21 Apr

Broken pieces

When I was younger I would watch my grandmother create stuff. She was and still is, an amazing painter, avid traveler and has always dominated those 1000 piece puzzles.

Specifically I can remember her showing me how to make things with stain glass.

First sketching a design, then choosing colored glass pieces, cutting them into specific forms and shapes, and lastly welding them together with melted lead.

It was a really interesting and intricate process.

The pieces of glass that we used were scraps no one wanted anymore. The broken pieces from projects that were going to be just thrown into the trash. But after we’d reshaped and crafted them to a new purpose – they completed our beautiful mosaic.

“We are all broken…that’s how the light gets in.” Hemingway

We are designed to mirror a perfect God even through the brokenness we’ve acquired. To shine His light through the cracks and crevices we’ve received by living in our humanness.

“You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

The God colors of this world can still be reflected by the scares of our humanity.

And You were created to be apart of His beautiful mosaic.

20 Apr

Talking to yourself

Have you ever talked to yourself?

It might sound like a strange question, but unless the psalmist in Psalm 42 was going crazy, he must have been onto something.

He spends the first 4 verses of Psalm 42 “pouring out his soul,” his complaint, his tiredness, his fears. And then, instead of being talked into deeper darkness by those fears, he sits them down for a chat: “Listen up – let me talk to you.”

So he begins questioning the way his heart rages, the way his hope has despaired, the way he’s lost sight of the God he once trusted. “Why are you in despair, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (vs. 5, 11). His soul is nearly crushed…but verse 5 takes a surprising detour. “Therefore, I remember You” (vs. 6).

He remembers who God is – “the living God,” “my salvation,” “the God of my life,” “my rock” (vs. 2, 5, 9, 11). He remembers what he believes, deep in his gut, truer than his truest feeling, that God will do – He’ll command His steady love to be with me, place His song in my heart at darkest night, overcome me like a waterfall. And despite all evidence on the contrary, he has faith that his soul’s black night will end in praise. “Hope in God; for I will praise Him again” (vs. 5, 11).

I’ve realized that when I feel overwhelmed, it’s usually because I’m listening to my fears instead of talking to them. But when the psalmist’s hope failed, he followed a piece of advice I once heard: “When your hope despairs, teach your despair to hope.” He commanded himself: do not forget your never-failing God.

If you need a few words to borrow as you teach your despair to hope, there’s a song I’ve loved lately called “Take Courage” by Bethel…and when fear takes root today, would you let these words, and the words of Psalm 42, do the talking: “Take courage, my heart; stay steadfast my soul. Hold onto your hope as your triumph unfolds; He’s never failing.”

19 Apr

Take courage

“Be courageous. You fight a toothless dragon.” – Spurgeon

I don’t know about you, but that quote makes the child in me start to stir. The 5-year-old part of me starts to swell with inspiration, the part that sees and believes unquestionably in a big, unconquerable God.

Then the “adult” in me begins to seep in – the tired part of me. The part of me that’s worn around the edges by the pains and disappointments of the world. I fight a toothless dragon? Well, my dragon must have claws or something, because life isn’t exactly easy…

But if Colossians 2:15 is true, then we can take courage! Whatever enemies we have were disarmed and stripped of their authority by the triumph of the cross. And if Romans 8:37 is true, then our confidence should swell even more: because of Him, we are more than conquerors. And if Joshua 1:9 is true, then we can be strong and courageous – because our God is with us.

It’s not about diminishing the size or difficulty of our battles; it’s about reacquainting ourselves with the size and power of our God. I think we get the idea that courage looks like big, triumphant moments, like the freedom speech from Braveheart – but too often, I forget where my strength and courage is supposed to come from: not from a feeling of boldness, but from the reality of God’s presence. We can be courageous not because the road ahead isn’t difficult, but because the God beside us is here to stay.

“…all Israel knows that your father is a fighter, and that those who are with him are brave.” 2 Samuel 17:10

My Father is with me and is fighting for me. I don’t know about you, but that makes the child in me start to come alive again.

18 Apr

Stripped of Satan’s Translation

Last semester I took a nonverbal communication class at UCF. It didn’t take long for me to become fascinated with the subject—I was hooked the first hour of class (actually, a little bit after we finished up the syllabus and started to cover the material).

The material we were learning in this class helped me realize the power and honesty nonverbal communication displays between two parties.

If you know me, the first thing I always try to do is connect anything I come in contact with to my relationship with God…and this communications course was no different.

One night my professor started to teach about reactions we display when our personal space is encroached. She said something that stood out to me:

“Ask the pain what it’s here to deliver.” – Michelle Dusseau

This phrase was supposed to help us distinguish the three types of encroachment, but it added perspective to “pain” that we suffer as Christians.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul writes:

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

In this passage, we see that Paul begged God to take away something that he thought was hurting him. Paul was quick to ask God to take away something that brought him closer to God, until his perspective changed.

“Ask the pain what it’s here to deliver.”

In Paul’s case, the pain was delivering a need for him to be dependent on God and not himself.

What hardship are you facing today?

What message, stripped of Satan’s translation, is it trying to deliver to you?

What is God using to bring you closer to him?

17 Apr

Confessions of a Teenage Pharisee

“This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.” -Rachel Held Evans

Back in high school, I distinctly remember a season when our weekly “men’s” (if you could even call us that) bible study was joined (briefly) by a new member from our neighborhood.

He was, as my mother would probably say, a “bad influence” type of guy – and definitely not the type you’d expect to find hanging around a church (except of course maybe to flirt with the youth group girls).

But anyway, there he was, and I’ll never forget this question he asked one night:

“So…let’s just say ‘somebody’ stole an iPod…are they going to Hell?” (Spoiler: ‘somebody’ was him)

Other than the initial bizarreness of the question, what I vividly recall was feeling both self-righteous, and also abruptly uncomfortable at the thought of sitting next to someone who had essentially just confessed to being a petty thief; a ‘sinner’.

In that moment, the little 16-year old Pharisee that I was had pronounced judgement in my heart – deciding that a) he was not welcome here and b) until he got the hint and left, I was going to keep my distance.

But here’s the thing, I don’t get to decide who is good enough, who is smart enough, or who is worthy enough to experience God’s grace, mercy, or love.

The truth is, that kid, ill-intentioned or not, wanted to be in that room with us; he was hungry – so who am I to judge?

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I (Jesus) have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5: 31-32)

And you know what? Thank God for that – I’ll be first in line.