there is a record repeating

There is a record repeating inside your head.

I don’t know what your record sounds like, but I can tell you mine. While baking and biking and bantering with my dear friend this weekend, I leaned in to hear all the layers of God’s grace. While running and laughing and backyard bonfiring, I tried to feel the beat of His provision for my soul.

Some things are too precious to pare down into typed phrases… the music rightly refuses to be smashed into lyrical lines. But as much as beauty transcends structure, it also acquiesces in a way that allows us to see and hear the glory.

Ok, enough of the abstract.

Today the words of Psalm 18:30-31 gave lyric to the melody I’ve been hearing for the past week. Deep inside the anxious moments full of questions – those moments that threaten to steal beauty’s song (When will I move to NYC? Will I have a job? Am I stupid for relocating across the country? Is God’s grace deep enough to reach me when I’m stupid? Money – do I have to make it?), God is there. Deep inside the moments where I don’t know how to rightly enjoy all the gifts – when I am drowning in blessings and beauty and grace – God is there. As sure as Mt. Everest is rooted in the ground of China and Nepal, God is steady and faithful and sure. Always.

Steady, faithful, sure.
Steady, faithful, sure.

This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?—

There is no debate, no blessing, no disaster, no gift, no doubt or heartache that can alter His character. Who is like God? No one. Absolutely no one can say what God can say and be truthful.

This record repeating in my heart found words today in these verses. I have been singing them all day long, trusting and hoping and believing that the word of the Lord proves true.

And as I trust his way is perfect, his word is true, his shield is refuge – as I believe these things deep inside the tangled mess of beauty/grace/anxious/doubting moments – I claim His victory over death and His provision of life.

He is steady. He is faithful. He is sure.

What a beautiful record repeating in my soul. Now, that my heart would align with the song!

remembering the rhythm of Truth

I’m giving myself 15 minutes to write before I run this rhythm out. I somehow got in a sour mood today, is all. One of the little ones must have sensed it because my last appointment said, “Would you maybe wanna rap?” Apparently, she associates my rapping with my good moods… and I wasn’t in one.

We’re learning a new song in my car these days. It goes like this:

My God is so great,
so strong and so mighty
there’s nothing my God cannot do!

The mountains are His,
the valleys are His,
the skies are His handiwork too!

Naturally, it’s the song on repeat with the little ones and it’s all acapella. We mostly sing/shout it and today I was sing/shouting through the motions because I felt sour. When my last appointment asked me, “Would you maybe wanna rap?” I kind of snapped out of my stupor (for a minute at least) because the song needed a rap bridge and she knew it.

I realized anxiety had crawled inside and knotted all my muscles, so I was singing with furrowed brows. That’s no way to sing and she must have noticed. I can’t tell you which detail it was that really got under my skin, but I can tell you the bunch of them together was too much. I packed in too many visits and emails and reports and there weren’t enough minutes.

Have you ever felt like you ran through a day with shoes a couple sizes too big? Well, today was like a size 10 and I wear a size 6 (and I’m pretty clumsy wearing a 6). I looked like a clown and it all ended with my furrowed brow and this slump of a sour mood.

As fast-paced as I profess to be, I need a good bit of slow moving so my heart can catch up with my head (or the other way around, I’m not sure). I need to make my heart beat to the rhythm of Truth so my actions dance to the same beat. And this rhythm is never four sizes too big – it’s never out of reach or out of sight. The rhythm of Truth is as simple as two verses in a children’s song.

“My God is in heaven, He does whatever pleases Him.”
(Psalm 115:3)
“For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.”
(Psalm 50:10)
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,”
Matthew 10:29-32

I gotta go shake off this sour rhythm and remember what Truth feels like – pray I find it on the running path.

God said so (and I trust Him)

This morning was just a morning.

The rest of the day followed in the same suit – the sunrise and the meetings and the reports and the visits were nothing magical. There were no moments where I caught a glimpse of the glorious inside the mundane of this Monday.

And I hated myself a little bit for it, because I know the glory is there. I hated that something in me didn’t melt when the little boy’s lips formed around the new word “moon” as he pointed to the sky. I want to see the glory always and I mostly write about when I do – the sunsets that raise my religious affections and the child’s laugh that unleashes my own spirit of freedom.

But some days just feel like days – sometimes running paths and book chapters and dishes are just running paths and book chapters and dishes. And there is no epiphany to write about on facebook or capture on instagram.

Some days are just days.

And this is the day when what I know becomes very important. Absent affections, when days are just days and work is just work and the people on the running path are just people, what I know to be true is very important. This is what I know:

You are faithful, never-changing,
age to age, You remain the same
Your steadfast love endures forever

So, I close my eyelids and stare at that strange nothingness. I know the beauty and glory of creation is lit up on the other side of my sight, but not because it feels like more than just a day.

I know it is beautiful because it is beautiful. God said so and I trust Him.

a willing heart, still incomplete

I want a lot of things. No surprise there, I suppose. The intensity might change and the objects of my wanting, but there’s no question: I want things.

And sometimes I get what I want. I will myself to do what needs doing in order to grasp what was once outside my reach. Like the limes I picked up today on the way home from church – I wanted fresh limeade, so I willed myself to drive out of the way to stop at the grocery store. In awhile, after I type out this bit of inspiration, I will sip the limeade that was only a thought a couple hours ago.

But steadfastness does not work that way.

This morning, as we were singing one of my favorite hymns, I stayed on these lines when everyone else sang the next stanza,

Gracious God, my heart renew
Make my spirit right and true
Thy salvation’s joy impart
Steadfast make my willing heart
Steadfast make my willing heart

Apart from God, my willing heart is incomplete – left wanting a faithfulness that is beyond my reach. Often (ahem, daily) my willingness wearies and wavers and no matter how sincere my resolve, I fail and fall. I will never be faithful on my own. No matter how much I want to be faithful, it will always be just outside my reach.

No matter how sincere, willingness does not a steadfast heart make.

There must be something outside of my will and outside of my sincerity that makes me steadfast, because my attempts at faithfulness will always fail.

What grace that God takes our willingness and adds His faithfulness to make us steadfast! Though we fall and fail, our steadfastness depends on His faithfulness and in this He never wavers or wearies.

We come willing and God makes us steadfast.

The exchange makes no sense because it is no exchange at all. We come with only a faltering “want” for faithfulness, but in Christ God adds His faithfulness and our hearts can be made steadfast.

Miraculous.

home chased and caught me

Home is not where I get chased to or chased from because home is chasing me. I know because it chased me across these five calendar days, begging for me to abide.

It had a little bit to do with the anxiety of job applications and a little bit to do with odd working hours and a little bit to do with prioritizing phone conversations. But, I can tell you it had everything to do with my heart being homesick.

I met a friend for a near-sunrise breakfast this week and I asked about the past weekend with her parents. She had one of those contented smiles on her face – the ones we wear when words won’t suffice – and she said, “Good. It was just so good.” And I knew just what she meant.

Home is that feeling you get when you are abiding under someone else’s roof.

But my parents’ home was not chasing me this week (although it is a wonderful place to abide – a place I don’t have to check the mail or arrange a social calendar or clear the dust mites from the corners of the closets). And to be honest, the “home feeling” has a time limit when it’s confined to a location.

I’ve called a lot of places home. After 6 months in Des Moines, “home” definitely describes my little street and the corner meat store and the running path to Gray’s Lake. I don’t have a hard time settling into new homes or missing them dearly when I uproot and transplant, but none of them were chasing me this week either. Because there is a limit to our earthly contentedness, an impenetrable obstacle to our earthly abiding even in the most home-ly of places.

This week the home that chased me was the one from John 15 and Psalm 23:6 and Exodus 36:4. It caught up with me mid-morning when I realized the ache in my gut wasn’t heartburn or indigestion or hormones. My heart missed home.

When the rain started to fall in the park, it struck me all of a sudden that my sloppy schedule and mishandled time management had cost me precious time with my Savior. I was doing things, some good and some just things, and somehow my silly feet had wandered from my true home.

I skipped my morning devotions.
I prayed mostly in transit.

I laughed and moped and chatted and filled all the space of the day. And then, I shook away the nudge to be still. I drank more coffee and went on longer rollerblading runs. I scribbled notes and made lists. I pushed down the prick of conviction and today it pushed back.

When I read this devotion today from Solid Joys, I remembered why it is good to be at home with the Lord, abiding in His presence. I remembered why my Savior’s shelter is the best place to abide. Because home is not where you run to when your vagabond shoes have holes and home is not where you run from in a dry season of discontent. 

Home is the forever love of the Father, who pursues us so our souls can best abide.

His is the home that never changes, never wearies, never rusts, and never tires. His is the home my heart gets sick for and the shelter that best covers my soul. His is the space where I want to abide.

Home chased me this week and caught me today. And as I abide out this Friday, His kindness is leading me to repentance.

when fear meets perfect love

It finds us at corporate desks and backyard barbecues, at county jails and beaches at sunset. It paralyzes us with doubt and bursts with frenetic energy. It is irrational and rational, trivial and monumental, tangible and unseen.

Fear is crazy persistent.

Fear is on my brain today for a lot of reasons, but something else is casting it out – something that curls the corners of my mouth when they should be stuck in an anxious frown. The Lord has made an eternally significant introduction that breaks all the ways fear might bind me. Because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) and I know perfect love through Christ, my fear is cast out from me like the sun casts out the dark in the morning.

Fear of rejection? Cast out.

Fear of failure? Cast out.

Fear of the future? Cast out.

Fear of death? Cast out.

Fear of loss? Cast out.

Fear of sadness? Cast out.

Fear of darkness? Cast out.

Fear of deadlines? Cast out.

Fear of missed opportunities? Cast out.

After all this casting out, what does the light of Perfect Love leave us with? Freedom. When fear is cast out by perfect love, freedom is what remains. And we can not “get better” at being free. Christ accomplished our freedom and cast out all fear when He secured our sanctification.

What does it look like to work out of freedom? To have relationships out of freedom? To start a family out of freedom? To meet your neighbors, serve your brothers, and bless your enemies out of freedom?

What does it look like to live out of freedom instead of fear? Well, you won’t hold your breath for the response, for one thing. Your acts of kindness and grace and toil in the workplace or in the living room do not depend on being accepted, affirmed, or approved.

When you live out of a place of freedom, you are accepted, affirmed, and approved already in Christ.

And our freedom is not temperamental or conditional – we need not be wary that our performance might effect our access to freedom. When Christ spoke the words, “It is finished,” He secured our freedom – forever. We know this is true because He has never made a promise He hasn’t kept.

This is a song I think a freed person might sing. Maybe you’ll sing along today. Is Christ your best thought, highest affection, and greatest inheritance? I pray I can sing these things in freedom with an honest heart!

when faith sees

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:19–21)

What does it look like to be convinced that God is able to do what He promises? And what does it look like when what is promised is impossible?

What if someone told you that one day you would be the President or that you would be the Queen? And what if it wasn’t just an offhand comment, but a promise. It would be an impossible promise (maybe not for you, in which case I’m very honored that you are reading my blog).

Abraham was promised something impossible, but He was convinced in God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. There were a lot of details that didn’t make sense – a lot of good practical reasons to doubt the Word of the Lord – but Abraham persevered in faith. God’s grace allowed Abraham to believe and grow stronger in His belief that God would keep His promise.

This active believing was counted to Abraham as righteousness. God wrote out the storyline (Abraham would be the father of nations) and then by His grace Abraham lived out the impossible story by His belief that it was true.

Abraham had no idea of knowing what the promises would look like, but he knew what God’s faithfulness looked like – steadfast, sure, steady, true.

Sometimes, we are consumed with figuring out what the promises will look like when they are fulfilled. How will God show Himself faithful in finding me a job? How will God’s promise be fulfilled in my friendships? How can God be faithful to overcome the evil in the world and dispel the lies? How do I believe what He promises about eternity?

What will His fulfilled promises look like in my life – in those impossible things?

God’s faithfulness to keep every promise He has ever made gives us a clear picture of the Promise Keeper. Sometimes we are not meant to see what those impossible promises look like, but we are always meant to see who holds the promises secure.

Our faith sees this Promise Keeper and actively believes in His faithfulness. 

Abraham could never have imagined what God was promising – what it would look like. He never would have expected that Christ would come as a result of God’s promise and die to demonstrate His faithfulness and mercy. In Christ, God made a way for us and proved His ultimate promise keeping in the most impossible situation: satisfying the debt we owed and securing our place with Him for eternity.

Our faith sees this Promise Keeper and actively believes He will continue keeping promises, even if we have no idea what the promises will look like when they are kept.

our way into redemption

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south. (Psalm 107:1-3, ESV)

We are good at announcing victories. We have awards ceremonies and podiums and medals and elaborate speeches. We are good at announcing victories, but how do we announce our redemption? How do we talk about our soul’s resurrection?

Because I believe this is indeed the greatest cause for celebration. Redemption is the best reason to throw a festival or plan a party.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Let us commemorate our being found when we were lost, our being victorious when we were defeated, our being alive when we were dead! But our joyful, victorious entry into redemption is not carried by our proud steps of accomplishment but on the weary, beaten back of a perfect Savior. We are carried, limp and lifeless, by Christ to victory and we finish with the greatest reward.

Jared C. Wilson writes, “We disobeyed our way into fallenness, but we cannot obey our way into redemption.” (Gospel Deeps, p. 161)

He is our way into redemption. He is our victory and our celebration is in His name and for His fame. He is our way into redemption and He is the only way to announce victory in this life.

Wilson includes this list in his book Gospel Deeps and I think it pulls us into powerful proclamation as the redeemed children and inspires victorious living in the promises of our Redeemer. Wilson writes on page 160, “He has hemmed us in; he has us covered:

Christ is in us. (John 14:20; 17:23; Rom. 8:10-11; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:27)

Christ is over us. (Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 1:18; 3:1; Heb. 3:6)

Christ is through us. (Rom. 15:18; 2 Cor. 2:14; 5:20)

Christ is with us. (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; Eph. 2:5-6; 2 Tim. 4:17)

Christ is under us. (Luke 6:47-48; 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Cor. 3:11)

Christ is around us (that is to say, we are in and through him). (John 14:6; 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 3:4, 14; 5:17; Gal. 3:27; Heb. 7:25)

We are good at announcing our victories, but this victory in Christ is like no other. We announce His victory in our redemption and we announce His sovereignty in our resurrected lives. I can imagine no greater speech than a life that speaks to this work.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

These reflections come as I read through Gospel Deeps by Jared C. Wilson. I definitely encourage you to pick up a copy and read it for yourself. It’s one to read through slowly and process with other people (or on a blog!). Here are some other posts on my reflections on the book: Lord, I need Youmy heart will never not be His, living risen on a Monday, further up and further in you go.

abiding

Have you ever had a day where it feels like someone comes behind everything you accomplish and then scrambles it so it needs accomplished again? (all the mommas in the house say “hey-o!”)

It was something like that, this day, but I could feel God pursuing and persevering – stretching out grace so I could step inside it.

There was a moment when I had a little one in my backseat (who preferred silence to my singing antics), when I asked if I could pray for him. He didn’t say no, so I prayed… and as I did I got filled up remembering what kind of Savior I have. I got filled up just thinking about what the Lord offers to those who choose Him. I prayed for the little one’s heart and for protection and for a spirit ready to hear and understand the Gospel. And then the little one said, “Amen!” and I praised God with a satisfied soul.

Abiding in the John 15 kind of way does not promise prime “abiding conditions.” But this is the beauty of abiding in Christ – the only necessary condition is met in Him. The fruit-bearing branch on the vine only bears fruit because it abides in the vine. Not because the weather is right or because the irrigation is working (of course all these things are tended to by the vinedresser), but the branch bears fruit because it abides in the vine, and the vine is reliable to produce fruit.

Today when I glimpsed fruit on the branch, I praised God for the vine.
I praised God because He is the one condition necessary for good things.
I praise God because He abides in me and His grace alone can foil the tempter’s power.

like a lot of little earthquakes

If you seek God looking for an answer, you will end up with an idol. If you seek God looking for God, you will always find Him and you will always be satisfied.

The truths of Jeremiah 29:13-14 and Deuteronomy 4:29 are trustworthy words and the above is my paraphrase when I’m tempted to look for an answer instead.

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 ESV)

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)

These are trustworthy words because the Lord breathed them into being for our benefit. He draws us near so that we can be held, grasped, and secured in the sweet joy of His presence. He draws us near so we can enjoy Him – and He can always be found.

I’m learning what it means for the resurrection to break into my brain space that I had reserved for other things. It’s like a lot of little earthquakes. The sand shifts and the mountains crumble and only the firm foundation remains. And like a lot of little earthquakes, the lesser things look less appealing as my feet run to stand on what will remain.

In grace, God breaks the power of lesser affections so that I can stand with joy on what remains.

As I seek the Lord as my first and greatest affection (and not just for answers), these words  out of Counsel from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Dennis Johnson are especially savory,

“He has contracted to place himself in covenant relationship with us and to make us his own.

Yes, his love for us is a contractual agreement, but it is so much more than cold, lifeless obligation. He has generously determined to satiate our souls with happiness. He has chosen to betroth us to himself: ‘I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness’ (Hosea 2:19-20).”

When God breaks the power of my lesser affections, He determines to satiate my soul with happiness. He has chosen to betroth me to Himself. Wow. 

I’m not sure what it feels like to have my soul satiated with happiness, but I want to feel it. I want to be fully satisfied with the kind of happiness my soul can feel. And today I know this happiness is real – as real as my coffee and my distractions and my fears and the giggles I can’t control.

The happiness God offers will remain when all the little earthquakes shake out the lesser affections.
let LOVE fly like cRaZy