find us faithful and find us ready

Simple prayers are the best because my words get in the way.

No one has ever accused me of being a woman of few words, though I have tried to be a woman of less. Maybe sometimes – no definitely sometimes – I complicate prayers  with too much vocabulary. I get flustered and the words fumble out sounding impressive or hollow or planned.

This advent season, my shoulders have a humble slump and it is making me appreciate simple prayers and spelled out liturgies. Because my words aren’t anything special, nothing revolutionary or new is streaming from my cyber pen. I am one in a million breaking winter silence with thoughts from my fickle, foolish heart. I join a history as old as the sun – a history of people who speak and explain and write and ponder. And we have many, many words to evidence our legitimacy… as word lovers.

I always wonder if we can come about true humility by way of humiliation. Can a person be truly humble as a result of feeling truly humiliated? No one loves humiliation. I try to stay away from it and all the rosy cheeked aftermath, but it still sneaks up on me with regular rhythm. I am always saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing and both at all the wrong times. I know being awkward is all the hipster craze these days, but (let’s be honest) no one enjoys being humiliated.

And so my slumped shoulders find me meditating on the Messiah, knowing I am a little drummer boy with a pen and paper – standing at the entrance to the stable of my King.

I don’t have much to bring and even my words are weightless and wilty sometimes. What I do have to offer is sometimes the very thing that humiliates me. I am walking with those ancient wise men, following the miracle star to meet my Messiah, so that the Messiah can meet all my messes.

I lit the third advent candle today with slumped shoulders and a thankful heart, because I am not impressive and I do not have to be. The Lord was gracious to send a Savior, One who could handle all the words in the world – all the things we think we have to offer. I am thankful today to pray a simple prayer, believing God is the something special about advent and Christmas and salvation and redemption.

Christ is what makes this season glorious.

And my words cannot make more or less of that. So, I pray a simple prayer with slumped shoulders knowing the Lord cares tenderly for His children. He is gracious to invite me to worship at the stable and at the cross with my slumped shoulders, with my pen and paper.

Lord, find us faithful and find us ready. Amen.

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.

there is a peace

This last day of April stretched out long and I stretched out to test the seams of it – to try to be as patient as the moments that crept by so I could experience each one fully. It has been some time since one day has had so many slow moments and I was content to savor them all. Maybe it was the sun that slowed things down, begging me to look extra long at the city as I sped from place to place.

There is a peace.

Maybe it’s irresponsible to be unafraid of the future and maybe it’s naive to hope for impossible things. Maybe the illusive peace this world craves with groans is not a thing my soul can feel. But, maybe not.

By grace (o, mysterious grace!), we can say, “There is a peace” both with certainty and with hope. Our belief that God is Redeemer, Promise-Keeper, Defender, Lover, Savior, and Friend prompts our certainty and his faithfulness to be all those things prompts our hope. The grace empowered cycle of certainty and hope is a fountain that wells up and overflows in peace that covers all uncertain and desperate moments.

There is a peace to settle your soul. Well, it’s settling mine anyway.

What shall I do with a settled soul? How can I make sure the certain and hopeful moments are not wasted? Our memory verse (from Fighter Verses) for this week is Romans 12:11-13,

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

There is a gracious peace that has settled my soul and the Lord is calling me to make my peace productive. The same grace that allows me peace makes provision for good works (2 Corinthians 9:8) that have been prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). As I savor the cycle of certainty and hope, God is breathing life into my bones so that I may live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28).

All this peace is for a purpose – that the Lord would be glorified in my dependence, my delight, and my diligence.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

There are many, many ways to serve our friends, family, and neighbors. This is May 1 and every May I try to accept the Every Day in May challenge. This year, I am going to use my love for creative writing to bless someone new each day. This might be through a story, card, special email, or clever joke. I may or may not post everything I do, but I might report some of the stories that happen as a result. I encourage you to take the challenge as well – for the month of May, choose to do something you love every day. My little addition is that you would use the “something you love” to bless others – that way you are both glorifying God with your gifts and blessing others with your offering!

from @frenchtoastgirl

the answer is grace

It could all be over, it really could… this whole cosmos being held together thing doesn’t have to be a reality in this next moment.

Forget climate change, do you know that within atoms (the itty bitty stuff that makes up all “stuff”) are quarks that by definition are “believed” to be the basic building blocks of protons, neutrons, and hadrons? What I mean is, if we zoom in on the smallest physical reality and then slice it up, we are still mind boggled about how life is held together.

Unless we are believing Christ does the holding. Then those mind boggling beliefs about the basic building blocks of matter can make sense. And this is just exactly where I got stuck today in wonder. I don’t pretend to know anything about particles except what I’ve forgotten from high school Chemistry, but I do know that it’s wonderful. I know that the mysterious way things are held together is absolutely magical and inspiring.

This is the question that wedged in my throat as I wondered about things I don’t fully understand: Why? Why is Christ holding it together?

Jared C. Wilson quotes Lesslie Newbigin in Gospel Deeps when he talks about cosmic redemption,

But God in his patient and long-suffering love sustains the created world, and the world of human culture, in order that there may still be time and space for repentance and for the coming into being of the new creation within the womb of the old.

John Piper says that missions exist because worship doesn’t. Wow. God is literally holding all things together (every little quark of existence) in Christ so that there might be time for repentance.

If we are going to wonder like children, we might as well ask “Why?” like children, too. Why does God sustain the created world with such patience while creation actively aches to be restored? Why does God allow evil to continue and wars to erupt and people to die and diseases to destroy and nations to rage?

Why doesn’t Christ lift His finger or turn His head from “holding all things together” for one second so the cosmos collapse on themselves and He can rebuild from the ashes?

Only, only in the marvelous grace of God are we allowed to see a glorious because in the midst of this mystery.

Christ continues to hold all things together because God started writing this redemption narrative before a word was spoken into the formless void. He had already written the names of His children in the book of life before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20, Revelations 13:8), knowing they would have a desperate need for a Savior and providing just such a Savior.

Christ continues to hold all things together because God is sovereignly working out His will to gather His children from the ends of the earth to enter into eternity with Him (Mark 13:27)He will not stop until the gathering is complete because He is a promise keeper.

Christ continues to hold all things together because God is making His name known to His creation, even those who shake their fists at His goodness. Our need for a Savior points to God’s gracious giving of a Savior (Psalm 66:2, Psalm 79:9, Romans 2).

And within every reason we can imagine there are a million other reasons Christ is holding things together and each one of them is a gift of grace.

Why is Christ holding this crazy cosmos together?

All I can come up with is grace. We are held together by the grace of God, allowed to question by the grace of God, able to be restless by the grace of God, and longing for home by the grace of God.

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 Hisliving risen on a Mondayfurther up and further in you go, and our way into redemption.

hidden in this

There is glory, hidden in this. There is.

I’m really stuck on it, but I won’t apologize for being redundant.

Christ died. He was buried and it was over. They had crucified the God-man and the sky went black with remorse. The worst and unthinkable sin had been committed and the consequences stretched out to touch the cosmos. Christ died.

“Do you believe that God is sovereign?”

My mentor spoke these words while I awkwardly asked for some solid answers with tears streaming down my cheeks. She’s not much of a cry-er, so she apologized for not being more sensitive but she did not apologize for her advice.

“Caroline, if you believe God is sovereign then His plan will not fail. Do you believe God is sovereign – that He is in control of everything and even this?”

I sniffled out a “Yes,” and felt a little better. That was almost 5 years ago.

Now, my “yes” has less sniffles attached (most times), but it is the truth I cling to when the glory seems buried.

The truth of God’s sovereignty is the dawn when glory feels hopelessly hidden six feet under.

It seems to me that after Jesus’ death, more than any other time in the history or future of the world, the glory of Christ appeared hidden.

He was dead, gone, crucified, humiliated, en-tombed, embarrassed, done.

But there was glory hidden inside the worst and most heinous sinful crime. There was a resurrection and redemption. There was victory over sin and death. There was invitation to new life. There was reconciliation.

And all these things were planned in the mind of a loving and gracious Father before the beginning of time so that His children could come near and step into the light of His glory.

There was a glorious dawn hidden on the other side of the dark sky while the Savior’s body was still limp. There was glory.

Do you believe that God is sovereign – that He truly does work everything out for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)? Do you believe that there is glory hidden inside the death of God?

Let the redeemed say, “Yes!” and “Amen!”

Today, what part of your world do you doubt God’s sovereignty reaches – finances, relationships, future, career, children, politics or your health insurance?

Do you believe God is sovereign – in control of everything and even this? Because God has hidden glory in your “even this” and it would delight Him greatly if you believed Him.

Lord, I need You

The road got watery today – just blurred up without warning. I wiped it away and sang this song with the sadness of my own heart’s wandering.

Because where you are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

I need you, O Lord, I need you
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
My God, how I need You

It’s not just that addiction doesn’t know what “side of the tracks” to haunt and it’s not just that the sturdy wooden pews at the courthouse feel so much different than the tattered chairs of a living room. It’s not just the mess of names and family trees and explanations. It’s not just those things, but it is those things too.

I don’t know what started the waterfall today, but I know it made me acutely aware of my need for a Savior. I didn’t make it to small group tonight for the silliest reason – I got lost. Literally, lost on the way back from my last appointment. I was driving back and forth and sideways trying to locate a road that would point me in the direction of home and failed more times than I’ll admit. That’ll shake a person into the knowledge of need and it did me.

I turned off the music and just sang out that chorus on repeat. I realized how beautiful the words “my one defense, my righteousness” are to my soul. My defense against sin and deception and all the forms it takes in my day (frustration, fear, worry, pride, selfishness) is that righteousness is planted in me. God’s grace reaches deeper than my sins can ever go so that I am freed to righteousness in Christ.

My one defense to sin (Christ) is also my victory over sin (righteousness). It’s all wrapped up in one glorious bundle and it took way too long today for me to live like that truth is a Thursday reality. Too long.

I need You, Lord. O my, how I need You!

You have authored miracles in my life to free me from fear and pride and selfishness and worry. I desperately need You to help me walk like You’ve done just that. And I will never grow out of that desperate need.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

 

the weight of the bread | the need of a Pilot

The kitchen smells like dessert but the taste of communion bread still lingers in my mouth.

At the Desiring God conference last weekend, Kevin DeYoung encouraged us not to be timid with the bread when communion Sunday rolled around – to tear off a big chunk, just to feel the weight of it.

Unfortunately, my church passes a plate with pre-torn flatbread pieces so I had to imagine a weightier loaf. And I did imagine. Sitting up there in the balcony during the second service, I imagined the humanness of my Savior who walked on this earth. I imagined him lifting up the loaf of bread and motivating us to holiness as He declared it a symbol for His body.

As I imagined a weighty chunk of bread in my hand, I thought my Savior’s identity and how it shapes mine. DeYoung pointed out that, in Colossians 3, “God calls us chosen, holy, and beloved before He commands us to be eager about the process of becoming holy.”

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)

God does not call us to become holy so that we will be chosen, holy, and beloved. No, we become holy – from one degree to the next – as we are motivated by the weight His grace towards us. We become holy as we dive deeper into the study of God and are stirred up to live in a new way. We become holy by the grace of God and with the power of God as we understand our helplessness without Him.

This song is a story of such helplessness that motivates me to holiness. It’s kind of like holding a weighty chunk of communion bread in my hand and then letting it dissolve on my tongue. His calling me chosen, holy, and beloved is just as real as that piece of bread dissolving in my still-becoming-holy mouth and as gracious as the Pilot who enters the storm to navigate the castaway safely to the shore.

I’m not becoming holy so that I can get to shore.
I am becoming holy because I love so dearly the One who pilots my helpless ship.

Jesus, Savior Pilot Me by The Bifrost Arts

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal.
Chart and compass come from Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

Though the sea be smooth and bright,
Sparkling with the stars of night,
And my ship’s path be ablaze
With the light of halcyon days,
Still I know my need of Thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

As a mother stills her child,
Thou canst hush the ocean wild;
Boisterous waves obey Thy will,
When Thou sayest to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

When at last I near the shore,
And the fearful breakers roar
’Twixt me and the peaceful rest,
Then, while leaning on Thy breast,
May I hear Thee say to me,
“Fear not, I will pilot thee.”