Purpose in Pain

“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

Psalm 126:5

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Allowing God to mold us can seem like a never ending, painfully human process. It is full of highs and lows, humility and exaltation, and just when you think you have a handle on it, you find yourself in the pit, yet again.

But, just as dough must be kneaded, we too, must be worked. When a baker makes bread he must first press and pound and squeeze and stretch to create texture and strength in its structure. There is a time to roll it out flat and time for it to rise.

During our own kneading process, it is easy to get frustrated or question God by asking the same words He has undoubtedly heard over and over for thousands of years, “Why God? I thought you loved me, why is this so hard?”

When we look to Jesus, our perfect example, we see this question is the same heart’s cry He spoke from the cross in Matthew 27:46: “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?”

Even Jesus, God himself, felt the pain of perceived abandonment. If we were to layer our own thoughts on top of this Holy scene, we might imagine Jesus, in His immeasurable suffering and with the human part of His existence, allowing His physical pain to generate a spiritual pain, as well. A wide chasm created in the close relationship between obedience and discomfort, proving even awareness of a promise doesn’t make the process of getting there any easier.

In the midst of this hurt it is easy for us to lose sight of the Kingdom purpose. Job was not at ease when he saw his life stripped away from him, David was anxious and heartbroken as he was running from Saul, and Jesus found no physical relief from His wounds. But God is not one to leave us in our troubles, in fact, it is because of them we find our happiness, for “ those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy” (Ps 126). It was because they remained obedient and sought out God in their circumstances that Job eventually doubled his portions, David gained his throne, and Jesus overcame death.

We tend to feel that if we are obedient to God, then we should reap rewards and blessings accordingly, as though we have done Him a favor by doing what was asked of us. But God is in no need of our favors, only our devotion. And because He is full of compassion and mercy, He uses our obedience as a way for us to learn more about who He is, granting us our true Heart’s desire- a closer relationship with Him.

Physical comfort and obedience rarely go hand-in-hand. To be used means just that, “Use me, Lord.” We hand Him our free will and trust His discretion with our lives. This is at the same time a learned behavior and a natural desire for one who has tied his heart to God’s and longs to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21).

We can not separate our pain from our purpose, the two are wrapped around one another. If there is pain we will endure it and if there is pleasure we will dance in it.  We do not ask to be used in only comfortable places or heroic positions, we simply ask to be used.

 

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Image Credit: “Farmette.” http://farmette.ie/tag/dublin/

If You Long for Family

“So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them”

Genesis 1:27

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If you long for family, you long for your Father.

That laugh you have, it came from Him.

The ease of your conversation, the warmth of your heart, the way you dig in and get things done- all of these are attributes of the one who made you.

Look at your hands. Can you imagine His hands look something like yours?

The swing of your arms in rhythm with the stride of your step- He too walked in such a way (determined and full of purpose).

Our bodies were made to look like His. Supernatural DNA connecting us to Him. It is stronger than blood, though His blood is strong. It covers us in spite of ourselves. We fall to our face and soak in forgiveness…and mercy…and love. We stand tall under its redemption…and power…and promise.

In His image we find perfection.

Now look outside of yourself.

The mystery of God is that we are all made this way. Everyone has claim. When we look at one another let us look for our Father’s face. We long to see more of Him, so let us see Him in each other. My life is not happenstance to yours. They were written together.

Look at me, I look just like you.

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Image Credit: “The Creation of Adam.” Michelangelo

Two Knocks: A Metaphor, but not really.

“For every house is built by someone,

but the builder of all things is God.”

Hebrews 3:4

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How do you treat the enemy’s Lie when he knocks at your door?

Do you listen to his pitch and invite him in? Offer him a conversation, time in your head to wander around? Do you hear out his version of reality- falsehoods dressed as understanding but intended to destroy? He will be the houseguest that stayed too long- no longer a joy, but a drain on your energy and resources. Eventually Lie will want to move in and become a permanent fixture in your home. He will take the largest room for himself. He will expect you to run every new thought or deed by him first. You will compare the validity of your own ideas next to Lie’s and they will never feel like enough. He will soon expose himself as a demanding master.  The ceiling will feel lower and the walls unsteady. You will cling to Lie because there is a fear that the house might collapse around you. He will cuff your wrist to his and become your constant companion, never allowing you to go farther than the length of the chain.

But when Jesus knocks…

you can’t get to the door fast enough because you know, when you open it, He will be there. He walks in and the house changes. It just feels different now- somehow warmer and brighter, a better place to live. His arms are full of gifts. So much food, you don’t know how you will ever eat it all. You sit with Him at the table, listening to Him tell stories that fill and energize you. You never realized He was so funny and so clever. You start to tell Him about the house, but it seems He knows it already. It turns out, He is the one who designed it. He takes you on a tour of your own home, because He built it with His own hands. He shows you the foundation- how it is unshakable. How you never have to worry about the walls caving in because He took such care in their construction. The ceiling is different now, too. It used to feel like a stopping point, but now you see it goes on forever. He reveals hidden land you didn’t know was yours- space to expand and dream in. He could never stay too long. Life is wonderful with Him around.

For every house is built by someone…

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Image Credit: Edouard Vuillard. “The Artist’s Mother Opening a Door.”

“To the Church”

“Therefore encourage one another

and build each other up,

just as in fact you are doing.”

1 Thess. 5:11

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I’ve been convicted on encouragement.

A paradox it seems.

I was headed somewhere but God had other plans for me.

And I incurred an injury in the gap in-between.

 

So, I held my words close.

They became a salve to stop the bleed.

I used them on myself because I was in need.

 

I handed them out at leisure.

My own free will.

Acting as though they were my creation

stemming from my own skill.

 

I forgot they were all dedicated

in service to the Lord.

That before they were spoken

they were spoken for.

 

In Genesis, we read

how God spoke the world.

As it is in Heaven

let it be done on earth.

And as it is in Heaven

let it be done in His church.

 

When we speak life

we create strong towers.

Made from brick and mortar

not easily devoured.

 

But, when we keep our words

we create more silence.

Spaces for the enemy to move in.

An unwelcomed tyrant.

 

So, let me build something here

and make something right.

Speak to the church

based on heart-felt insight.

 

If you ever came to His house

and stood in a pit.

Hand reached high

waiting for someone to grab it.

And if I ever walked by

without extending my own.

I’m sorry that I left you there

all alone.

 

And if you ever showed up

with some heart’s desire.

A seemingly small thing

that felt like fire.

I’m sorry if my silence

was like water

and I put it out

by pouring it over.

 

And if you stand behind a pulpit

week after week.

Laying your heart out

for everyone to see.

Asking for encouragement,

“Can I get an Amen?

Is anybody with me?

Would you stand?”

I’m sorry that your courage was not met

because I sat and stared instead.

 

And if you hang in the shadows

humble, meek, and full of promise.

I’m sorry I was so full of self

that I didn’t notice.

 

If you ever walked over

out of obedience

to the Lord.

With words meant for life.

Momentum to push forward.

And I threw my hands up in front of me

in a perverse humility

I’m sorry that I killed them

instead of received.

 

But, let me not leave you

the same way we met.

Can I offer you, the church,

some encouragement?

 

Not as one up high

looking down.

But as an equal

standing with you

on level ground.

 

When I see you all, I see devotion and faith.

God is proud of you and what He has made.

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Image Credit: Jesus Name Church. Plainview, Arkansas

“Surely”

“And Jacob awaked out of his sleep,

and he said,

surely the Lord is in this place;

and I knew it not.”

Genesis 28:16

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Surely, my God can build a life

 

He built heaven and earth

suns and moons

planets and stars

grand things beyond comprehension

such that my imagination cannot fathom

nor create

thoughts too wonderful for me

 

my human-ness folds in

at the knowledge of them

God- imposed humility

when he sits his ways

next to mine

 

Yes, my God can build a life

 

He lays them down flat

and stands them up tall

they are woven

pulled-in

pressed together

bound in purpose

pliable

strong

 

to a God who sees the end from the beginning

a well-worn life

must look like a beautiful song

movement captured in bronze

a garden built in rows

thoughtful details

that make a whole

 

we wander through

as a blind man

who has lost his cane

one day at a time

we make our way

grabbing hold of promises

as they settle in close

relief found in words

etched in stone

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Image Credit: Henry Moore. “Reclining Nude.” Photo by David Finn.

 

“Selah”

“The unfolding of your word gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.”

Psalm 119:130

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Selah- Stop and think on these things.

These words I have written for you.

Swim in their waters. Rest in their shade.

They are a gift. An expression of who I am and what I care about.

Read my words.

Consume them with your eyes. Taste them with your mind. Let them fill your belly and change who you are.

Selah- Stop and think on these things.

I needed a way to communicate. Some way to share my thoughts.

I made letters and gave them meaning.

Ink and gave them form.

Paper so they would have a place to live.

My words were put in action. Lived out by people just like you. I brought my stories and understandings together, bound them in a book, and carried them across time.

The same words touch every heart. Driving my people towards their purpose. Individual lives all working together towards my plan.

Selah- Stop and think on these things.

Hold my book in your hands. Notice the way your fingers wrap around the edge as you instinctively pull it towards you and walk from one place to another.

This is not by accident, not just a natural occurrence.

You were designed for this. To carry me close.

Selah- Stop and think on these things.

When you learn who I am and see what I have done before, you become emboldened and reassured. Your voice becomes thick with meaning, your heart strong like iron, and your actions decisive and swift.

These words were meant for you. At the beginning of the world, when I put you together, I built you to love them.

Sometimes you fight against it because that is human nature- to sometimes shy away from truth.

But there is no bend in these words. Only further in and deeper down.

The breadth of it can be overwhelming, but if you trust me and let me lead, I will take you to where you need to go. To what you need to see and learn for yourself.

Revel in the joy of discovery. Intimate conversations between my heart and yours.

Don’t forget who I am.

Selah- Stop and think on these things.

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Image Credit: Carl Vilhelm Holsoe. “The Open Window.”

“Those Wonders”

Do you know

how the clouds hang poised,

those wonders of him

who has perfect knowledge?

Job 37:16

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You sat your promise in the clouds

a rainbow in the beginning

a Savior in the end.

 

Everlasting covenants

between you and your people.

 

When Israel needed a roadmap

-something to follow-

you made yourself a pillar

and led the way.

 

Man makes pillars from

labor and sweat.

Monuments to self.

 

Starting from the bottom

we build our way up.

 

Using our hands to shield the sun,

our eyes towards the heavens,

we proudly proclaim

“Look, come see what I did.”

(a practice in vanity)

 

You make your pillars from

when water meets air

and fire by night.

 

You sat them far above

and we tilt our heads to admire.

(“I am the Lord,

the God of all mankind.

Is anything too hard for me?”)

 

We move at your command

a millennial minded pace

blocks of

seconds

minutes

hours

days.

 

In the morning we cry,

“Rise up, O Lord!”

with a “Return!”

as our evening prayer.

 

You speak through your creation.

Ancient stories told in three dimension.

Ever-present reminders

of the Ever-Present.

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Image Credit: Jennifer Bruehwiler

 

 

To Inspire

“For where your treasure is,

there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:21

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To inspire

 

round up an army

and

see

it

move

 

One needs a voice for such a thing.

 

But my platform

is His alone

 

an

audience

of

One

 

an echo chamber

 

built on

frustration

and

love

 

Did Martin Luther not feel the same?

And did God not make a way?

 

He hung his heart

on a wooden door

With hammer and nails

– Carpenter’s tools

 

Desire is there because He planted it

and seed eventually breaks the soil.

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“Among the Rocks”

“…with honey from the rock

I would satisfy you.”

Psalm 81:16

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I looked for you among the rocks today
~
Hoping to find something valuable
something hidden underneath
an object to place in my pocket
feel its weight and know
“This, this came from God.”

~
I created a path in stone
turned them all over
rhythmic succession
relentless pursuit

~
I held them in my hands
weighed their worth
Finding none, I asked out loud

“Where? Where is it found?
This thing I am looking for.
Called towards.
Considering.”

~
Suddenly, yet slowly still
a response
an impression
a footprint
an insight

“See, the value
is in the conversation.
The stones themselves.
In the seeking
not just the found.”

~
Now they were all precious
moments to be treasured
taken home
talked about

~
I found you among the rocks today

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Image Credit: Ester Roi. Social Network. Mixed Media.
See more of her work and read her blog at www.esterroi.com.

Humility in Worship

“Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”

Psalm 95:6

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“Humility in Worship”

I tried to capture it in words

to aid in understanding

Something you could grab with both hands

and say “Yes, this- this is it.”

 

But this gift is spoken in movement

experience and consecration

something lived through

—muscle memory

 

It is felt in bent knees and outstretched arms

bodies rounded like rocks

natural responses to a

Holy Spirit

 

An unrestrained love, crying out

be small Living Sacrifice

go back to the dirt

return completed

 

I tried to capture it in words

to aid in understanding

Something you could grab with both hands

and say “Yes, this- this is it.”

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