) and God's goodness is radiated. Because we give away what we are filled with.

Grace is beautiful and we are loved even more than we could ever imagine. Which is good, because we are worse than we think. But it is this grace that clothes us, this grace that died for us, this grace that uses us, this grace that sings a beautiful song and moves beautiful feet.

From the moment His love changes your life, as Real calls out to Real, you can't be ugly, you can't be a cheater, you can't be unforgiven, you can't be too far from Grace.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Just a post to say :: Here I Am!

A peek into my day to day.

#haircut. I got my hair chopped : six inches off. It was one of those desperation cuts, call two hours before, get me in or I'm doing something drastic. The woman who cut my hair had Justin Beiber hair - when I'm cooler, I'll be able to pull that off.

#pinterest. I became addicted to Pinterest - that awesome little website that lets me 'pin' pictures of scarves and sunsets, weddings and nail polish, tattoos and shoes (yes I have a whole board dedicated to tattoo ideas). It is a time consumer (but not a waster) and hey, I've got tons of ideas stored away whenever I decide to get creative.

#photo366. My friend April and her friend Erin have come up with this awesome photo a day project! With a daily prompt and Instagram at my fingertips, it has been such a fun way to see my day to day through a different lens. I am loving it! Besides the awesome shots and cool pictures, I love the connection social media offers. So cool. Join us!

#davidcrowder. A final show at Forest Hill, dude rocked a hat, full beard, guitar, heart for Jesus and some hilarious stories. Such a great night of worship with some awesome girls!

#advancelifegroup. Probably one of my favorite parts of the week. These girls love, desire, and live Jesus. So honored, thrilled, humbled to be a part of their journey!

#exodus. Still in awe of God. The theme of rescue, redemption, relationship is shouting forth from His Word. I'm resonating with the Israelites, the ones God loved, sought, rescued, redeemed, and the ones who can't seem to understand to trust the Father as the source of manna. What a hard lesson to learn in the trusting of God every day.

#faithtobestrong. Andrew Peterson's song says, "give us faith to be strong, give us strength to be faithful. Give us peace when we're torn, give us grace to go on."

#goodnews. And the good news is, the good news of all of the hard stuff and the pain and the hurt and all the sin, is that there is a God who came down, who rescued us, who is among us, because He loves. He created us, we sinned against, He pursued and loved and faced the shame and condemnation of a cross to free us from the condemnation of sin. That's life changing, life saving good news. Don't give up! There's a God who loves you fiercely!