Sunday, January 30, 2011

Butterflies and Memories

So I was flipping through the pages of my journal today when I stumbled across an entry I had completely forgotten. It struck me in a fresh and new way, so I've decided to share it. This is the reason that I write, because God teaches us things that are profound and life-altering and they should be remembered.


October 1, 2010

I love words. I really do. I am a Romantic through and through. To me, life is art; everything is a poem, a song waiting to be written. Each day brings some new adventure, some new lesson, some new discovery. Nothing is as it seems. There is always something deeper hidden below the surface, like precious gems waiting to be uncovered. And my Beloved... Oh, my Beloved is always there, reflected in every good and beautiful - and even dark and awful - thing around me. Yet, there are some experiences where it all falls short. The words, the songs, the poetry, the art... They cannot begin to capture it. Truth and beauty beyond words. A touch so profoundly impactful that it stills my pen - and my anxious heart. And words are replaced by smiles and laughter and gasps of delight and wonder. And then just stillness and the quiet joy (quiet, yet overwhelming) of simply being in the presence of my Beloved, sensing His smile, resting in His arms. That's the place where words fail, the place where simplicity overwhelms profundity.

I decided randomly to drive out to the lake today. I felt like I needed to get away and just sit and write and read and enjoy God. Never mind that I've never been out to the lake before and had no clue where I was going. My friend, Tonye, and I are always up for an adventure. After an hour and about seven wrong turns down dirt roads, we found ourselves on a narrow road lined with overgrown trees. As tempting as it was to turn around, in the spirit of adventure I kept going (after seven wrong turns I knew there'd always be a place to turn around). No one could have prepared me for what I saw. First one butterfly, with wings like the sunset, few passed my windshield, then a couple. Suddenly, there were hundreds! Covering the branches around me like orange blossoms, flying circles around my car. So I parked. Right there on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere (just south of Wits End... really, there was a sign). And I marveled. And I laughed and smiled and sat stunned as those beautiful creatures flew around. Then I glanced to my right and saw the sun setting, painting the sky some indescribable shade of orange and transforming the lake into a giant butterfly wing with its orange and black designs.

And I could say so many things. I could talk about how only when the lake is still can it truly reflect the light and become a work of art. Or how the butterflies simply fluttered about, never questioning their stunning beauty. Or about how butterflies fly in a way I can relate to: less than graceful, far from effortless, yet beautiful and completely content to the glory of their Creator. Or about how, often, it is when we have no idea where we're going or how we'll get there that we find the greatest gifts.

I could say any of those things, but great and true as they might be, those words are empty compared to the ones God whispered softly, tenderly, and directly to my heart. "This is for you, my darling. And it needn't teach you anything more than that I love you. As your physical senses savor this experience of beauty, may your heart savor this experience of my deep affection and fondness for you. As you smile at the sight of butterflies and sunsets, so I smile as I look at you, my beloved, my precious love." And once again, my soul finds true rest.

I will say one interesting thing I learned... butterflies are hard sleepers (who knew that butterflies sleep?!). Once they are at rest nothing can stir them. I'll confess... I tried. And so I find myself singing the words of that old hymn:

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy and whispers of love

Who is this God I have fallen so head over heels in love with? Can we really go any deeper? Oh, yes! Lord, lead the way!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Practice of the Presence of God

It's the start of a new semester, which means my schedule is far more packed than it should be. As always, it's a strange feeling coming off of a break when I could spend as much time with God as I wanted. Even when I "worked" it was doing ministry stuff. I constantly felt like I was in the presence of God. When life gets busy that becomes much more challenging as so many important things fight for my attention. Learning to worship at all times and in all things is hard to do. Over the break I read a little book by Brother Lawrence called The Practice of the Presence of God. God calls us to do things that are not as much spiritual as they are practical, like sitting in class and doing homework, or going to the office every morning, or whatever our current occupation might be. For Lawrence it was peeling potatoes. Still, God is omnipresent and if we open our eyes we can see evidences of His presence even in the most mundane tasks and transform them into something beautiful, into worship. The spiritual and the practical can, and must if we are to find a true sense of joy and purpose in all things, coexist. So here is a quote from the book that I have committed myself to praying every morning before I walk out the door. There is nothing better than to set our hearts continually on our Beloved.

"O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections."


Monday, January 10, 2011

Thoughts on God's Love

I wrote this months ago, but recent circumstances have me thinking about it once again, though in a deeper and more real way than when I wrote it. I'll say again, life is a spiral staircase. I'm blown away by God's love because it is so constant. He is so faithful and so forgiving. I'm so... not. Let's be real. I can say a lot of great things. God can even work through me in mighty ways. But the truth is on my own I'm a mess. Yet somehow, He keeps loving and He keeps working and refining and chipping away. He fills my empty words. He keeps teaching me. He extends so much more grace than I deserve, so much more forgiveness and mercy. My greatest prayer tonight is that I would learn to extend that same grace to those around me. God's love should change me. And as long as I'm on this earth, there will always be areas where I NEED God's love to come and change me. That's okay. I don't need to have it all together. There is always room for transformation. Praise God I'm never just stuck where I am! BUT that statement is true for everyone around me as well. We ALL need grace and understanding. I pray that I'll remember that and begin to live it.



I wonder sometimes about God’s love. I wonder at the shear expanse of it, how it stretches so far - far beyond my doubts and my fears and my useless fretting and my mistakes. It’s a love that covers all. I look at myself, how I vacillate between this young woman dancing and praising, totally on fire for God and this young woman in tears, exhausted by worry and unfounded fear and unbelief, a total basket case so full of doubt as if I had never witnessed God’s tremendous power and I wonder… How is it that He loves me? And I suppose if I could understand, if I did feel worthy, His love wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful. It’s the way that He keeps loving me through it all, even the moments I’m ashamed of, the moments of selfishness and unbelief and pride and self pity and bitterness, even when I refuse help and go off on my own, stumbling all the way. It’s when He loves me even so that I am blown away, and I am changed, little by little, transformed. I’m bloodied, bruised, and broken, and often it’s my own fault, yet He lifts me up and embraces me and sets me a right again… and again, and again. Let’s just add it to the list of the million things I don’t understand. Grace when I have none, and grace not just from Him, but from His people who are willing to put up with me! And I pray it changes me. I pray God’s patience and His people’s patience will chip away at my self-centeredness. I pray it will teach me to love like He does - through everything, in forgiveness. It’s humbling, this journey, and that’s a good thing. Costly and painful, but good. I’m so thankful to be learning, and for the faithfulness of those who love me and see me not as I am, but as I will be, and I pray I can be faithful too. I can’t say I understand how to balance life and emotions, how to deal with what God’s doing and what I need to do. I can only trust that we’re progressing and He’s working in and maturing me. “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.” His love is a like a hurricane and I, like a tree, bend beneath the weight of it. I bend, but I do not break. Praise God!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A Clinging Kind of Faith

Psalm 63

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

I love the Psalms. I think it has to do with the fact that they are so much like the pages of my own journal. They are full of heart cries, hard questions, deep longings, and uncontainable praise. They’re real. But sometimes I forget that, and I read them wrong. Like this one. I read it as words from a man who had it all together. I read it as if David was unshaken, like this declaration of faith was his knee-jerk reaction to the dismal situation he was in. When I read these words from the desert, it’s so easy for me to picture David as some invincible superhero who never battled doubt, whose feelings always lined up with his statements of faith. But I don’t think that’s accurate.

I think if I could see the manuscript and the man writing it, they would both be a lot different than I imagine. I think I would see the ragged script of a shaking hand. I would see letters blurred by tears. I would see ink blotches where he hesitated, wondering if he could ever really mean the words he was writing. And in all of that, I would sense the battle raging inside him. I would sense the same cry of a father in the gospels who cried, “I believe. Help my unbelief!” I wouldn’t see a fearless man. I would see a man desperately clinging to hope, writing down these words because he needs to believe them. I would see a man praying God would make his words true. I would see someone a whole lot more like me.

Sometimes faith is a willingness to say things we don’t feel yet. It’s gritting our teeth, letting the tears fall, and saying with determination: I WILL praise you. Your love IS better than life. I don’t know how it could ever happen, but You ARE my help and, someday, I WILL be fully satisfied. Faith is taking a mustard seed and crying out in desperation, “Lord, help my unbelief!” It’s a clinging kind of faith, and that’s comforting to me. May it comfort you as well.