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!

round me rings the music

I remember trying to conquer this hymn for a piano recital. I didn’t love it because my left hand always got stuck and the chords seemed to stutter. It has been several years since that recital in middle school and this morning was begging for this song to be sung.

The robin mothering babies in her nest and the sun dancing across the dining room – both declare their Maker’s praise. My Father owns all the birds in every nest and every streaming ray of light in every morning window. This is my Father’s world.

All of earth and heaven are His, wrought by His hand and held together by His word. He did not fashion a dull and dreary creation in shades of gray, but instead a vibrant and lively masterpiece with layers of sound and color that make His glory known.

This is my Father’s world. I know Him and He knows me – what a glorious thought!

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears 
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. 
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought 
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; 
His hand the wonders wrought. 

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise, 
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise. 
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; 
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass; 
He speaks to me everywhere. 

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget 
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. 
This is my Father’s world, why should my heart be sad? 
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad. 

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone. 
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known. 
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam 
Whate’er my lot, it matters not, 
My heart is still at home. 

This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done: 
Jesus who died shall be satisfied, 
And earth and Heav’n be one.

letting the light in

I’m not a photographer, not even close and not even pretend. But, I know a few and they love the light. And natural light is the best. If a photo can capture something illuminated by creation’s own lighting set-up, it will succeed in reaching outside its two dimensions.

I love the light, too, even though I probably don’t understand it like a photographer might. I love the way it scatters darkness. I love the way it makes things visible. I love the way it reveals paths and obstacles and backyard barbecues. I love the way light streams through our front windows and the way it warms the pavement.

I love the light.

But, light is impartial in its exposing, relentless in its illuminating. When light chases away the shadows from the corners of rooms, it reveals neglected spaces where dirt and clutter collect. Light stretches its bright fingers to reach those places you’re able to ignore in the dark.

And it’s harder to love light when you are staring at the dirt and clutter that has collected in the shadows. It makes pulling the shades back feel… risky. It makes sitting in the dark feel… safe. It’s harder to love light when you know it will reveal the bad with the good, when you know it will reveal your own failures and inconsistencies and fears.

It’s hard, but not impossible.

Because we serve a God who is sovereign over ever possibility.

Before the light reaches the darkest corners of our hearts, God knows what will be found. He knows the impossibility of human failures and inconsistencies and fears, and still He promises the light will show Him to be good (Psalm 34:8). And not good in the “I had a good day” sense, but good in the ultimate and eternally satisfying sense. The kind of good God meant when He looked at creation and said, “This is very good.”

Our exposure is our freedom. In the shadows, we are deceived into thinking that some things are too awful to see the light, too shameful. But, God promises that as children of light, we will revel in what is good and right and true and partner with him in His exposing work. In His light we see the light and reflect the light and delight in the light. See, reflect, delight.

It’s hard to let the light reach the corners, maybe sometimes it even feels impossible. But God is not constrained by possibilities. He delights in showing us all the ways He can write an unconventional story for His name’s sake.

By grace He exposes all the things we hide, grants us freedom from shame, and then invites us into a lovelit dance that exposes the neglected corners of our workplaces, coffeeshops, and city streets.

Are you going to let the light in today?

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitfulworks of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:6-21, ESV)

the glory of radiance – hidden and revealed

“It has seemed to me sometimes as though the Lord breathes on this poor gray ember of Creation and it turns to radiance – for a moment or a year or the span of a life. And then it sinks back into itself again, and to look at it no one would know it had anything to do with fire, or light.” from Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, p. 280

It is raining today, so describing Creation as a poor gray ember seems fitting. The rain brings the clouds into the streets and muddles the footsteps of the city. Robinson’s character John Ames preached the words above in a Pentecost sermon and remembers them in a letter to his son. He follows the quote by reflecting on his words,

“But the Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see.”

In the middle of spitting and dreary rain it is hard to be hopeful. It is hard to see beyond the poor gray ember or believe it is capable of burning something bright. The way we slide into the gray and adjust to the dullness makes hope a very courageous endeavor. To believe God waits to blow radiance from gray embers is a crazy notion, a grace given to courageous eyes.

We do not believe hope into being true, but instead believe our eyes into seeing that hope is truth.

As Ames reflected on his pentecost words, he qualified his statement by saying God has given us grace to see the radiance that always shines. There is beauty in the mystery of glory hidden and beauty in the mystery of glory revealed. And the radiance always looks like the glory of God.

There is a radiance that always shines and God gives grace for us to open our eyes.

a new commandment: love one another

Today is Maundy Thursday, which wasn’t any more than a funny word pairing until I read my holy week reflection. Mandatum means “command” or “mandate” in Latin and we celebrate Maundy Thursday because on the night before Jesus was killed he gave a “new commandment” (John 13:34).

Love one another, as Christ loved us.

What a great and impossible command he gave as his parting exhortation! Love as Christ loved? The perfect and sinless Jesus, who didn’t curse his enemies or get impatient at the market or cover up a white lie for his cousin? We are to love like this Jesus, who saw pain and brokenness and stepped toward it? The Jesus who associated with the lowly and the losers and the little children?

 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).

The Lord has been so gracious in these past few days to pour out His grace. The deeper I dig for gospel mercies, the more I find to fill my days. And I need it – every last drop of grace, I need it.

The substance of my work is not something one prays away – it is the fruit of a world torn by sin and a people tangled in deception. The prince of darkness works 24/7 to battle the life-giving joy of the Gospel message and all the ugly will be there tomorrow morning and the next. Sin is a hungry monster – it eats disaster and spits it out. Sometimes it feels like my days are walking in sin’s vomit. Believe me, it feels as disgusting as it sounds.

The Lord has been gracious, though, to give grace when I’m knee deep in sin’s sticky sludge. At the day’s end when I am realizing that everything will look the same in the morning and my heart wants to despair, I remember that Jesus promised abundant life and then I say, “Yes, I believe it.” But, my belief doesn’t transform my circumstances… it transforms my heart.

And today as I reflect on Maundy Thursday – the new commandment Jesus gave to love as He loved us – I think this is exactly the place I need to be. This great and impossible command to love happens as we believe Christ for the glorious work of the cross.

Loving one another does not mean ignoring sin or downplaying deception or denying evil – Christ certainly didn’t ignore, downplay or deny. And anyone who works in social services must know it is impossible to make less of the helpless state of things. Please, don’t ask me to look an addict in the face and say sin really doesn’t have a hold of him. Instead, because Christ knew the depth of our sin, He also knew the cost of love towards us.

Loving one another as Christ loved us means that we are willing to walk toward the hurting.
Loving one another as Christ loved us means that we see the sin and deception and evil as darkness, but we believe in the power of light to expose fruitless, dark deeds (Ephesians 5).
Loving one another as Christ loved us means that we speak truth about the death grip of sin and speak truth about the offer of life.

Christ was not politically correct. He was not the greatest orator. He did not consult ratings before and after a public address. Christ concerned Himself with the Truth because He was the Truth. He held all things together and still does. But, he walked toward the hurting. He sat with the broken. He listened to the wicked. He held disobedient children in his lap.

Christ got so close to the hurting that they hurt him. His loving us cost Him his life. He got so close to the broken that they broke Him. We broke Him.

If we are really going to love one another, we have to get close enough that it will cost us our lives. 

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.