Friday, December 31, 2010

Finding It

(This is the beautiful journal I received from a friend for Christmas...Writing is one of my "sweet spots.")

Surely we have all experienced one of those moments when we truly come alive, awake to the part of ourselves that we did not know existed. If you’ve encountered this kind of thing, you know it’s a thrill like no other. It’s not an adrenaline high like sky-diving or bungee-jumping, but it’s the rush of doing what you were specifically created to do. As far as our reason for living goes, we all have the same general purpose- to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord- but exactly what that looks like is determined by each person’s unique purpose. For some, that may be serving in a political office, exemplifying integrity in a corrupt sphere. For a different person that might mean saving lives as a pediatric oncologist. For yet another person, it could be going into the mission field and dedicating his life to sharing Christ with those who don’t know Him. Each of us was created with a combination of talents and desires unlike those of anyone else, and each of us has a unique reason for being on this earth. Often we find our reason for being here when we look within ourselves at the true desires of our hearts, the fragile dreams that we often keep secret rather than expose to the scrutiny of the world. It is there, where your yearning is keenest and your longing the greatest, that you can discover what you were made to do.

So often we stifle our hopes for the spectacular and ambitious, instead settling for what we know is safe and attainable. We become practiced and skilled at convincing ourselves that the things we long for are not what we need or what is best for us. At times, we’re completely right (no, you do need to buy a BMW, eat an entire cake, or bear Ryan Reynold’s children), but in other instances I think we need to pay more attention to desires that may very well be put in us by the Creator Himself. I love what Oswald Chambers had to say about this:
“If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified. There is nothing noble the human mind has ever hoped for or dreamed of that will not be fulfilled.”

Take a moment to think about the times when you have felt most alive, most like you were fulfilling the purpose you were created for. Don’t you find that in those moments, you tasted the fulfillment of those things that you had most hoped for and dreamed of? It’s a precious thing. If you haven’t found it yet, keep dreaming and keep searching, because it’s out there. Your passion, your purpose, your sweet spot, or whatever else you want to call it- when you find it, hang on fiercely and don’t let go.

Have you found it yet?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Joyful and Triumphant

You may not see it or hear it, but there is a war raging. It is the longest and most ferocious battle the world has ever seen, with more casualties than can be counted. On one side are the forces of darkness, Satan and his minions, and on the other is God, all His angels and everything that is good. They’re fighting over you.

God Almighty is madly, passionately in love with you. He has been since He first conceived of you, since He breathed life into you and arranged every particle of your body just so. You were made to love Him. But as it is, there is one who despises Him- Lucifer, that first fallen angel, Satan. As everyone knows, the best way to hurt someone is to take away that which is most precious to him. And thus, you have become the target of Satan’s sweetest lies and cruelest affections. His goal is to seduce you, to lure you away from God and to himself because he knows that you are what God loves most. It is here that the battle begins.

Time and again, God warned you of Satan’s schemes. Oh, did He warn you. But you didn’t heed the warnings of the Most High, and you ran straight into the arms of evil. In fact, you even enjoyed it. You relished every rendezvous, savored each moment of spiritual death, and told yourself that nothing that felt so good could be wrong. And every time, each illicit meeting ended the same way, with you at God’s feet begging Him to take you back. In His mercy, He said yes. Because He is a God of justice, He said a price had to be paid. For centuries, countless sacrifices were made for your sake. Satan is persistent though, and you were weak. And so the cycle continued, with you continually forsaking the One who loved you beyond comprehension for a tawdry affair with evil.

He is relentless. His love for you is so great that despite your sordid betrayal, He was still unwilling to hand you over to the enemy. He fought for you, often in a battle you were oblivious to. And as this battle wore on, your love of treason grew greater. Finally the time came. The King set into motion the breathtaking battle tactic that would bring a sure and final victory. This tactic had been prepared since the first time you let Satan have his way with you, because He knew you could not fight the battle for yourself. And on a cold night in Bethlehem, God Himself marched quietly and solemnly down to the frontlines.

Thirty-some years later, Satan thought he had won. There was the King, betrayed yet again, naked on a cross, beat and bloodied beyond recognition. But he hadn’t won, not at all. For as any soldier knows, to draw the blood of a king brings grave consequences. And when the blood of the Most High King is willingly shed, it’s enough to alter eternity. Your price was paid, your relationship restored, your debauchery eliminated. It is not that your unfaithfulness was masked by His death, or that His death allowed your sin to be overlooked. No, He obliterated everything that stood between you and Himself. When you were choosing to dabble in darkness, you had unknowingly become a prisoner of war. His sacrifice broke the bounds of the natural world, surpassed time and space and the devil himself to wrench the chains of death from about your neck. He paid your ransom by offering Himself, and in the purest display of love that has no limits, He offered you the greatest gift- His life for you to share in for eternity.

He has fought for you, He has died for you, and He has risen for you. There may be more battles, but the war has been won. Nothing- not death, not life, not your past, not your future, not the greatest powers of evil- can ever separate you from Him. That victory is a gift great enough to last for eternity.

The King is triumphant, and you have reason to be joyful.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Something that I have been learning over the past year is the art of gratitude. It is more than simply giving thanks for friends, family, and good health. It is about remembering with every breath from Whom all blessings flow, delighting in even the most inconspicuous of treasures, being constantly in awe of the goodness of your God. It is about living each moment in the knowledge that you deserve nothing, yet have been given everything.

A gratitude journal, in which one simply jots down daily a list of things for which he is thankful, is a wonderful way to practice the art of gratitude. What better day than today to practice?

Today, I am especially grateful for…

…the breathtaking arrival of autumn in all its golden-hued splendor. The copper, amber, rust, and gold leaves are exquisite confetti, annointing the grass, the sidewalk, the streets, announcing the arrival of autumn. Every cloudy breath is frosty spotlight, every puddle a stage for the raindrops' waltz. In what other season are we treated to such a vibrant visual feast?

…my jobs. As busy as it makes my days, as difficult as it makes it to schedule anything, I am blessed to be employed, especially in this economy. Every time I buy groceries or get emails reminding me that tuition payments are due, I am reminded of how glad I am to be working.

…whoever found my iPod at the gym yesterday and decided to turn it in to the front desk rather than taking it home and considering it an early Christmas gift.

…family. My family can be strange, I’ll admit it. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those dinners where you hardly eat anything because the whole time you’re overcome by laughter- the kind that leaves you teary-eyed and red in the face, makes every muscle in your belly cramp up, and leaves you wishing you hadn’t drank that last glass of water- they’re priceless. I love that even when I’m without a stitch of makeup and my hair texture is scarily similar to Richard Simmons’, they still want me in the family photos. They’ve seen me through my awkward years (still waiting for the light at the end of that tunnel, but I’m hopeful!), they’ve seen when I wake up in the morning, they’ve seen me when I’m on my worst behavior, and they’ve been the recipients of my less-than-Christ-like actions more times than I’d like to recall. But by the grace of God, they still love me.

…the pumpkin smoothie I had for breakfast this morning. So much goodness (and beta carotene) in a single wine goblet! And yes, I had my smoothie in a wine goblet and ate it with a spoon. The goblet because I’m classy like that, and the spoon because…well, I couldn’t find a straw, and a spoon was the next best thing.

…this country. What a blessing to be born in the birthplace of freedom. Too often I take for granted how blessed I am to be able to go to church, sing songs of praise, pray in public, and talk about God without any fear of being arrested or imprisoned or worse. I don’t particularly desire to own any sort of firearm, but if I were to be overtaken by the urge to buy one, I could. As a woman, I can go in public with my face exposed, I can be employed, I can get an education, and I can choose who I marry and when I get married. I look at Old Glory flying high and proud and know that it’s is because countless men and women have loved this country enough to give everything they had to ensure the liberty and safety of America’s people. In light of the recent events playing out in South Korea, I am once again reminded that, despite her faults, America really is the best nation in the world.

…the twenty years that I was privileged to know Charles Talley, Jr. He encouraged my love for writing and my faith in the Lord, and I only hope he’s proud of my progress in both areas. He was the best grandfather and one of the most Christ-like, honorable men I have ever known, and it was impossible to be around him without laughing and knowing that you were loved.

…this semester. I have been challenged, stripped of pretenses, and thrown in the deep end, and through it all, I’m learning to tread the waters of adulthood. I have experienced the tremendous blessing of being a part of the Student Leadership team, which has been a great part of my growth this semester. I have refined current relationships, forged new friendships, and met people whose role in my life I can’t predict, but I’m better for knowing them. It has been a tumultuous four months, but my heads about the water and I’m still swimming.

…sleep. I’ve always enjoyed a good nine hours, but now that I have become acquainted with the joys of working the morning shift at a coffeehouse (do you know what waking up at 4am does to your circadian rhythm? Not to mention the circles under your eyes…), I have a completely new appreciation for my REM cycle.

…Love, Light, Logos. The Lamb, the Rabbi, the Messiah. His names were many, His purpose was one- to redeem those He loved beyond the limits of time and space and life itself. That He would cherish me enough to take the punishment I deserve, in order that He could offer me that of which I am not worthy. That He could know me more than I know myself, that He could see the ugliest and most base parts of who I am and still deem me valuable enough to die for. That He would see me drowning in the miry depths of my own sin and still reach out His holy, nail-pierced hands to lift me into His kingdom of grace. When it comes to Him, I will never be able to fully express my gratitude.

Tell me, on this celebrated day, what are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010


We are afraid of what we cannot control. If we did not plan it, prepare for it, and chart a course for it, we don’t want it. And the idea of being led into unfamiliar territory is terrifying. If God is the One guiding us along this uncharted trail, then what do we have to fear? We can rest in the assurance that His plans are good, helpful, filled with hope for the future (Jeremiah 29:11). But we’re still scared, aren’t we? It is impossible to imagine forsaking the trail we know so well, the one we've grown accustomed to, the trail we've waited our whole life to hike, all to venture into the untamed, uncontrolled, and unknown. We are so scared of relinquishing the reigns of our life that if forced to choose between our own plans with which we are familiar, and Someone’s plans which are unfamiliar to us but which have been promised to be amazing, we will often choose our own plans. If we are going to have a fantastic future, we want to be in charge. We want to know exactly what wonderful things are headed our way, precisely when each terrific occasion is scheduled to occur. And sometimes our craving to keep control outweighs our desire for that fabulous, hope-filled future that is ours to be claimed.

There will always be reasons to stick to your own plans. When you’re scared to trade in what you had planned for what God’s got for you, the reasons will jump out at you from around every corner, seducing you with their promises of comfort and complacency. Trust me, I know. For the past several months I have been wrestling with some major choices, one of them involved a choice between staying and going. I kept finding reasons to go, to leave…recently God showed me that I’ve been trying to run. I’ve been able to find so many reasons to leave, so many reasons to change, because I have been afraid that God’s plans might not include my own. To stay would mean to need to put in the effort to continue to explore the path God’s set me on, the discipline to navigate my way through obstacles and challenges I had never thought to prepare for. In short, to stay would be to have to conform to a new plan, one that I didn’t grow up dreaming about, one that wouldn’t go the way I had imagined it would. But time and again, God has shown me how much greater His plans are compared to mine. In this case, His plans are nothing like mine- they’re so much better.

There is no denying that the thought of breaking out of complacent, secure dreams of the future and stepping into the unknown is terrifying. We all long to be tightly wrapped in the arms of safety and stability, but we have to ask ourselves if we are searching in the right places for this comfort? Are the plans that we construct without the boundaries of our own knowledge and faith enough to keep the wild world from touching us? Or do we need something stronger, a script written by Someone omnipotent and omniscient? We can’t let the flames of fear burn so hot and so high that they torch the bridge between us and the future handcrafted by God. If fear keeps us from walking across that bridge, if it forces us to take a detour rather than stay on the path laid out for us by the Almighty Himself, then we have let the Enemy have the upper hand. But our God has called Himself the Living Water for a reason, and it is by His grace and in His strength that we find the courage that douses fear’s flames and turns a fiery impasse into a course we can walk with confidence.

The thought of surrendering control is scary, but the thought of relying on the my own plans rather than the plans of the Alpha and Omega, the One who spoke creation into being, the God who knows my thoughts before I think them?

Well that, my friends, is terrifying.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


A few days ago, I finished Hebrews and was looking for the next book to read when Joshua, chapter 4, caught my eye. In the margin, I saw my own handwriting, “It’s important to remember all God has done for us.” Beneath that, I could see that I had annotated Joshua 4:4-7. At this point in the story, Joshua has just lead the Israelites across the Jordan river, and God told Joshua to choose one man from each of the twelve tribes to go to the middle of the river (which God has made dry for them to cross) where the Ark of the Covenant is being held by the priests. Each man is to get a rock from that spot, and bring it out of the river to put down where they stay that night. Joshua reveals to the people the purpose of the rocks, “They will be a sign among you. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these rocks mean?’ Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the Agreement with the LORD crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this” (Joshua 4:6-7, NCV).

I don’t remember what I was thinking when I read this specific passage last year as I read through the book of Joshua, but when I read it again, it was a clear reminder that I need to rethink things. For the past couple months, I’ve been focusing on the present, what is happening to me here and now. I’ve experienced blessings, certainly, but also more stress, grief, confusion, and heartbreak than ever before. In the thick of all that, I’ve become concentrated on all the difficulties and trials and failures I’m experiencing. And in doing so, I’ve forgotten to remember. I’ve forgotten to remember how far God has brought me, how much He has done for me, the amazing ways He has worked in my life. It was as though I forgot to grab a rock out of the Jordan when I treaded across the dry riverbed, and without that rock, I forgot that my feet had ever crossed the river. I didn’t have something to remind me of God’s faithfulness and power, or maybe I had something and forgot it was there. Either way, standing here in the thick of chaos, I forgot to remember. I only looked so far as the storm around me, and I forgot to take the time to reflect on God’s goodness.

It’s so easy to forget. To remember what God has done for you is to refuse to be consumed by the moment and to reject the temporary, to look away from the mountain before you and instead take the time to look at all the mountains you’ve already traversed. It requires time and discipline, and it doesn’t necessarily change anything about where you are or what obstacle you’re facing. But it reminds you of the One who has brought you thus far, who has dried up rivers for you to cross, walked on water to still the storm, risen from the grave to offer you redemption. He is the One who walks with us still. Maybe you need a tangible reminder, like the rocks the Israelites brought out of the Jordan. Maybe you need a routine, like keeping a gratitude journal. Maybe all you need is some time spent in reflection. As you conquer trials and as you see God working in your life, set up reminders for yourself so that the next time you’re standing on the bank of a river and wondering if you’ll ever make it across, you won’t have to wonder- you’ll remember.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


It’s been too long since I last took the time to write, and I can feel it. My thoughts are tumbling around in my mind all day and then they spill out at night when I’m attempting to sleep. So bear with me as I try to get out a little bit of what I’ve been thinking over the last month.
Awhile ago I was reflecting on what it was like to ride in the backseat of my parent’s van at night. For me, it was one of the best feelings in the world. I was snug in my child-safety seat, a long starry expanse of midnight stretching outside my window for my viewing pleasure, and my dad was at the wheel. Yes, there were annoyances like limited leg room, squabbles with my siblings, and the seemingly endless nature of road trips, but despite it all I knew this- I was safe. “Daddy” was at the wheel, he knew where he was taking us, he would get us to our destination, and above all, he would keep us safe. I never questioned any of this until I began driving. My driver’s ed. curriculum (and the requisite “Red Asphalt” video) informed me- in sterile, straightforward terminology- of nearly ever single thing that could possibly go wrong on the road. My overactive imagination took care of the rest. Suddenly, I could not ride in the car without worrying that one of the multitude of disasters I had learned about would happened. The worst time was one night when my family was driving back from dinner at some friends’ house about an hour from home. Part of the ride took place on a two lane, poorly-lit road with no center divide…and all of the ride took place after dark. Needless to say, I was a bundle a anxiety, fear, and desperate prayer in the backseat as I stared at the road ahead and tried to look out for oncoming traffic while simultaneously watching for any signs of drowsiness or inattention in my dad as he drove us home. All the enjoyment I had taken from night rides in the past was absent, and in its place was unadulterated fear.
I have come to realize over the past month that this scenario is scarily similar to the way that I relate to God at times. Trusting God with what he’s doing in my life is not my strong point as a Type-A, obsessive-compulsive control freak. Too often I go through life feeling like I did at sixteen in the backseat- I see everything that could go wrong, all the possibilities for danger, humiliation, failure, rejection, etc., rather than trusting Him with the childlike faith that He tells me to have. Why is it so hard to do that? Why is it so difficult to trust God with directing my life the way my child self trusted my dad to drive safely? Perhaps it’s because God is the great Conductor. He has the entire piece of music before Him, pages and pages worth, while I can see only one measure at a time if I’m lucky. Most of the time I’m living note to note. To me, a sudden key change can seem disastrous, but God knows that it’s necessary to get to the next, more beautiful movement of the piece. Moreover, the melody is constant- “For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” That melody never changes throughout my life, or any of His children’s lives.
This has all been a stumbling attempt to say simply, we need to remember who we are. We are children of God. Children. He is our Father, and He is at the wheel. He knows what he is doing without a map or GPS system. No matter how dark the night may be, He knows where He is taking us, and He will get us there safely. He wants to know our worries and concerns, not so that He can navigate around some upcoming obstacle that He overlooked, but so that He can comfort us and put our worries to rest.
So buckle up, and let Him drive.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ambiguous Christianity

What is it that sets apart Christians from people who are kind, generous, and generally “nice” yet are not believers? These days, it’s getting harder and harder to tell. At times there appears to be no difference at all between the two groups of people. Yes, there are many things that God calls Christians to do and be- to forgive, to be kind, to serve others, to love- that many unbelievers also do and are. The difference is from whence these values and lifestyle traits stem. In the case of a Christian, these traits are rooted in our love for Christ, and when we promote these values and habits we should present them as elements of the gospel of Christ. As followers of Christ, our relationship with God should be not only the focus of our existence, but also the definition of who we are. To teach and encourage love, kindness, mercy, and so on without acknowledging Christ as the source would be akin to lauding the groundbreaking studies of a scientist without ever giving credit to the scientist himself. Unfortunately, that is exactly what many of we Christians are doing. In an effort to make Christianity appear more accessible (apparently Christ’s life was not enough of a testimony to the fact that God’s love encompasses all and bears no prejudice or divisions), many Christian individuals, organizations, and churches have begun presenting biblical truths in a watered-down, non-confrontational manner. I assume this is in effort to avoid having the gospel of Christ perceived as controversial or offensive to any member of today’s tolerance-obsessed society. As society has become more and more about acceptance and nondiscrimination and free love, so has the Christianity many people are presenting to the world. The result is a severe blurring of the lines between Christians and the rest of the world.

I believe this trend is something we as the body of Christ must work to change. This ambiguity in the presentation of the Gospel and its truths is a tragedy because it is essentially a removal of Jesus Christ from Christianity, and that makes it no Christianity at all. Jesus did not mince words when He was proclaiming His Father’s truth, and I don’t believe we should either. It is clear from His example that it is possible to be compassionate and merciful without dulling the double-edged sword that is the word of God. What is it that makes modern-day Christians think they need to package the word of God in spiritual bubble-wrap in order for nonbelievers to accept it? The Gospel is not something that we are to accept with ease, and then continue on with our lives. No, it is a collection of truths that should turn one’s world upside down, make him question his life thus far, throw him into a state of wonder and awe, and transform him entirely. The world is not a comfortable place for the Gospel. This world was crafted by the Creator and then invaded by evil. Naturally, a world that relishes living under a deceitful tyrant is not going to want to hear news of the rightful King. We would do well to take a look at the reactions of the people who were the first to hear of God’s plan for salvation. Many of them did not initially embrace the message of Christ. There was much to wrestle with- the convicting nature of laying aside pride to admit one’s sinfulness and inability to escape such a desperate state without help- and wrestle they did, until finally they heeded His call.

This is not to say that we should take Jonathan Edwards approach and preach fire and brimstone to every nonbeliever we come in contact with. Nor is it to speak negatively the these elements of Christianity so often adopted by nonbelievers whenever society deems them trendy or politically correct- things such as love, kindness, service to others, peace, and such. Rather, I believe that we as Christians must be bolder about proclaiming Christ’s message in its entirety, without leaving out the more controversial, less-PC aspects (such as Christ Himself). It is possible to present the Gospel, including its most convicting and confrontational parts, without sacrificing any of the love, mercy, or compassion that God calls us to. To proclaim the Good News in this manner would be to follow the blueprint of Christ’s own life on earth. God’s love is a “come as you are” offer to everyone, but He does not intend to let those who come stay as they are. Therefore an insipid call to embrace a lifestyle of “love” and “peace” and other such nice things is worthless if it does not include a call to be transformed by the power of Christ and live in the reality of God’s kingdom.

If we stopped spouting a watered-down, fluffed-up theology and put Christ back at the center of modern Christianity, it’s true that more people would reject the Gospel than do now. Our worries in fulfilling the Great Commission should not be how many people we “win” for Christ, because the fact is that we are incapable of doing that. It is our call to preach the Gospel (and it is only truly the Gospel if we acknowledge Christ as being at the core of every good thing that stems from it- love, grace, selflessness, etc.), but only God can change His children’s hearts. One could go about his whole life proclaiming Christ as Savior and living a life that is a testimony to the goodness of God, without anyone ever accepting Christ as King because of his words or his work, and I believe that when God greeted him at heaven’s gates, that man would hear a hearty “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” We sow the seeds, and God does the reaping. We mustn’t be anxious about the divisive nature of the Gospel but rather embrace that aspect of it, and proclaim it with hearts overflowing with sincere, Christ-like love and compassion. We should concern ourselves with presenting to the world the authentic gospel of Christ. The rest we humbly leave to God.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Out of Darkness

(Note: I wrote this earlier this year, and I had put it on Facebook in my Notes, but I wanted to have it in my blog as well.)

Out of Darkness

Thub thump.

Thub thump.



Slowly and faintly, something throbs away in the darkness. Despite the shadowy murk, it is obvious that this thing, whatever it is, is ugly. As minutes peel away a few degrees of the oblivion of the dark, the throbbing mound becomes more visible. Bloody and raw, at first it looks like something from the side of the highway, probably a slab of fresh road kill.

But wait.

A closer look reveals that this is no dead animal. Rather, it is a piece of some body, an organ. Is it….a heart? The throbbing, which is growing weaker and more erratic with each passing minute, makes sense now. Another minute of inspection explains why the beating has slowed to nearly nothing: the heart is mangled and damaged almost beyond recognition, and each nearly inaudible thub, thump of the organ releases yet more of its lifeblood onto the dank cement floor, the circle of wet scarlet growing wider and wider. Gnarled scar tissue runs like knobby tree roots over almost all of the heart. Parts of it are discolored purple and almost black, revealing badly bruised tissue, accented by cruel lacerations that are gaping open. Festering sores abound all over the heart. No part of it is untouched by some form of mutilation. It looks as though this heart has been stomped on, rubbed across asphalt, hammered, and stabbed. No amount of normal wear and tear could disfigure a heart to this extreme. Something or someone must have brutally mauled this thing, because no natural cause could maim it so. Another minute of studying the heart and suddenly bile rises in the back of my throat. This heart has been here awhile. A long, long while. What was almost unperceivable at first is now an obvious layer of mold, concentrated when the rawest wounds are decaying.

The sight of this pathetic heart, nearly lifeless but still just barely beating, is revolting. It can serve no purpose, benefit no one, lying here on the cold floor. Anyone can see it would be better off in a dumpster, rotting away in an appropriate place rather than soiling the ground and repulsing everyone who sees it. I take one step closer to the heart, and thunder fills my ears. Crashing, booming, earth-shattering, knock-you-on-your back thunder. The sound washes over me and consumes the atmosphere. There is no more air in here, only thunder rolling over and around me. I sink slowly to the floor, trying to get my bearings before I think about what could be causing this magnificent, terrifying noise. Before I am on the ground, a pinprick of the brightest light I’d ever seen pierces through the heavy darkness. My eyes follow the stream of light and it leads me to look upon the most decayed, battered part of the heart, a hundred times uglier now that it is showcased in this light. I realize that the light is getting stronger, covering more of the heart and becoming brighter, if that’s even possible. Within a minute the entire heart is exposed, a revolting, quivering mass of rotted, mangled flesh more grotesque than I had ever thought possible.

I sit there, immobilized by my simultaneous awe and revulsion. The combination of fearsome thunder, exquisite light, and the ugliest sight I’d ever seen overwhelmed my senses and halted my thoughts. I’m not sure how long I was there on the ground, perhaps only moments, although hours would be just as likely. My stupor was shattered when I gradually realized that the thunder had been replaced by a voice. I could not place it, but the voice was familiar. At the same time, it was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I pondered it, listening to the timbre and cadence as the words poured out smoothly. All at once, I realized what it was. The voice was the very same that had centuries ago proclaimed “I am the way and the truth and the life.” It was the voice that had cast out demons and cried out in agony on the cross. Trembling, I listened more closely to what the voice was saying.

“My dear child, get up.”

Miraculously, the heart started to throb. It began to beat, and with each beat it became stronger and steadier. The rotted and decayed and scarred tissue fell away, the gaping wounds began to close, and the bruises faded before my eyes. Somehow, this vile thing had been reconstructed before my eyes. Where moments before had laid a lifeless, disfigured organ, now there was a strong, beautiful heart. Suddenly, the form of a girl grew around the heart. My shock increased a hundredfold as I realized the form was my body, and in that confused, amazed instant, I realized I was not watching this transformation but experiencing it. I was not sitting in the darkness, rather I was being bathed in that pool of the most splendid light. My hands covered my face, and I shook with the horrorific realization that the contemptible heart I had seen was not just any wretched organ, but my heart. I had seen the inside of myself, the darkest, vilest, most sordid parts of me. That thing was me at my most basic, and He had seen me as I truly was. Shame and fear filled me, and I scrambled away into the darkness, hoping against hope that maybe if I stayed in the dark He wouldn’t see me, and yet knowing that nothing was ever hidden from Him. Curling myself into a tight knot, I waited for punishment to come. Again, I heard the unmistakable voice, more insistent this time.

“My dear child, get up.”

I peeked through my fingers, wondering who this magnificent voice was speaking to. I was alone. It began to dawn on me that He must be speaking to me. Squinting to shield my eyes from the brightness, I gradually uncurled myself. Shading my eyes with my hands, I dared to look towards the light once again. I heard the voice call out a third time, gentle but urging. It was nearly impossible to resist. His voice was full of so much- splendor, power, beauty, grace, mercy, and love. Was it possible He was directing this to me, after what He had seen in me, laid bare and ugly in His glorious light?

“My dear child, get up.”

Hope permeated my being and faith propelled me upward. I stood, and took one step, then another. I found myself at the edge of the light. I knew this next step would be both my last and my first.

I stepped into the light.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Anyone who has read the book of Ecclesiastes will know the familiar passage about time. “There is a time for everything…” We’ve all heard it so frequently that often it’s meaning is lost or it falls upon ears that refuse to hear. We all know that life has its seasons, and everything has a season all its own. Frankly, in the thick of life’s most trying times, this wisdom can seem pithy and trite because of its overuse. But despite that, this concept of the seasons of life is just that- wisdom, priceless wisdom.
Think about it in terms of the physical seasons. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. I’m sure there are a few Pollyannas out there who enjoy everything about every season, but most people I know love some seasons and can’t stand others. For instance, I hate summer. A day does not go by from May to October (some years, even into November) that I do not wish God had left summer out of the yearly rotation. I loathe the sticky, strangling heat that lasts long into the night. I abhor the blinding brightness of the sun bearing down on the earth, the heat shimmying up from the pavement in waves. I detest the fact that my sun-heated leather seats burn my derrière every time I get in my car. I hate summer.
Winter, on the other hand, has always been and forever will be my favorite season. Bring on the fog, frost, and freezing temperatures. The cold weather makes me come alive, draws me outdoors to enjoy the haunting beauty of grey skies and icy rain. As far back as I can remember I have been enchanted by any and all of the monochromatic winter landscapes that God paints across the earth. But as smitten as I am by winter’s charms, I admit that that summer is necessary. Without the heat and sunlight of my least favorite season, crops would not grow, and there could be no fall harvest. And there are even a few enjoyable things about summer. The joy of splashing into cool lake water, the magical glittering of fireflies, the smell of honeysuckle floating in on the morning breeze. If it weren’t for summer, there would be no watermelon, no iced tea, no evenings spent watching the sunset from a front-porch swing. Summer teaches me every year to be patient as I pine for winter’s arrival, and I am forced to find things to appreciate about a season that I find most aggravating. Despite all that I detest about the summer months, I recognize it’s benefits, and moreover, its necessity.
Such are the seasons of life. The delights and hardships of life ebb and flow, and no one is going to enjoy every season of his life. Still there is joy to be found and benefits to be reaped from every season of life. Seasons of loneliness can wean one of a dependency on others and lead one to lean on Christ alone. Periods of relationship struggles can teach humility and result in a more others-centered attitude. Spells of financial hardships can equip one with wisdom in monetary matters and release one from a materialistic lifestyle. Times marked by heartbreak can open one’s eyes to the faithfulness of God and His unending love. Yes, these seasons are inconvenient, unpleasant, even agonizing. But just like summer, the unpleasant seasons are often necessary. How often do we grow in character and faith during the blissful, worry-free seasons of life? As the scorching heat and blistering sunlight bring crops to fruition, so the challenges and ordeals of life’s more trying seasons bring about growth in us when we persevere through them.
Like the physical seasons, the sorrowful seasons of life do not last forever- the heat will eventually be replaced by cooler temperatures, the beating rays of the sun will soften, and the long-anticipated reprieve of “winter” will arrive. The “summers” of life will be more bearable if your focus is on Christ and you allow Him to edify you and bless you in each season of your journey through earth. Remember that Old Man Time doesn’t stop for anyone, and he never makes U-turns. Take the time to find the splendor in every circumstance, and make the most of every season, because once a season passes, you can’t get it back. You can’t go back and glean the lessons and growth that you missed along the way. So keep your eyes open, and keep your heart hopeful, because winter will come.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I grew up a “daddy’s girl” in a post-women’s-lib society, and somewhere along the way I got the idea that I was supposed to be tough and independent, capable of doing everything my dad did and never needing a man’s help for anything. I thought I needed to be Bear Grylls and Lara Croft rolled into one neat little tomboyish package. But recently, I came to terms with something so simple and yet completely new to me: I am a girl, and that is ok. I don’t need to enjoy steak, carpentry, or watching old Westerns in order to be a good daughter. Nor do I need to be able to converse intelligently about football, replace my car’s sparkplugs, or do twenty chin-ups. I am a girl. If I could do that stuff and enjoyed it, that would be fine…but I can’t, and I don’t, and that’s fine too. It’s ok that I like wearing skirts and smelling pretty and drinking herbal tea. It’s ok that I giggle and squeal and believe in the benefits of pedicures. It’s ok that I can start a campfire but can’t watch a fistfight in a movie without covering my eyes. It’s ok that I know how to shoot a gun but don’t like paintballing simply because it hurts like hell. I can’t do everything men can do- and if I could, I’m not sure I would want to. I’m a girl. Not only am I a girl, I’m a wimp, I’m squeamish, and I don’t like being dirty. I wear pink, I hate bugs, and I still would like to be a ballerina when I grow up. “Girly” is not a dirty word, and I am not a tomboy or a feminist. I am a girl- and it’s ok.

Friday, July 2, 2010


When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. And let me tell you- I’ve got to go. I’m not running away from anything, I’m looking for something. I have to go and get out and experience all that I can of God’s amazing creation, and somewhere out there I know I’ll find the place that God made with me in mind. Yes, I’ve heard it all, how “home is where the heart is” and “when you’re with the one you love, you’re home.” That’s fine and swell, and probably true, but there’s just something about certain places, don’t you know? I am by no means a world traveler- I’ve never been outside the U.S. except to go camping in the Mexican desert- and while I haven’t seen the most remote corners of the world, I’ve been here and there. And even with my limited experience I know there is something about a place that can draw you in and speak to you. I’ve heard sweet nothings whispered by the raindrops of a North Carolina thunderstorm and felt that intoxicating embrace in the warm clear waters off the coast of Kona. And because I know how powerful that pull can be, I want to see all that I can, from the lush landscape of New Zealand to the haunting hills of Ireland. I want to find out for myself if the wind feels any different standing on the peaks of the Swiss Alps than it does on the tundra of Alaska. It’s not just the exotic and foreign and extreme locales that I want to visit. I want to explore my own beautiful country. I want to see for myself just what shade of gold the sun appears when it’s rising over a cornfield in Nebraska. I want to smell the fog that winds its way into the atmosphere every morning in Maine. I want to watch the clouds roll across the sky while I lay flat on my back in Montana. I want to hear the crickets harmonizing after the sun goes down in Cajun country. I want to know if a front porch swing rocks any differently in on a South Carolina porch compared to a California porch. I want to go and look and feel and explore and know and be in all these different places- places I’ve been before and places I’ve only dreamed of, places a day’s drive away and places I have to charter a team of caribou to get to. I want to figure out where the air is sweetest, the water the freshest, the moon the prettiest, and my soul the freest. I want to find the place with the voice whose echo is etched into who I am. And maybe when I find that, I’ll finally hear, “Welcome home.”

Sunday, June 27, 2010


There is something peculiarly fascinating about hands. It may seem like an odd thing to be interested in (and you’d be right, but I can’t help myself in this case), but if you take a minute to think about it, you’ll realize how our hands are integral to so many aspects of humanity.

Our identity as humans, a unique species, is partly determined by our hands, our opposable thumbs. Life is sustained through the work of the hands- the tilling of the soil, sowing of the seed, the reaping of the harvest, the preparation of a meal, and the final act of consuming food. It is our hands that we use to demonstrate compassion when we hold one another, and love when we lace our fingers between those of another. Although the years may have stolen much of gravity and meaning it used to signify, the shaking of hands still symbolizes mutual trust and agreement. Soldiers show their solidarity and respect through a solemn salute. Our hands, placed over our hearts, show our patriotism and pride in our country when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited or the Anthem sang. In a wedding ceremony, putting a diamond ring or gold band on someone’s hand promises forever and pledges all you have to that person. Agitated rush-hour drivers and Little League coaches communicate with their hands (obviously conveying vastly different messages). The hands that a little boy uses to pick dandelions and built forts out of blankets may in years to come be used to pull triggers in Afghanistan. It is with our hands that we create and capture, with paint and pencil, with camera and clay. With their hands the members of an orchestra beckon life and beauty out of wood and strings and brass and keys. We use our hands to wipe away tears and shower applause on people we celebrate. For better or for worse, we can convey comfort and kindness, crudeness and callous attitudes, affirmation and affection, malice and mourning, brotherhood and belonging, lust and love…all with our hands.

Often people fail to realize that while we are able to use our hands to communicate in so many ways, our hands are doing some communication of their own. You see, your hands tell stories. A left hand that houses a single, simple band of metal on a certain finger can inform the world that your heart has been claimed and you’re off the market. Wrinkly, time-weathered hands whisper of a long life, a map of the past etched into them, having been artfully carved by life throughout the decades. Hand that wear worn out cuticles and ragged fingernails, covered in teeth-marks and chewed to the quick, stutter about a life that is marked with anxiety and fear, nervousness and panic and stress. Hands weighted down with ostentatious jewelry and expensive French manicures declare a life defined by wealth and decadence and high society. There is no mistaking the calloused, leathery, dirt-caked hands of a farmer, quietly speaking of humility and hard work, perseverance and dedication. Knuckles wrapped in bloody bandages boast to the world of a life spent in the ring, defined by uppercuts and knockouts, all in pursuit of a championship belt. Hands bound together by steel circles, with wrists encircled in the hem of orange sleeves, scream of a life that will at least in part be spent in an eight-foot wide cell. Those latex gloved hands that you permit to cut open your body in order to save it, they voice confidence and assurance, recalling years of schooling and residency and practice, more comfortable with a scalpel to hold than without.

My hands are nothing special. I had always wished for the delicate, long-fingered hands of a pianist, with dainty fingernails and undeniable grace. Instead, I have wide hands with stubby fingers. My fingernails are always cut short to aid my attempts to play my guitar. I have a faint scar running down each thumb, and together my hands have a total of four freckles. When I remember to put it on after I shower, a simple gold ring rests on my right hand. They are not beautiful hands, but they have stories (I’m rather glad my hands can’t talk, actually). There is one thing though, that I like about my hands. It isn’t so much about my hands as the hands that are linked to my own. These hands that hold mine pulled me out of the storm that was my past and lead me toward the brilliant light which is my future. These hands are strong and sure, confident and capable. These hands have wiped away tears, washed feet, and carried a wooden beam up the hill called Calvary. There is a hole in each of these hands, a place where my sin was struck down and His love streamed out. These hands speak of service and sacrifice, loyalty and love. These are the hands that are holding my life and my heart. These are the hands of Jesus, and they are the most beautiful hands I know.