Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Reflection of What?

I started a new job a little over a month and a half ago at a local cafe in Fort Collins and was scheduled to close just me and another guy who was a little newer than I was. I ran into two or three snags as I was closing, which my brain interpreted as, "COMPLETE FAILURE!". I got in my car feeling like I wasn't functioning at my fullest potential and as I drove I let all the little things that made me feel that way replay in my head. I felt the frustrations and the anger and the inadequacies all over again and couldn't stop feeling them. So when I got home, I grabbed my phone and headphones, started up a new playlist I made, and sat outside on the porch of my house that is off the beaten track. There were no clouds in the sky and the bright stars jumped out at me from their velvety blue background. As I looked at the stars, "Old Pine" by Ben Howard began playing. The chorus: "We stood, steady as the stars in the woods. So happy-hearted and the warmth rang true inside these bones. As the old pine fell, we sang just to bless the morning." This was quickly followed by "Turn to Stone" by Ingrid Michaelson. The lyrics: "I know that we are nothing new. There's so much more to me and you, but brother, how we must atone before we turn to stone."

All of those scenes that replayed over and over again, well they sank away as I stared at the stars and was reminded of how big our God is. It reminded me of this metaphor that I've actually used a lot recently. You have to let me paint a scene for you first though. Okay, here goes. Imagine a valley filled with gorgeous wildflowers, blue, purple, yellow, orange, swaying in a slight breeze amidst their green cousins of grass and wild plants. On the edges of this valley are mountains of course. Mountains so tall and snow capped, yet covered in a gentle, soft green before the peak. Everything is quiet. Everything is wild. Everything is sacred. In the middle of this valley is a room of mirrors. Four walls with mirrors facing outwards and inwards. Now, place yourself inside of this room of mirrors. What do you see? You see you. In everything you do, you see you. In everything you say, you hear you. In every decision you make, it reflects you. That in my mind is the definition of brokenness, blind pain without hope and freedom. Everything in your life is a reflection of you. If you fail, it's because you aren't good enough. If you succeed it's because you are amazing and did everything right. I feel like my car ride home today was that room. I stepped in, closed the door, and then pounded on every wall, pissed off, feeling injured and upset, controlled and slighted. Every event was a reflection of my identity.

Freedom. Freedom, is when you step outside of this room and every scene that is reflected is something greater, more meaningful, more stunning, more wild than anything that we could create. It is when our lives are able to reflect the glory of Christ, the beauty that He created us to be and to see. Our heart no longer reflects a grave identity of our actions, but instead the quiet strength of the ever-present mountains, and the flowers that reflect beauty with every color. We reflect Christ's bigger plan. That for me was the reminder of the stars. The reminder that things happened that I felt slighted by; that things happened that made me feel inadequate, yet they no longer mattered. As I stared at the stars with majestic music and a cool breeze gently caressing my face and bringing a small smile to my lips, I realized that there is something bigger to pay attention to. All of a sudden those mirrors didn't seem so daunting and awful. They felt exciting and fortifying. Let's stop outside of our mirrors and see something more team. Let's believe in something more and become something more.

Monday, June 8, 2015

To Be Searched. To Be Known.

"Search me, O God, and know my heart" - Psalm 139:23.

I read this the first time in a blur of other verses and in a rush to finish the chapter so that I could say that I made it through another chapter in this behemoth book of Psalms I took on months and months ago. I put on some Of Monsters and Men, which will always put me in a pensive state especially their new EP releases, but I digress. I put on the music and then I felt the urge to read it again. Then I read it again and again and then again. And in my head a vision formed: Me standing, arms stretched out, palms wide open with fingers that reached so far that they felt like they were trying to escape from my hand. Eyes shut tight, chin tilted ever so slightly upwards towards the heavens so that every freckle, eyelash, and crease on my face was illuminated. A subtle darkness that felt thick and foreboding filled the space and I stood in the middle of it all. Out of my mouth fell the words, "Search me, O God, and know my heart". It took on a new meaning at that point. Search me, O God, and know all the things I hide from everyone else, the lonely feelings, or inadequacies, the selfishness, and the shame.  Know all the things that make me feel like a child again, giddy with joy and hope. Know the people that make my heart soar and the ones that make it rip and tear. Know the doubts that run through my head and fall into my ever so welcoming heart for a home. And all of a sudden, that phrase brought weight - both comfort and fear.

Isn't this what we strive for? We want someone to look into our eyes and know that they are seeing our hearts. It's the plot line for every romance story and often what we look for from our family or our best friends. We want to be known, deeply and accurately known. That is why it is so scary and trapping when we put up walls barring people from seeing our hearts through our eyes and scarier still when it works. That slow moving fade as friends fall apart and significant others lose their connection and families become marred by choices and by life itself instills this dull ache of our fears becoming true. And in our heart of hearts we retreat, we board up the windows that were our eyes and our words and we say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me" (Psalm 139:11). We fade our own uniqueness and our own courage which once allowed us to take risks and to be steamrolled by the broken world around us without the loss of hope. We put to rest our whimsical dreams, or our life passions of travel, or of changing the world, or of getting married, or of having kids, or of experiencing true hope, true joy, and true peace, or of whatever it is that we won't let pass our lips for fear of actually thinking that we might have a chance of it coming true.

But then that sentence: "Search me, O God, and know my heart". It comes with the following, "even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you" (Psalm 139:12). There is no fortress that can be built, no window that can be boarded, no darkness for our fears to use as cover, no walls to become wallflowers on. There is only you, the one that was "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) standing and pleading that the God that made you would fully search you and fully know you. I tell you something, everything else seems to pale in comparison at that point, the silly insecurities that forced you to settle, the crazy fears that incapacitated your courageous love, and the unbelievable lies that blinded your sight. Read the sentence again and again and then again and make it your plea. It's crazy how liberating it can be when we let ourselves be seen; maybe then we can let the wild truth that we are pursued and loved sink in. Maybe then we can believe in a world that brings brave hope, foolish joy, and whimsical life dreams; better yet, maybe then we can partake in it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

This World of Waiting

Today, I took a study break outside. It was a wonderful 60 degrees and I was setting up the grill to cook some marinated chicken. I was watching the sun begin the path below the horizon and I knew this would be a great sunset because the clouds were set up for the perfect show. My playlist, "The Glories of the Mountains" was playing on the stereo and my roommate's dog was running around my ankles waiting for me to play fetch. I finished up the chicken and grabbed some sweet potato fries just in time to watch the painting begin. The sun lit the sky on fire and the birds were alive with their God-given song. And I felt nothing. I felt no connection to this Divine Lord, the One in charge of the sky's orchestra.

I changed the playlist to "When Only Worship Makes Sense" and I dropped to my knees. These words pumped through the speakers for the third time today:

"Ye who think of sin but lightly. Nor suppose the evil great. Here may view its nature rightly. Here its guilt may estimate. Mark the Sacrifice appointed. See who bears the awful load. Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed. Son of Man and Son of God."

It's the song "Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted" by Fernando Ortega and it's talking about the death of Christ on the cross. I heard it for the first time this morning in church and I was slammed with the conviction that I had been believing my sins only affected me. I was the one choosing to do them, I was the one who would pay the consequences and the affliction...or not feel them if I chose. Here, I am reminded of why sin is so great. The burden falls on my Lord. The burden sits on the shoulders of my Savior on a cross giving His last breath so that I may have access to my Abba Father. So that I may rejoice over a wonderful sunset, or slightly charred chicken on a grill. So that I may live my life with the promise of salvation and a hope that never ceases. And in my ignorance I closed my eyes and jaded my heart.

As I stayed on my knees the life I had been choosing washed over me. I just recently stepped into my Masters of Public Health program and took a vow in my heart that I would be a voice of change for those who need it...and then I closed myself off to God. I chose to pursue this dream. I chose to build my own story. I chose to help others with my talents, my time, my hard work. And then my life became about me helping others, not about the Lord intervening. I felt the wall that I had been slowly building around my heart. I felt the severed feelings and the suppressed intimacy I had with the Holy Spirit because I had chosen my dream that I would make happen.

My life is meant to be spent everyday fighting for those in desperation. And I told God, wait until I finish my Masters. My life is meant to be spent standing in the gap. And I told God, wait until I gather the materials for a bridge. My life is meant to be saturated with the Holy Spirit. And I told God, wait until I'm done having fun. If I cannot walk through the process of preparation with the Lord's call to Freedom in my heart, who is to say I will dive into my career with the mentality? If right now, right here in comfortable Colorado I do not choose to fight for other's freedom, where in my dream will it fit in?

I was stricken with grief. Not that I had broken the "good Christian code", but that I had cashed God's Masterpiece in for a shoddy knock-off riddled with sin. I cannot be a part of the Divine Story of chains breaking and voices lifting in worship and gratitude if I choose to live my life for my goals, my fun, my resume, and my adventure. I can choose my life of meaningless conversations and tasks on a To-Do list or I can choose a life of deep, fierce, and urgent purpose and freedom. I would be a fool, and have been, to believe that the two lives can coexist. I want to see miracles happen and to see God work in the present moment. I want to be in the middle of what He is up to. So, with a contrite heart, I say, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" and with a heart full of the Holy Spirit, I say, "Use me in this world of waiting."

Thursday, January 22, 2015


For a couple of weeks I was in Colorado with no plans and no school to attend, which meant that I had plenty of time to pour stupid money and attention into awesome things like snow shoe hiking, regular hiking, hiking in this place, and ALSO hiking in that place! Well, I had it in my heart that I was going to go on at least one solo hike, just me and nature. So on this particular day, I packed my kick-butt pale yellow snow suit, rainbow beanie, hazmat fitting snow boots, and snow shoes and took off for the mountains.

On the hike, I was completely alone, not a single other person to be seen. There was a light snow and in certain patches the sky was a brilliant blue. The pines stood tall and firm and the air was a brisk cold, not the kind that makes you feel like someone just tried to sandpaper your face off. I hiked uphill for quite some time until I reached this open space that I knew to be a lake that was completely surrounded by massive peaks covered in the most fluffy powdery snow that you could imagine. In places, the sun broke through the cloud coverage and gleamed off of sections on these peaks. I couldn't believe it. I stood still and looked at everything, being the sole pair of human eyes to be looking at that display right then. I looked back at my trail of snow that had been untouched by anything ever before. I took a break on a tree stump, stopped breathing loudly (uphill people, uphill), stopped crunching snow and just listened to the silence. I soaked it all in; the exploration was refreshing. The was stirring. God recently spoke to my heart and told me that He would give me courage to face my fears through the Beauty that I was surrounded by. In that moment, it made complete sense.

As I was hiking back down to my car I kept thinking about that statement, "Courage through Beauty." And I realized two things: 1 - my heart is bent on the thrill of discovery as beauty. 2 - I get the same feeling when I'm exploring a person's heart, it's a sense of being humbled and awed...and yet, it's been a long while since I've felt that sort of exploration. I was wondering about why that's been and realized that I had lost the idea that people are beautiful. You see, when it's not right in your face, the beauty of other's hearts and even your own, well, it becomes hard to see. I had felt like my exploration of that terrain had churned up less than glorious scenery, burned forests and dry desert, and so I shut my eyes saying, "no, it doesn't exist." I didn't even try to look further; I lost the belief that the exploration of hearts revealed beauty.

But you know, the Lord calls us into swamps, deserts, and burned forest, so that we can see the world that He believed was worth giving everything up for; the World that He still loves deeply. And He still sees the beauty. It's not always obvious through all the things that we call beautiful, good, holy, righteous, or even "right"; it's not powdery mountain tops in the background of a frozen lake; but it's there in subtle ways; it's the single flower that perseveres in the cracked dry desert; it's there through the honest question that is asked, or the vulnerable moment that is risked.

The beauty of exploration is not in the land that you see, but in the eyes that you see the land through. A snow covered lake was beautiful to me; it empowered me, and motivated me to continue through the exhaustion. I know that is the Courage God was talking about; it's a courageous beauty. A beauty that motivates. A beauty that inspires. A beauty that points to the Almighty. And all of that is found in us. Messy, sinful, broken us. We are still beautiful because we are seen through the eyes of our Father, Creator, and Redeemer. Those are the eyes that I want when looking at this new land. Those are the eyes that I want showing my heart the wonders in this world, which inspire me to be all that I can be. Because all of a sudden this world becomes wonderful, majestic, and bold. Let us explore.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Wagon Full of Memories

A wagon full of memories, pulled with delicate hands.

A little girl collecting daisies, hair blowing with the wind. Every detail memorized, every sun ray captured, in a wagon full of memories.

That wagon pulled through thick and thin hitting bumps in the road and jostling precious memories in tow. Some fall, settle into the dust, and lie there with messages of hope forgotten.

The wheels rattle over the path dropping what is known. The wagon fills with the bumps of the present.

What is so often left to settle in the dust and lay forgotten? What is known yet left behind?

I know of a pair of Eyes, that hold my favorite love, that see more than the world offers.

I know of a Heart that beats with strength in the fear, with sense in the chaos.

I know of Hands that fit mine so well and always seem to pull, pull where they've already been.

And I know of the dust that masks them.

All this to show that my eyes, my heart, my hands, they are more than I could make them; they are more than what I can even see: tools to love, tools to learn, and make this world something better.

So take care of the memories in the dust. Turn back to fill the wagon with the Truth of the Lord that loves and guides and redeems. It seems that then the wagon becomes a joy and not a burden; that life is hopeful and not despairing.

A wagon full of memories, pulled with delicate hands.