Tuesday, December 2, 2008


One man isn’t any better than another, not because they are equal, but because they are intrinsically other, that there is no term of comparison.” –D. H. Lawrence

The pieces were old, chipped, worn with time, leftover fragments of a broken existence that had outlived its intended usefulness. What may once have been tiles, plates, an ornamented vase, were now littered shards of variant color. Individual pieces stood collected in time and space, each different in shape or size or hue, stories hidden within each one.

Small, brown, chipped at the edges, she was left swimming in a sea of white. Her people had lived in this great land hundreds of years before the white settler made his claim. There had been enough room for both cultures to coexist. But fear of the unknown had acted in haste, seeking to destroy what it did not understand. Today her people were integrated, mixed into a sea of white pieces like a smattering of unwanted mess. Centuries later, people still judged, still made assumptions, still considered the brown inferior. They delegated the fleck of her life to a spot below theirs on a racial totem pole.

New threatened by old.
Quiet threatened by loud.
Black threatened by white.
Old threatened by young.

Two women argued in a kitchen, two pieces broken from the same household pitcher, the same mold of society. Their ceramic faces wore thin, as silent threats volleyed across the room. They were baking pies. It was some disagreement over the recipe. A teaspoon of spice was shattering the confidence of both. Each wanted their own method to be judged superior. But who determines the standard? Does it have to be one or the other?

When will I ever be enough? Silent whispers rise from countless voices. Unspoken thoughts are lined with desperation…

I fear your success. It scares me because I recognize its value. Deep within, my heart admires your accomplishment, but I can never let you know, never let the world know. I refuse to acknowledge its existence. I can’t afford to. The world hasn’t left room for both you and I to succeed. One of us will fall below the other, and I will not allow myself to land at the bottom. So I have to turn my head from who you are, the value of your life, because only the fittest survive.

Shiny, bright, intelligent, he drove a Lamborghini, lived in a multi-million dollar house and brought home an eight-figure paycheck. Dull, plain, ordinary, he rode the city bus and struggled to keep food on the table. Who can determine the standard of their value? Two human lives existing within the same city. Who holds the measure of their worth? Are they comparable? Compatible?

She was gold, flashy, bejeweled. I judged her because she was different, because she wore paint on her face, bore a glittering rock on her hand, and shopped in a name brand store. I stereotypically classified her, summed up the value of her life, and mentally noted how my lifestyle was better, why I preferred my appearance, with my wind blown hair and artistically altered dress found in a downtown thrift shop. I created a mental list of reasons to justify my judgment… But did I stop to ask why she chose to live the way she lived, why she shopped in the places she did, why she wore make-up on her face every day? I never attempted to understand.

Dull threatened by flashy.
Jagged threatened by smooth.
Poor threatened by rich.
Broken threatened by whole.

She was one shattered piece among many. But they were all broken, every single fragment. They each had rough edges, sharp boundaries with which to keep the world at bay. Poking and prodding, each vied for its own space, alone. But what if their edges weren’t meant to create distance? What if they were meant to draw diversity closer together?

Tiers, layers, levels. The hierarchy of society assumes that given two alternatives, one must be better. By inference, one must also be worse. But maybe society is wrong. Maybe the best is relative. Maybe the pieces fit together.

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” – Martin Luther King Jr. Reconciling the black and white pieces of America required the courage of a few who allowed their discontent with society to compel them to action. They were artists, setting aside their own defensiveness and individual boundaries to fit broken pieces together as art.

Not wrong. Just diverse. Not worse. Just different.

The church, like the rest of the world, is fragmented. The body of Christ exists in millions of little broken pieces scattered throughout thousands of sects and denominations. Each has their own way of worshipping. Some raise their hands and shout loudly towards the heavens while others bow their heads in silent reverence. To some degree, each fragment laughs at the others, convinced they have found the only way. I’ve witnessed the jibes first hand. I’ve heard the chortle within my own soul. I am not immune.

Why are people so threatened by what is different? Why can I not be equally comfortable with every stream of worship, every color of skin, every subculture of society? What do you have left to prove?

Preference is not objective. It blooms and withers as quickly as flowers fade in the fields. What is liked today may be hated tomorrow. The human heart has a way of changing its mind to suit the fashions of the time, the whim of selfish gain. Whatever most serves the individual at any given moment is assured to be the best. Everything else becomes a threat.

The bride of Christ was not redeemed to walk in fear. She is a body, a work of diversity. Her parts are comprised of both individuals and denominations, including races and cultures of every hue. Each has beauty to add to the design. One piece is not more important than another, just different. She needs every organ to function. Somehow the truth has been distributed throughout thousands of broken fragments. A clear picture cannot be seen until all the pieces are fitted together, until fear differences are set aside. Understanding will not be comprehensive until the mosaic is complete.

Step back from the space on the wall filled with these broken bits. You have been staring closely. Let your eye move from the minute to the grand scale. The picture comes into focus, the pieces of the world drawn together in the face of Christ. The Byzantine mosaic is more than a work of art. It is a lesson in the function of diversity.

A mosaic is impossible to create with only pieces of the same shape and tone and size. Variety allows for beauty. Art requires contrast to be appreciated, not feared. Fragments of clay and stone that used to have very different functions unite in one purpose under a vision of something more, a vision beyond individual existence.

Our brokenness has the power to unite us.

Monday, December 1, 2008


But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling, like dew, upon a thought, produces

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.
– Lord Byron

I am a writer. Or at least I claim to be. A university’s computer system lists me as such. It even knows the date I became one, the day I declared my identity: a writer. One day I wasn’t a writer, and the next day I was.

It reminds me of faith. I am a Christian. Or at least I claim to be. If the church had an electronic database they would list me as such. It wouldn’t know the date I became one, because I don’t know it myself. But my parents remember. They could tell me—one day I wasn’t a believer, and the next day I was.

But it’s not that simple. Repeating a prayer does not make me a Christian any more than declaring a major makes me a writer. It is only the first step in the process, the decision to begin. The initial decision only reorients my heart and my mind to follow a path. It doesn’t bring me to the destination. Thousands of steps lie between. Countless decisions still need to be made. Every day I face the choice to stay on the path, to walk a little further down the road. I have to choose to become.

The day I declared my major will remain meaningless unless I learn to write. I have to pick up the pen and start scribbling something or else the term writer will be nothing more than an empty title. I have to sit down at the keyboard and type. I have to practice crafting words. I have to actually write.

So too, the day I became a Christian will remain meaningless unless I learn to follow Christ. I have to start reorienting my life or else the term Christian will mean nothing more than an empty title. I have to change my heart. I have to practice obedience. I have to actually follow Christ.

The journey of becoming is a process. It requires time, effort, and attention to detail. It must be worked at relentlessly. No matter how often I write, I can always write more. No matter how much I learn about God, there will always be more to discover. No matter how many times I edit a piece, there will always be improvements that can be made. No matter how many times I correct the faulty tendencies of my heart, there will always be places in need of further refinement. Whether writing or living by faith, the process is never complete.

Writing once will not warrant calling myself a writer. Repeatedly pointing a finger toward the past, at a handful of words I wrote five years ago, will not confirm my skills as a writer today. I must offer proof. What did I write last week or yesterday? What am I writing today? My identity should be defined by who I am, not who I was.

If faith is a part of who I am, there will be evidence etched within the way I live. Expecting one prayer, muttered in years long past, to be the extent of my faith cheapens the work of God’s grace. A life of works cannot achieve salvation, but stagnant faith is dead. Active belief must be written into my life every day. Though the script will be imperfect, it must be written. Any rough form will suffice as long as the manuscript is current, defining who I am, not who I was.

The rough draft is the first step in the process, messy and imperfect. Writers are not expected to produce works of publishable quality at the first stroke of the pen. The finished product is accomplished through editing, the refining of ideas and sentences already written. Revision is half the process.

Faith too requires editing. It is tedious and painful, but necessary. Like writing, the revision of my faith requires stepping back and reevaluating, defining the purpose of my story, validating the authority of my voice, reorganizing ideas, removing the extraneous, adding the words that are missing.

As a writer, I have unique tendencies, patterns of habit, favored words. Sometimes they are effective, strengthening my voice. But there are other times when they do not fit the context, crowding the intent of my pages with frivolity. In these cases, the extraneous words must be removed, carefully extracted for clarity. The process of cutting my work can be painful, deleting words I took time to write, admitting what I loved fell short. But enduring the pain makes the end result more satisfying. It makes room for what truly needs to be said.

The editing process of my faith can also be painful. Some seasons feel more like surgery than editing. The stubbornness of my heart clings to its selfish tendencies, the preferred habits of frivolity. Yet, they must be removed to achieve the coherent manuscript. Room must be made for the best words. Each must be carefully chosen for a single purpose, every decision made to obtain the finished work: a life well written, read to the glory of God.

The end goal is slow to arrive. The path is strewn with little moments of accomplishment along the way, finished pages, words of encouragement, glimpses of hope. They stand as markers of progress by the roadside. But there will never be a sense of complete arrival as long a life persists.

True writers will never be content with idle thoughts and fingers. They do not finish a work and content themselves never to create again. If I am truly a writer, I cannot be discouraged by delayed arrival. I cannot use it as an excuse never to begin. I cannot be daunted by the giants who have gone before me. I must allow perfection to goad me onward. I want to be challenged. I desire to improve, to hone my skills to the sharpest possible point, to achieve excellence. The drive to write compels me. I will keep writing no matter how many pages I pen. It is part of who I am.

True children of faith will never be content to stop searching for God. They are not satisfied to step inside the gate of heaven’s kingdom and explore no further. In the words of A.W. Tozer, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.” Simultaneously yielding complete satisfaction and insatiable desire for God is the secret to faith well lived. The moment the child of faith ceases to search after the infinite expanse of God, the question remains: Where does their identity lie?

There are days when the drive to write does not come easily. There are seasons when the struggle to believe is acute. During the moments when I stare for hours at a blank computer screen, I verbally have to remind myself that writing is what I love to do, who I want to be. When the voice of God seems distant, or the pain of following His hand stretches my heart’s resolve, I have to retrace the truths of who God is, regaining confidence in what I know but can no longer feel. Whether writing or believing, the process takes hard work, determination, perseverance. It requires more perspiration than inspiration. But our identity depends on the continuation of the process. There is more left to write, more yet to believe.

Too many Christians have stepped onto the path of faith and stopped. Their story was never written with intentional purpose after the first sentence or two. Life after conversion hasn’t been lived well, and the church has suffered as a result. The lack of authenticity is felt by both those on the street and those in the pew. Time after time, the way the church has chosen to live has invalidated the authority of her voice. The discrepancy is easy to see. Her words write one story, while her life writes another.

In western society, many children of faith have been trained to be satisfied with the initial composition of their conversion. While the children of God are supposed to be satisfied, their satisfaction concerns choosing God over the world; it does not concern being content to stop growing, to stop crafting a story. The invitation of Christ leaves volumes yet to be written. There is still a journey to embark upon. There are discoveries yet to be made. It will take a lifetime and an eternity to explore the vastness of who God is. Conversion is only the beginning of the beginning.

I’ve spent hours rewriting these pages. Countless times I have cut, copied and pasted, searching for the right way to organize my thoughts. Tomorrow I may do the same. The best possible words are yet to be found. But that is the process of writing. The importance of my story as a writer is not to achieve perfection; it is to learn from the refining process. My identity relies upon the fact that tomorrow I will write. Whether I rework this piece again, or pen the rough draft of something new, I will write. It will be imperfect, but it will be written.

My faith relies upon the same principle. Today I will not find the best possible way to live, to believe. But the goal is not perfection so much as to engage the journey resolutely. The tedious process of removing the excess and adding what is necessary is worth the effort. It is the process of faith. My identity lies in the fact that tomorrow I will continue to believe, to write my story of faith. It will be imperfect, but I will not be content to leave it unwritten.

The Rhythm of the Dance

“It is not necessary for you to know how to dance when you dance with the one who loves you.” – Rhoda Calhoun

One, two three. Four, five six. Steps awkwardly counted. Left, right left. Right, left right. Strained movement. One, two four. His foot lands in the wrong place. She stumbles. Movement stops. Composure reestablished. Faces tense, harshly occupied with getting it right. His thoughts are all but readable: Concentrate or you will trip on her foot again. Observing from a distance, I watch their instructor demonstrate the steps. They start again, tentatively. One, counting. Two, thinking. Three, stepping. Both bodies moving with fear of mis-stepping, they shift to the left then the right before turning. Over and over they practice the steps, follow the pattern to learn how to dance. Silently watching, each movement I trace, but I am dissatisfied.

Their bodies are stiff; their movements are forced. They struggle to align their steps with the instructor’s voiced metronome, and it is painfully visible. But the most haunting factor is the eyes. They are not looking at each other. All their attention is glued to the floor. Every stumble, every trip, the placement of every step consumes their vision. They are not dancing. They are walking through the motions. Left, right left. Right, left right…

We all face metronomes, systematic voices that haunt our lives, compelling us to stare at the ground, to watch our feet, to make sure we step in exactly the right place at exactly the right moment. Missing a step reveals inferiority. Lose count and the music may pass by altogether. So we concentrate harder, look up less frequently, and spend all our energy planning how to dance.

But there is a symphony playing in the background. Somewhere, an orchestra, of grandiose proportions, is playing in a ballroom, filling it with sound. Barely audible, it wafts down through abandoned corridors to echo within the compartments of our confinement, stirring, haunting, inviting. Deeper within our hearts, beyond the metronome, lies an internal beat, pulsating a rhythm of unique dimension. Something divine and stately. It beckons for motion within the soul, dancers who will become one with the music. But continually the metronome ticks, building a rhythmic cage.

Throwing off the constraints of the world, to dance to a more heavenly beat, is the essence of faith. The orchestra of divine dimension is playing a waltz, causing our feet to itch for something more. But somewhere in the middle of the dance, the idea of heaven has become locked within the ticking of a metronome. Day after day it dictates. One, two three. The dance is constrained, morality enforced. Four, five six. Legalism tightens its hold. Left, right left. The Pharisees take the floor. Right, left right. The passion of two becoming one, in a journey of artistic intimacy, is reduced to a simplistic step pattern, a formula for what was once beautiful.

Christ did not come into the world to restore order with remedial formulaic steps. He came to invite his bride to dance. The cross was not a formality. It was an act of passion. He expects his children to live and move and die as passionately as He lives and moves and dies. Since before the dawn of time, His one desire has been to find a people who will become one with His heart. Through the ages He has waited, hand extended, heart poised, asking the question, “Will you dance?”

So the church accepts His outstretched hand, smiles into His face, and then fixes its eyes on the ground to watch and plan the steps. The music begins. With our vision so caught up with attention to the rules, the traditions, the patterns of appropriate behavior, we miss the passionate look in the eyes of our partner, the desire, the longing. His love smiles back at us barely noticed. We can only afford an occasional glance upward. We follow his lead, but only so far as He dances within the pattern. Beyond that we are lost. So we insist on having our way, of making God fit within the realm of our comfort. We aren’t really following. We are content to let Him be our dancing partner, when the opposite should be true. So he patiently holds us as we rigidly move to copy the steps we have already seen him make. The only problem is, the Master of the universe never dances the same steps twice.

Every day He invites us to the dance, but every day the dance is a little bit different. If we learn to trust, He will train us to catch His eye, to fix our gaze upon His face. The cues to move will come through the senses: the tilt of His head, the grasp of his hand, the flex of his muscles. They are felt rather than counted. Closer and closer we will move into his embrace, allowing Him to hold us more securely with each turn. As our head slowly drops onto His shoulder, we will move from looking into His eyes to feeling the pulse of His heart, all thoughts of counted steps forgotten.

The wisest man on earth was trained to forget the steps. Still breathless from the dance, King Solomon penned the words, “Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps.” Solomon understood that no matter how hard the effort, the steps of life cannot be laid out accurately. God is the master of the unexpected. The best method is to close our eyes and dance.

However, it is not the easiest method. Dancing with closed eyes requires massive amounts of trust and flexibility within a society that offers none. The legislative metronomes expect every move to be planned and traced to the letter: education, career, marriage, children, retirement. Moving for sheer enjoyment of the process or the intrinsic value it offers is nearly a thing of the past. Stepping in passionate response to the love of God is borderline heretical. Society screams, the church pressures for every choice to have a reason, a practicality, a plan. Where? When? How? WHY?

When society furrows its brow in consternation and tries to analyze the plan I don’t have, I’m learning to say, “I don’t know.” And I’m learning to be okay with not knowing. When I hear the question for the umpteenth time, “What are you going to do with that?” my feet get a familiar defiant itch. “I’m going to dance,” I reply.

And I am. Slowly but surely the steps are coming, unhurried and unplanned. Faster and slower they wax and wane to the rhythm of the heart of heaven. He has me held firmly within his arms, and we are dancing. His muscles pulse with strength and security in the midst of an unknown song. When I stumble he holds me tighter. The longer we dance the more our movements become as one.

In the outset the step-pattern may be necessary, a framework for beginning. But there comes a point to move beyond the steps and feel the rhythm intrinsically. Dancing is about training two hearts to move as one. It must resound with the marks of life absent from a robotic three-step: sweat mingling, faces etched with passion, intentional shared purpose. It takes hours of practice and painful lessons of trust, layered with tedious repetition and discipline, to accomplish the unity required for the dance. Gradually the steps disappear, replaced by grace, agility, finesse. And when the lights go out in the ballroom, when we are dancing in the dark, when we can no longer see our feet or the floor or where we are stepping, the dance continues, flawlessly the same; we have learned to dance with closed eyes.

In a world where everything seeks an explanation, faith needs to encompass less stepping and more dancing. The dance becomes the explanation. When the church faces what it cannot understand she must turn to the dance. When her muscles ache from trying, she must continue to dance. When her soul lifts with wonder, she must dance, allowing it to rise in silent worship before the heavens. It is the opportunity for her to sink ever more deeply into the arms of the One who can lead her flawlessly across the expanse of time. Is it a moment of shared intimacy and love with her maker. It is her moment to express the inexpressible.

Dance provides for my heart what theology cannot, the outlet to speak when nothing else makes sense, the realm to move when the soul seeks to soar. I know faith cannot be built on passion alone. The dance cannot occur without a solid floor to stand on, but too many build the floor and leave it standing empty. The master of the dance awaits the heart of his bride, to take her where she has never been before. The church needs to ponder theologically, to search the Scriptures systematically, but at the end of the day I do not want to leave the dance floor forsaken. Heart thrown wide with anticipation, my ear is poised to listen for the echo of the feet that will join my own, rising to the rhythm of the dance.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Small Pieces

It is the small moments that make life beautiful, the miniscule details that can only be noticed by the grateful heart. There is always something wrong with the world. The heart set on finding the negative will always succeed. But there is always something right with the world, waiting to be found, appreciated. God has never left his throne. He still reigns, he still weaves beauty into our lives, etching the ugly into a masterpiece. It is all a matter of perspective. Those who walk with their eyes on the ground will never see the stars shining overhead. Human hearts get preoccupied with the "big" pieces of life, waiting for them to fall into place, discontent until every dream is realized. But I think perhaps life is not made up of "big" pieces, rather millions of tiny small ones. Little pieces of our lives fall into place every day and life is lined with so much more beauty when we train our eyes to see them and be grateful. The little things are starting to bring a smile to lips and a sparkle to my eye...

finding the perfectly painted fall leaf to press...

receiving an unexpected call from a friend...

buying a brand new bottle of dish soap after scrapping the drops out of the old one for a week...

listening to a song that opens just the right heavenly moment...

finishing a homework assignment...

walking into the food bank at just the right moment for God to drop dinner in your lap...

a sunset...

Grateful moments are personal, God's signature of unique interest in our lives. They are small, seemingly insignificant to the untrained eye and heart... yet they are there, waiting to be discovered. The smallest things can bring the greatest joy when God's goodness dwells foremost in my heart. Unholy common things become sacred. Stop and look for the little sacred pieces hiding with your own life.

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night." Psalms 92:1

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Autumn's Lessons

Autumn is upon us. The trees have announced her imminent arrival, painting the hillsides with a vibrant array of colors. Green succumbs to yellow, orange, red. Bright, flaming, vivid. I love the fall for its colors, its artistry. Stepping outside always makes me pause… and breathe. The wonder of God at work with a paintbrush brings a smile to my face and my soul.

But the colors do not stay forever. I take time to notice their beauty every time I pass because I know about the inevitable… about the falling. At the peak of its beauty, each individual leaf absorbs its last ray of sunlight, breathes its last and falls to the ground. The longer fall progresses, the less leaves array the skies and the more litter the ground. The masterpiece of artistry slowly sinks lower and lower toward the ground where it dissolves, scattered here and there by my feet as I walk to class. I feel the crunch beneath my feet and I know that something is passing.

Fall is a reminder of time, a signal that every thing must come to an end. When the chilling wind blows the last resilient leaf off of the trees, winter will arrive. I comfort myself with the fact that fall will always come again… after winter, spring and summer have had their turn. Every season carries its own gifts, its own lessons, and God directs them to come in their own perfect timing.

Yet as I watch the leaves fall, something within is stirred with urgency. Someday the inevitable will come. A fall will usher in a winter that will birth no earthly spring. Time will reach its fullness. This fall is passing. And while there may be many more to come, this one will never come again. Days are passing, days I am only allowed to live once. The question haunts: are they being lived well?

I have a to do list. It fills up quickly every week, and the tasks never fail to be harder to cross off than to write down. Such is the way of life. The seasons all bring their tasks to fulfill. But how many of them are necessary? I glance to the wall over my bed, where my priorities hang as visual reminders of purpose. How much of my to-do list agrees with my priorities? How much of it is extraneous? Last month I listened to a wise man speak about the reality of to-do lists. He said we all have them. But how many of us have stop-doing lists? How many of us take the time to eliminate the good things in our lives that are hindering the accomplishment of the great?

Time. It constrains our lives. It forces us to choose. We cannot do everything, so we must choose our something. First we must draw the line between good and bad. But harder still we must learn to draw the fine line between good and great. To live life with God’s best requires saying no to the mediocre. It requires healthy boundaries. It demands shedding the extraneous.

I look to the trees. They have learned this lesson well. My heart is relieved as I watch them release, shedding everything of the old to prepare for the new. They know that their branches do not have room for both the leaves of last year and the leaves of coming spring. Seasons change. Before accepting the gifts of the new, the baggage of the old must be allowed to fall. The leaves do not resent this reality. I can hear them sigh with content as they gracefully dance across the sky in one last relish of life. They have fulfilled their purpose. God painted within their frame a work of beauty. They displayed it for all their worth and now their time is done.

As the weight of finals and deadlines approach, trying to cramp my days' to-do lists, I appreciate the presence of autumn, the lessons she brings to my heart. Even within the busiest days I force myself to stop and remember to breath and to shed. I want to live my life prepared for the spring. The fall is necessary to pry any remnants of the old out of my hands. May I not be mourning over piles of dried-up brown leaves when the buds of spring make their entrance, because in the words of C.S. Lewis, “there are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

May I learn to live with an expectancy of the spring and an appreciation for the fall. I want to learn to stop doing and to choose well. Time is passing. But if we learn to live our lives in the midst of the best God has provided, then there is no reason to be regretful. We can simply enjoy the beauty of the season no matter which one we are in.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


God is good.
Yet oft what greets the mortal eye
Shouts in blurred tones of gray.
The white is lost amid the black
While twilight lingers
Refusing to surrender to darkness,
Squelching all hope of the dawn.

Irreconcilability raises its head in defiance
Of trite words
Spoken under glass steeples.
He holds the power
To shatter the facade of security
Allowing hope to drain away
Through the cracks
Of an ill-formed foundation
Within trial-worn souls.

Resolve to trust
Slowly erodes
At the sound of pain
And the wrench of injustice –
Reality twisting hearts to shreds.

Beneath the paper-thin facade
Of completeness,
Every mind questions –
Loudly and silently
Waiting and demanding,
Cringing at anticipated response,
Screaming in agonized anger,
Pleading for reality to be different,
For God to be good.

Time has never changed divinity –
Only perceptions.
Beyond the veils of pretense
Clay-covered Hands wait
To massage fractured lives
Into wholeness.

The Master Artist wields pain,
Using blood-infused mediums of the world
To paint beauty over scarred canvas.

Looking with eyes of flesh and bone
Within fog-laden valleys
Yields self-infused range of vision.
Injustice reigns on stone turned hearts.

Yet constellations pierce the haze,
Revealing inexplicable sanctuary
To determined eyes
Finding sight beyond the fog.
Timeless love shifts reality.
Shards fill the mosaic.
Goodness finds a home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


When it comes to spending the little bits of time known as our lives, what is real significance? John Piper wrote, “Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort of every pain.” Wise words. But how are they lived out? There are as many answers to this question as their are souls walking upon this earth. I've had my days of dreaming big... I still do. There is no limit to where an adventure in God's kingdom may lead. But the more days that pass, the more I come to realize that the significance I am really longing for is found in the smaller moments rather than the grandiose. When I reach the end of my life, I want to be remembered for who I was, not what I did. So much significance lies in the eyes that smile acceptance, the heart that instills value from one heart to another, the hands that quietly serve, the hugs that quench the tears. Perhaps the most significant acts are the ones that occur quietly within the ordinary. Their arrival is not heralded or even recorded, but their impact is written within the hearts of those who needed it the most.

My mother has touched so many lives in so many invisible ways, I know I will never be able to understand a fraction of them. I am incapable of even understanding her impact on my life alone. When I thought about significance I thought about her. I thought if I reach the end of my bit of time and my significance looks anything like hers, then my life will be well spent. These are my thoughts and musings written down in honor of her today. Happy Birthday Mother. The world may not recognize your significance the way they should, but I do, and the generations of children to follow will be changed by your life. I love you.

Well-Worn Washings
By Danielle Metcalf... for my mother

Her hand fumbled in the dark recesses of the closet, groping for the well worn handle, while attempting to recall when last it was put to use. Four… five days? Could it have already been a week? What ever the span of time it was too long. The dusty footprints trailing through the kitchen and remnant spots by the stove of dinner a few days past were evidence of this fact, their defiant existence taunting her sense of self-esteem.
Her hand finally grasped the handle and tugged the mop out of the closet. It came with a touch of reluctance, snagging on the door hinge as if to savor one last moment of idleness. With an escaping sigh she paused as well and shared the moment. Each leant upon the other in silent commiseration. The woman often felt like the mop: dirty, ragged, overused. The worn bare spot on the handle reflected something within her own soul. They both faced a thankless task. Contented accomplishment paid his visits briefly at best and often skipped the engagement altogether. It was a task that insisted on being performed time after time, and it presented itself again now.
A small splash broke the silence of the reverie as both drudgerists dipped into their work with resigned determination. As the dusty footprints disappeared beneath streaks of water, the woman’s thoughts slowly turned from self-pity to contemplation. How many times had little feet raced across this laminated floor? Images invaded. Frolicsome games of chase filled with laughter. Fearful, evasive steps dreading the consequences of defiance. Dirty tear-stained cheeks searching for a source of comfort. This floor was the immovable substance beneath the feet of her home throughout good days and bad.
Her children were not the only ones it served. She thought of countless other pairs of feet that had graced and tromped over its surface: neighbors, friends, the postal carrier, sisters, cousins, the occasional stray dog, associates from her husband’s work, uncles, children, grandmothers and so many more. Tennis shoes, work boots, stilettos, slippers, rollerblades, sandals, dress shoes, and barefoot toes: they had all traversed the floor she was mopping. Did any of them even notice her efforts, the ones she wrought with callused hands and an aching back? Probably not. No one ever takes the time to notice a well-mopped floor. Its existence is accepted without thought or thanks. The only time the floor is noticed is when it hasn’t been swept clean. Hours and days of left-over debris suddenly make it visible. Only then is something said.
So why was she still mopping this floor? Why continue performing a task that never ends and no one seems to appreciate? Why not get rid of the mop? It sits in a dark corner of a closet buried by coats and jackets and the occasional cobweb. It doesn’t come out for show and make its presence known in the world. What would keep it from slipping into oblivion unnoticed?
The woman finishes the last few strokes and reaches to rinse the grime from the ragged end of the mop that has scraped an immeasurable amount of filth off of the floor beneath her feet. Some of its stains will never come clean. No one takes time to thank the mop for its efforts, for absorbing the grime that no one else wants to absorb so that little barefoot toes can tread with security across the laminated floor without bearing the marks of what should not be there. Yet despite its thankless existence the mop keeps mopping. Outside of its moments of silent commiseration it doesn’t dare to stop. Too much is at stake.
A child cries from somewhere in the house. The woman sets the mop back within the recessed corner of the closet and turns to face another set of demands. She stoops to absorb what no else will absorb and scrape away what should not be there as little arms reach for her outstretched hands. Though few may notice and fewer still will speak about her task, she dare not stop for the sake of those around her. The mop understands their shared significance. The rest of the world would too if her presence ever slipped into oblivion. Without the well-worn washings of her touch over our lives, the laminated surface of the earth would leave our barefoot toes caught in a built up, sticky mess.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

thoughts about a mountain

Majestically she stands, holding her regal head higher than the world of humanity. She is the air of confidence itself, the rocky foundations of her throne refusing to shift. Immovable they have remained since the great flood fashioned the contour of her form thousands of years precedent. She reigns, watching over the earth from lofty, cloud-kissed heights. At the base she wraps herself in a cloak of forested green fir, mothering the creatures of the wood to nest within its folds. Yet higher she climbs, to bare her heart and soul to the world, at an elevation where trees cease to breathe. Her peak wears thin between realms, providing a temple where earth reaches for heaven and pierces diaphanous skies ablaze with glory. Her presence draws the sojourner, challenging and inviting man to crest her utmost heights, to encounter God face to face. She rewards the arduous climber, gifting a vision worth every moment of strenuous pain required to scale her rocky pinnacle. There, content graces her head as a crown, invoking a sigh of satisfaction from each mortal man abiding in her company. Long she has been a student of Majesty, timeless, strong, wise. Long she will teach man of what is great, to any ear and eye poised to listen.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Every soul has a sound...

Every soul has a sound, a single note, resounding throughout one lifetime. It rises from the instrument of life to its climatic moment of articulation before fading from the ear of the world forever. Some notes are heard more distinctly than others, their fortissimo volume bringing their sound to the forefront of the drama. Other notes are softer, pianissimo, calm: gently caressing the senses with their nearly inaudible echo. Some notes last barely a moment, the mark of staccato jerking them away as soon as they materialize. Others hang on past their time, the fermata savoring and drawing out the duration till the very last moment. Between them lies a score of notes passing through the meter with regimented rhythm. They are heard, and then they are heard no more. Each note alone is insignificant. It cannot carry a melody. It cannot establish a rhythm. It cannot evoke an emotional response from the listening crowd. But let one note join with another… and another. Groups can waft melodies; nations create harmonies. Hundreds and thousands, millions of pitches can join together within the same time and meter to create a symphony, a masterpiece of creativity full of dissonance and resolution. Beauty is heard. The audience sighs. The conductor is pleased.

Every soul has a sound. Every life sounds one note. Millions of lives can create a symphony, wafting towards the heavens to the glorification of the Master Composer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Writer's Companion

The words have been sparse. This is partly due to the loss of my writing companion. My laptop went on the fritz last week and is currently being maintenance in Memphis. A writer feels naked without a computer, this I am discovering. Having a flash drive for a sidekick I have become a vagabond, never knowing where my electronic words will find a place to lay their head. I am building intimate relationships with several computer labs on campus and camping in a friend's apartment late at night to finish papers after the labs on campus close. Needless to say, formulating thoughts is not always conducive to computer labs and strange apartments so the blogging content has been sparse. It has also been a crazy week. Hopefully my long-lost companion will return to me rejuvenated from its sabbatical and in fine working order later this week. Maybe then I will find the time to formulate a few cohesive thoughts for your enjoyment.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Listless eyes

The hearts of broken children are screaming in my ears. Silently they walk before my eyes while my soul is deafened by their cries. Listless eyes speak volumes. Smokescreens of self confidence hide the messy state of battle-torn hearts. Yet I catch glimpses beyond the opaque veil. I cannot know the details, each traumatic event leading up to each steeled heart. But I can see the pain. They are writhing in it. It threatens to overtake them every moment. It is shredding their hearts, stealing their souls. I am watching it all around me on every side. I feel it in those I share my life with and I notice it in the strangers I pass today... and yesterday... and tomorrow. Tears well up in my eyes... in my soul. How can I possess so much life and they can walk right next to me and have none? How can they go on without it, though it waits for them at every turn? My spirit screams in rage, in grief, in pain. How can I make them understand? It is beyond me. I ache for them to find wholeness. Though I no longer have the desire to be the one to fix them, because I know I lack the ability, my heart is still racked with longing to see their glorious restoration, lifeless eyes sparked with love's holy flame. My heart is becoming one with the Master Redeemer as we both agonize over the hearts of broken children. Father break forth in our midst! Restore the years the locust have taken. Provide what has been missing. Remove what should never have been. Rend the veils over war-torn hearts. Gather your children to yourself as only you can do. May listless eyes see the truth of who you are.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Turtle's Injustice: A Modern Fable

Once upon a time a turtle was taken to court by a sloth.
The offense in question was one of emotional trauma on the part of the sloth. The case took the forest by storm.

“Your Honor, my client has suffered immeasurable emotional strain to the point of a mental breakdown over a grave injustice,” the Weasel began. “On the afternoon of today one week previous, this turtle was resting in the middle of one of the less-used forest trails while my client was walking down the same said trail to a job interview. My client perceived a rock to be sitting in the middle of the road. A bit perturbed at the obstacle, she mustered the energy to climb over it. However, once she was on top of it, the rock, also known as said turtle, moved. My client was knocked off balance and tumbled to the ground. She spent the next few hours regaining equilibrium on her feet and discerning why a rock would move. She also had to deal with a wave of guilt and fear after she realized that she had almost unknowingly crushed a turtle. The entire ordeal cost her a strenuous amount of time and energy, making her half a day late to her appointment. Upon arrival the desired job had already been given to a baboon. My client was so distressed over these accumulative turns of events that she did not fully have her wits about her on the way home. She fell out of a tree, breaking both her timidia and fibula, which has rendered her physically and emotionally immobile for the next three months. She has fallen victim to a contemptible deception and deserves ample compensation for her losses.”

Halfway through the proceedings the turtle recovered from shock long to enough to say a few words in his defense. He mumbled something or other about the difference in color between turtle shells and rocks as well as typical reactions when an animal is stepped on. But since the stenographer did not hear him (because all legal proceedings have a natural tendency to listen only to the victim) they were not recorded and cannot be written here.

The honorable judge ruled in favor of the sloth. The turtle was required to give monetary compensation to the sloth for all medical bills related to her injury and the projected loss of income at the job she wasn’t able to obtain. Furthermore, another fine was levied to help assuage the duress of the sloth’s indefinite emotional stress. Combined with court costs, the turtle was forced to put his house up for sale the following day. But only after he redid the paint job. In bright yellow letters the shell read, “WARNING! NOT A ROCK!”

The story was widely read in newspapers all over the forest. Soon all turtles were required to paint warnings on the backs of their shells. And the paranoia continued to spread. It was only a matter of time until the porcupines began to wear makeshift protective cases to avoid the liability of accidentally poking someone with their quills. The alligators posted signs outside the swamp warning that all logs may not be as they appear. The neighborhood river was plastered with signs that said, “No otter on duty. Swim at your own risk!” And so on and so forth. Signs continued to be manufactured and posted on every available tree, hole, rock, and water spot until no one could see the forest through all of the billboards. Everyone was afraid of everything to the point that the animals could no longer find enjoyment in daily life activities for the sake of the imagined threat to their homes and livelihoods.

Meanwhile the turtle decided to escape the commotion and move to the beach. He created a makeshift residence right next to the seashore and spent his days sipping lemonade and developing a suntan. He almost lived happily ever after… until the armadillo moved in next-door and filed suit against him for indecent exposure.

Monday, August 25, 2008

With one look...

"See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:1-3

The power to transform our lives comes not from doing, but from seeing. Another simple thought. But commonly overlooked. How many times have I read these words before? How many times have I not understood. As the love of the Father heart of God has transformed my heart this summer, I have found myself returning to the word with a renewed excitement and vigor. So many days I wake to find simple yet profound truths jumping off the page to melt into my heart. I doubt I can portray the depth that these words have penetrated into my soul, but I can't help trying nonetheless.

When we see Christ we will be like Him. How many years do we spend striving to change the way that we are by our own efforts, when the answer lies in a simple shift of vision? When we see Christ coming back in all of His glory we will be fully like Him. The day of our perfection will come. But even now, the extent that we become like Him in the midst of the daily grind of life is directly proportionate to the extent that we see His true heart.
God is wholly unlike man. When we say He is good, our finite minds perceive the best goodness this world has to offer as a taste of God. But the truth is that God is everything good that is missing from this world. We cannot imagine His goodness. He is fully everything this world is not. Yet our hearts are capable of seeing this in a distant glimpse. And when we do, we are forever changed. I have been. This summer I saw his love unfold to me like never before. I thought I knew what the love of God was like. I didn’t. I still don’t I am sure. But I know slightly better. Not in my head, but in my heart. I will never be the same. He peeled so many misconceptions about Him away from my eyes these past months. It has changed the way I live, the way I think, the way I feel, the way I study, the way I play, the way I see others. I did nothing to coerce my behavior to change. My actions have not been a fulfilled Biblical responsibility; they have been a heartfelt response. I am becoming more like Him, because I am responding more fully to a truer picture of His being. I love the last line of those verses as well: “And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” My hope is that I will see Him and be like Him. As I wait, I have, not the duty, but the privilege of purifying myself. My sanctification is already assured in Christ, but my heart is so eager to be with Him and become like Him, that I rush to become so even now. Rules, expectations and obligations fade away in a sweeping rush of desire to be with a God who is so beyond what my heart can conceive. One taste of His true nature and the heart is left with no excuse, no desire to refuse. We see Him and our hearts are so captured by His being that we want nothing else. The rest of life’s details tend to take care of themselves.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Rapids

Yearning, aching, longing, coursing thru my veins and my heart. Making my insides throb with desire. I want to know how to live this life well. And not just for the sake of knowing, but for the sake of living.

Today I went white-water rafting… and it made my soul come alive. As I was coursing thru the water with the surrounding Tennessee mountains and the open sky as my witness, I couldn’t help but sense that this feeling within my soul was God’s idea of the way His children should experience walking with Him. There I was on the edge of my seat, bracing myself with expectancy for whatever the water would bring my way, and loving every minute of it. A thrill was in the air. Movement. Balance. Action. Danger. Teamwork. Immersion. Beauty. Laughter. Life. None of us cared where we were going, but we were enjoying the journey for everything it was worth. And we were doing it together. A spirit of camaraderie was present. Whatever we did we did together. Sometimes we went at the oars with everything we had. Sometimes we rested and let the river carry us. Sometimes we were allowed to relax and play, and other times we had to be serious. At all times we listened to our guide. In one tough spot Jill fell out of the boat. With a fierce determination that gave me more strength than I knew I possessed, I reached over and pulled her back out of the waves into safety. I loved every minute of the trip down that river. It was wild and dangerous and made me feel alive. Tonight, something within me is hoping, screaming, and searching for the determination to believe that there is a way to live all of life in this manner. To live all of life being alive.

My heart is aching for this life, because just a mere few hours after the ride on the river I came upon a rut. My feet are prone to slip into this rut and even now I feel are inching towards the edge. While my day began with adventure, I fear it ended in complacency, with too many hours sucked away in front of an entertaining screen. We traded action for immobility, passion for apathy, relationship for entertainment. Yes, I was with friends. Yes, we were finishing out the day together. Yes, maybe you say I should be content with any amount of life I was able to obtain and not worry about the rest. But I cannot. My heart is dissatisfied. It aches and longs for more. Was I created to be alive for only parts of days? Or was I created to never stop living for a single moment? I want to live. And I want to live to the fullest ability that my heart, soul, body and mind can withstand. I don’t want to be satisfied with half-rate existence. I want it all. And I want to believe that its possible.

My concern isn’t that I watched a couple movies with friends. My concern is that it always comes down to watching a couple movies with friends. It is what my college culture does. Even the college culture that steps to follow Christ. Being entertained isn’t wrong, but being entertained never leaves me feeling satisfied. I walked away tonight feeling dull. My heart had lost its edge and the connectedness between those in the room had faded since the time we had stopped looking at each other and started looking at a screen, a reality that didn’t even exist. This is not a campaign against movies, at least not directly. This is just the voiced longing of one person who wants to find more. Who wants to see more clearly, taste more deeply, and live more fully than anything she is experiencing now.

These thoughts leave so many questions coursing thru my mind. Questions about where to find the balance between these two ends of the spectrum. I know life can’t always be thrill and excitement and yet I believe every moment can be part of a greater adventure. Every moment does not have to be serious, but every day should be spent exploring the depths of the wonder that is God. My thoughts return to the river with the fine line of balance in our journey. We were there to live on the edge and to make the experience everything it could possibly be. Yet we also had the goal of making it thru each rapid in once piece. The balance of accomplishing both these goals was a careful dance on a fine line of discernment.

The questions remain. Do I stay to be with friends and watch the movie, or do I leave to find better ways to engage my mind and my heart? Is it better to stay and build what little relationship I can, or can it be argued that mindless entertainment doesn’t build relationship at all? How long do I wait for others to want more than what we are choosing? When do I move on? When do I say no? When is it time to be in the world? And when is it time to not be of it? How far am I to go to relate to others around me? When does my heart start to suffer from stepping down too often? Am I insane for feeling this way? Am I the only one who craves this depth we are missing? Or do we all exist within sight of one another, each too hesitant to voice their true soul’s desire? I want so much more. Why can't we talk? Why can't we worship? Why can't we open the word together? Why can't we go for a walk? Why can't we be real and honest? Why can't we struggle together and carry each other's pain and joy? I don’t care if I am being unrealistic. Abundant life is God’s reality. He did not come so that we could have minimal life. He came so that we could have life to the abundance. White, foaming, rapidly moving life coursing thru the veins of our souls. So I cry to the author of this life to teach me the steps to this awkward dance. I want to learn. I want to live. I want to live life abundantly!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Psalm 34

I have been chewing on this Psalm all week. Here are a couple of the nuggets I have found:

"I sought the Lord and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed."
vs. 4-5

Those who look to the Lord will never be ashamed. Think about it again. Those who look to the Lord will never be ashamed! Their faces are radiant. The pleasure of looking to God physically overflows from their countenances. Shame hunts all of us. When we look to the world we find shame. When we look to those around us we often find shame. When we look to ourselves we find shame. Because of this, our hearts have a tendency to expect to find shame when we look to God. If I've failed in the eyes of man or myself, then surely there is no way I could have not failed in the eyes of God. But the exact opposite is true. God is never disappointed with us. Something I gleaned out of The Shack by William Young (a must read!). God places no expectations on us. They are manmade contrivances. If He has no expectations (because He is sovereign and knows all already), then how can we disappoint him. Therefore it makes sense that all who look to the Lord will never be ashamed. It is often the place we most fear to look, but it is the place that will best heal and care for our shamed and wounded hearts!

"The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned."
vs. 22

The Lord redeems. He takes what is broken and makes it whole. He transforms the ugly into beauty, the bad into good. That is hope! None of those who take refuge in the Lord will be condemned. That is freedom! I will face no condemnation from the Lord. So many picture God as one who is waiting to slap us when we make a wrong move. Another skewed manmade perception. It is not His heart to condemn and those of us who have put our trust in Him can live without fear of His condemnation.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hope's Assurance

Evil is so pervasive. We find it all around us. It fills the news, destroys nations, ravages our families, and infiltrates our lives. We never have to look far to find it. Sometimes it is all we can see. It speaks loudly, so easily drowning out the good with its megaphone of doom. It can weigh so heavy until we feel overpowered under its weight.

Sometimes I have a hard time reconciling my heart with all that is not right. There are days when it is so easy to see only that. In those moments I can often miss the goodness and the justice of God in operation. The goodness of God speaks so much more powerfully than the voice of evil, but it is also less easily heard. The justice of God is in operation in our lives. But it often works quietly, coming upon us with a calm stealth. God is there, but we don't always feel Him because we don't take time to stop and sense Him.

The writer of Hebrews states that, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." When the world speaks of hope it speaks of wishful thinking. When God speaks of hope, He speaks with assurance. It is often hard to see how God is working to make the wrong things right in our lives, in our families, in our world. But we don't hope wishing that someday He will. We hope knowing that He is. He has been working, He is working, and He will bring about the final righting of all wrong in the glorious day of His return. There are days we can't see it. We can't feel it. We can't hear it. All we see is darkness. All we feel is pain. All we hear are the cries of injustice. But the light is there and our King is coming! He is in our midst even now. I want to train my heart to trust Him in those moments when I am overwhelmed with all that is not right. I want to learn to trust His goodness when I all I can see is wrong. I want to listen for His whisper of righteousness sweeping over my heart and my world. It is quiet, but it is there. It is pounding deep within His heart and I can sense it beginning to pound deep within mine. Let us listen for it together, waiting for it to swell and grow within our midst. The enemy has been defeated. Death has met its doom. Evil holds no power. And though these truths cannot be seen with outwards eyes, I want to live with the conviction that what cannot be seen is still there. It is real. It is more real than what I am seeing now. It is the reality of the coming of Christ. One day the entire world will see it for themselves. But I don't want to wait until that moment. I want to see it now. Father, give my heart the eyes to see your movements and your glorious acts of justice at work!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Warning: Bicycles at large!

This evening my mother and I enjoyed a brisk walk together around sunset while four of my younger siblings were riding their bikes in the general vicinity. For those of you who know the place we were traversing the first couple paved miles of Cowboy Trail by Ta-Ha-Zouka Park. It was a dangerous undertaking. Mother's instructions for the bikers to stay close resulted in their perpetual doubling back to zoom past my mother and I, followed by hairpin turns behind our backs and another surge of energy sending them pedaling off to test the limits of their invisible leash. I don't know if you have ever tried to walk in the middle of four bikers all under the age of ten, half of which are riding bikes too tall for them to reach the ground with their feet and one enjoying the newfound week-old freedom of no training wheels at the astonishing age of three and half. It is a hazard zone to say the least. Emilee, with her new-found freedom, has perfected the art of balance as well as any three and half year old possibly can. Needless to say she does quite well given an open sidewalk, no conflicting bicycles, and pavement swept clean of gravel. However, the path this evening was void of any of these luxuries and dealt its share of spills to the youngest bicycler extroidinare. Countless whines presented themselves. Ironically, it was never because of the pain of falling. Rather they were the indignant cries of her consternation that Stephen and Rebecca's bicycles had the nerve to happen to be in front of hers when she ran into them. While she may own the art of balance, the department of brake usage and steering could use some improvement. Couple these facts with the reality of four bikes trying to turn around, not crash into each other and pass my mother and I all on the same path at the same time and it created a recipe for my mother and I to stay quick on our feet. The grass became my friend on more than one occasion. At one point I tried to inform Stephen that the correct etiquette was for bicycles to yield to pedestrians. I'm not sure if he heard me. Even if he had I'm not sure he would have understood the phrase as my mother so graciously pointed out. What six year old knows what a pedestrian is anyways? Despite all this the most comical moment came when Aaron returned from around the corner with the rest of the children in tow to inform my mother and I that the path was closed ahead. He deduced this information from signs that read "do not pass" and "turn around". Upon further investigation the "turn around" sign was discovered to really be a curve sign. You know the kind: the diamond yellow sign with a black arrow warning of a curve in the path. The "do not pass" sign was just that. However it was facing the opposite direction to warn bikers not to pass each other going under the bridge tunnel we had just come thru. Needless to say I told my mother I was glad none of them were near the age to drive. We will have to work on their street smarts a little before then.

Overall the evening was a success. My mother and I managed to burn off a few calories and snag bits of pleasant conversation between threatening bicycle crashes. And the casualties of the evening only amounted to one clipped finger, one spill on the gravel, and one foot used as an instant brake device. Sorry mom. Oh yeah, and the berries the kids ate without asking. I guess they weren't poisonous since they went to sleep without keeling over or retching them up. All a day in the life of my family. There is never a dull moment and I love it!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Jesus Loves Me

Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak but He is strong...

Jesus loves me. It is such a simple truth. Easy to understand. That is why we teach it to children after all. We put it into their songs and they happily sing it to themselves over and over. They understand God's love for them... and they enjoy it.

So when did the rest of us stop understanding? At what point did the simple truth become complicated? Is it just me or has the majority of the grown-up world, including the church, moved past the fact of God's love? Though not voiced aloud, many lives seem to communicate the view that we mastered that infantile concept years ago and have now moved on to more adult concerns of the faith. At what point did we shelve the reality of God's love? Was there a magical age? Was it when we became an adult? Or is there more to it than that?

Perhaps it was when our hearts first encountered trauma. Childlike innocence came face to face with nonsensical pain and circumstances no longer allowed for the luxury of God's love. So we set the fantasy aside to pull up our bootstraps and charge forward through the broken dream. Survival becomes our only concern. No matter that our hearts are shattered, our lives scattered in pieces for one reason or another. We press on, finding a routine to dull the ache, busyness to drowned out the emptiness, and addictions to numb the pain. We learn to cope. But we don't live. And we certainly don't love.

We say we do. We find cheaper, counterfeit versions of love to try to fool ourselves into believing we have obtained the long lost luxury. But deep down, we all know that something is not right. Because the ache and the emptiness and the pain are still there, throbbing beneath the surface.

We inside the church are often just as trapped as those outside when it comes to our perspective of God and His love. The world displays their desperation and anger and agony. We learn to play games and cover ours up while pretending that we have found the solution our soul wanted. We claim that we understand the concept of God's love once again. But we don't. Not many of us. And certainly none of us to the extent that we could. Though we do not voice it for fear of contradicting such an accepted, childlike fact, we do not believe that God is loving. Our minds may, but our hearts often scream to the contrary. Our circumstances scream to the contrary. Our pain screams to the contrary. There is no room for pain and love to mix within our war-torn hearts. We feel pain, so we assume that love is absent. Some of us give up trying altogether. Others of us begin to work and strive and sacrifice to try to somehow earn this favor from God. But either way, we are not being loved. Or so we feel. But is this true?

Jesus loves me... Children believe it in their innocence. Why shouldn't they? When the world steals that innocence, doubt steals their ability to feel loved. But they remain loved all the same. We remained loved. We cannot see it, we cannot feel it. But the reality is there all the same. We are loved. We just won't let our hearts receive it. I haven't let my heart receive it. But it has been there all the same.

This I know... the key is knowing that God loves us. Whether we know it or not, the fact still remains true. But it cannot provide healing and restoration to our wounded hearts until we know this fact. This isn't a matter of knowing in the mind, but knowing in the heart. Of letting God reach down into the most wounded places of our souls and bringing the reality of His love. If we really know this... not just know it... but really know it in the core of our being, then it will change the way we live, the way we see and the way we feel.

Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong... The love of God is not an adult matter. It is for children. Adults make there own way in the world. Children wait to be provided for. We cannot make our own way into the love of God. He must be allowed to provide one for us. Jesus once said to enter the kingdom of heaven one must become like a little child. We have to open up our hearts to receive, just like children. Children accept gifts. They don't try to earn them. What's more is they love them! When was the last time you experienced the joy of receiving a gift from your heavenly Father, just because He loves you? He does. And He is waiting to give us what we have strived to find for so long. He just wants us to stop striving and open our hands to receive it.

I have been learning this lesson. It has been a painful, awkward journey, but a beautiful and exhilarating process nonetheless. God has taken the last few months to prepare my heart to receive this simple truth: He loves me. Its simple, but its profound. Its elementary, but its foundational. It can be understood by children and yet missed by a world of adults. I don't want to miss it any more. I don't want you to miss it. I know God doesn't want any of us to miss it. He loves us! Can you see it? Yes! Jesus loves me! Can you feel it? Yes! Jesus loves me! Does it make you want to dance and shout and sit and be quiet for a really long time? My heart has never been so at rest. I feel like I have stopped striving for the first time in a very long time... maybe ever. I'm so content. I'm so valued. I'm so loved. I'm also still in pain. The world and its messiness are still there. That hasn't changed. But somehow, the tangible love of God in my life makes all the difference. Love and pain have found a way to coexist within my soul. Yes! He loves me! They may find a way to coexist inside of yours.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Every summer that I have come home from school, I drive seventeen hours in sleep-deprived conditions with a taxed brain and emotions in tow, while visions of rest and relaxation dance in my head. There is always a bit of purpose laced in with the relaxation, but primarily I love coming home to rest and feed my hungry heart by spending time with those I love. Now I will admit that my 'every summer' only consists of a total of two at this point, but to a college student... hey that is consistency in the making. So... back to the visions of rest... well, they realize themselves somewhere in the midst of the summer... although they hide themselves pretty well. If you piece together two days at Grandma Beth's in Lynch in May, scattered hours snatched here and there in the Davy's attic, and a series of dinners at the Taylor house in July they might add up to one amazing week of vacation. But, well... what can I say? I spread the love around and shared it over an entire summer. So much for vacation. No really. I'm not meaning to communicate that my summer has been exhausting... although there are days when it seems it has. It just interests me how God always has a bit different plan in mind for my time at home than I usually imagine. But it should be expected. What do I know? Man makes his plans... but the Lord directs His steps.

I made my plans... this summer and last. I wanted to see my family and rest and catch up on a few projects I never seem to have time for. But God saw this time as prime opportunity for growth... accelerated style! So we do a little prodding here... a little uncovering there. Toss in a heaping of conviction, a portion of pain, and a pinch of overwhelmed and... vwhala... a complete recipe for an undetermined amount of stretching. The seventeen hour drive is over. God says ready, set, go! I never even saw it coming.

My heart is so full right now. I feel like I am trying to process six things at once. Maybe that is because I am. This summer somehow feels like it has a year or two's worth of growth packed into a measly three months. Its been hard. But its been good. I don't see all of the goodness at the moment. Right now the overwhelmed bit is obstructing my view. But I remember this feeling last summer. And I also remember the fact that afterwards I wouldn't trade it for anything. I walked away with a deeper understanding of myself, the people I love and the God I serve (and I just may have spent a whole year trying to process it all). I know this summer will prove the same, although it might take me a while to sort it through to find the hidden treasures.

There is so much I could write about... but there is so much that I have struggled to pick any of it out of the muddle to focus on over the last few weeks. Hence the lack of posting. The best I can do at this point is summarize into a few words: pain, release, healing, refinement, and discipleship. The rest will have to wait until I find a bit of sleep, some time and the words to spit it out into cyberspace. You'll have to stay tuned.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance to the King

I pledge allegiance to the King, who rules over all the nations of the earth. I pledge allegiance to His kingdom and everything for which it stands: grace, justice, redemption, deliverance, healing, hope, and the love of the King himself. His Kingdom is invincible, eternal, and pervasive. It lies within our grasp and yet will never be contained. It steals gently into our world and overpowers all other realities. It comforts our hearts with its presence. And it overwhelms us with the expanse of its power and dominion. The subjects of this kingdom learn to be loyal to the end, sacrificing their comforts, their days, all they hold dear and their very lives to further the cause of their King. They exchange the good for the better. The temporal for the eternal. The small for the great.

This Kingdom is invisible to all those who do not have eyes to see. At the surface it cannot be noticed. To look at our world, full of its evil and injustice, it can be hard to believe there is an all pervasive Kingdom of goodness and justice winning a war in our midst. But the day of victory is drawing nigh. Those with Kingdom senses can feel it pulsing beneath the surface of the earth. They smell the fragrance of its beauty. They hear its distant approach. They see its imminent arrival. They taste of its goodness. It is rising and approaching and gaining speed as the day draws near when not just the loyal citizens of this kingdom will pay their homage, but every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Happy Independence Day! The bondage of sin has been broken. We are free to love and live for the King of Kings! May His Kingdom quickly come!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

An Ordinary Day

Today was an ordinary day. My feet traversed over solid ground. I worked with my hands. Words came out of my mouth. My eyes watched and my ears heard.

But maybe today wasn't an ordinary day. Maybe my feet didn't really walk across solid ground. Oh, I know they did in the sense that this earth is real. I'm standing on it right now. But maybe they also didn't because there is a bigger reality that exists outside of what I touched and saw and heard in this ordinary day. Maybe I didn't traverse across pavement and carpet and floors. Perhaps I traversed across something more... without even knowing it.

Do you ever reach the end of day and feel that you have been existing in one set of parameters while a bigger reality has been waiting and existing all around you? The things around you were real, but there was something more real just beyond..... I don't know... what is it that keeps us from entering its sphere of existence? The existence of the more real. There is an infinitesimal part of my heart that is aware of this greater reality. But there is a larger part of my heart that stands oblivious to its presence. I miss it within so many moments. My hands sew, moving to oblige. My feet walk, traveling to finite destinations. My lips move and my ears hear, communicating and receiving miniscule information. Simultaneously the heavens are shaking and dancing and racing and pausing around me. Wars are being fought. Battles lost and won. Passion spent. Love expressed. God is whispering. There is something more.

I could be discouraged at the end of this ordinary day. I lived in the ordinary and I missed the other reality. Or I could be excited. In the midst of my ordinary, the extraordinary was living and thriving and swelling to draw me into it. I may not have seen it today, but it exists... and that is hope. It remains living and thriving and swelling. I sense it in this moment at a day's end. I am glad that my existence doesn't simply consist of a lot of work and meaningless chatter. I am glad that there is more... and its waiting for me.

It's just a thought at the end of an ordinary day. I looked around me and I saw, but I sensed that what I saw wasn't truly real. There was something beyond what I saw that was waiting to be seen. Ordinarily I might not have noticed... but today... at the end of this ordinary day I did. And I wanted you to notice too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Pain. Intense pain. Overwhelming the senses, overpowering the heart, pervading every part of life. Not the pain that causes the outward body to ache, but the pain that pierces the heart and leaves it bleeding profusely for hours. And just as the spiritual platelets have begun to do their job and return the heart to a calmer level of feeling, the cycle starts all over again and rips open the freshly sealed wound over and over.

There are two kinds of pain. There is the pain that occurs in our own lives and then there is the pain that occurs when we have to watch those we love suffer. The first can be excruciating: rejection, loss, abandonment, abuse. But the second can be the torment of hell itself. There is nothing worse than watching the ones you love suffer and feeling helpless to do a thing about it. Or is there something worse?

I have felt my share of pain. If outward circumstances were the gage then I have felt very little in comparison to much of the world, but my latest theory is that pain is relative to the degree your heart is open to feel it. In other words, there are those who should be feeling excruciating pain but they are numb. They choose not to feel. The only thing worse than experiencing the pain itself is not experiencing it.

The place of pain is the safest place to be. Why? Because it is proof of life. As long as we are feeling, as long as we are caring then we are still alive. Our hearts are still beating. There is still hope. The pain is also the warning sign that something is wrong, that something must be fixed. It can lead us to healing. It can keep us fighting, for ourselves or for those we love. The greatest danger to those who have lost feeling in parts of their physical bodies is that they can burn or cut themselves without even realizing it. Why should it be any different spiritually? When we cease to feel we risk incurring more and more pain upon our hearts, a life-threatening possibility. And when we cease to feel we stop fighting for those we love and begin to watch at an apathetic distance.

So what do we do with pain? We sit in it. That is what I am learning. We sit in it and don’t run away. We look it straight in the face and let it do a number on our heart… and we let God meet us in the midst of it. Pain places us closer to the heart of God, if we will let it. It can give us a glimpse into what He is feeling. Have you ever stopped to ponder that struggling with loneliness and feeling a discontent for the depth of relationships in life must be a taste of the ache God feels when he longs to commune with us and we don’t have the capacity to join Him like He would desire? Have you ever stopped to consider that when your heart is screaming at the injustice of a situation, God’s heart must be screaming an infinite number of times louder? And when our hearts are breaking as we watch pain, we are sensing a touch of the degree that God’s heart is breaking too. We have to stay there. We have to keep letting our hearts feel, even though it seems it will be the end of us.

Pain is overwhelming. Pain is ugly. But pain can also be beautiful. It is another oxymoron of the kingdom. We won’t understand it until we trust God enough to take Him at His word and to sit in the middle of it. I’m trying. Often awkwardly and a bit unsuccessfully, but I’m trying. I’m getting overwhelmed and exhausted. I haven’t perfected the art of feeling the pain and balancing it with the hope that God brings in the middle of it. So I’m making a mess some days, but I’m living and feeling and trying. The day that my heart ceases to be messy this side of heaven is the day that my heart goes completely numb.

Life is messy, but messiness is living and moving and throbbing. Houses that are lived in get messy. Hearts that are lived in get messy too. There is nothing condemning about messiness. There is nothing wrong about pain. It is part of life. It is part of the kingdom. I know… easier said than done… but I know. I’m feeling it too. So throw caution to the wind and jump in the mess. Take time to scream and cry and pray. You just might find a treasure of beauty in the midst of the pain.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Battle to See Clearly

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge you will be judged; and by your standard of measure it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” - Matthew 7:1-5

Clear vision is fragile. It is hard to attain and even harder to maintain. It is a precious treasure, a gift from divinity, priceless in value. Clear vision is the doorway to right standing with God and the gateway to the pleasures and hidden mysteries of the kingdom. The quest to obtain it requires diligent pursuit of the heart of God and the sacrifice of all that stands in the way. The journey to open the eyes of the spirit is costly, and the fight to continue seeing is costlier still. But nothing is more worth the cost.

This week the words of Jesus in Matthew took on a whole new level of meaning. I lived them. For months I have been preoccupied with a speck. I looked at a situation, I assessed and I judged. But I did not see… not clearly. How could I see? There was a log in my eye. It was staring me in the face and yet I was oblivious. Until, in one piercing moment of conviction God allowed me to see clearly. I saw the log, with all its ugliness. It saw it rising up from within me. I realized once again, what I was capable of, the depravity within my own soul to tear down another human being. The very thing I had seen and despised in others was lurking within my own heart. It reared its head with a mocking smirk of victory, but the moment it revealed its hiding place it met its doom. Godly sorrow and I have communed these past two days. The fellowship has been painful but sweet. It is a beautiful thing to find yourself humbled at the feet of Christ once again, staring up in wonder at His sacrifice and faithfulness on your behalf. I needed this realistic reminder of my place before a holy God, to sense it in my heart and not just my head. I needed my vision to be cleared and redefined.

I’ve thought a lot about vision and perspective over the past year. I have longed and prayed to be able to see through the eyes of God rather than man. I have come to realize the significance of vision and the impact it has upon every aspect of life. The way we see and what we see effects the decisions we make, what we believe and how we choose to act. I explored these thoughts in an essay I wrote last fall (included at the end of this post). This past week has further driven this realization home. It has also shown me how easily the vision I crave can be distorted. So many things are capable of tainting our view of God and each other. I am not immune. Just because I have had the privilege of seeing clearly before does not mean I am seeing clearly now. Vision must be a constant battle. I placed confidence in my vision this past semester. I knew that I was the one seeing the situation with maturity and clarity… or so I thought. I was dead wrong. I am so grateful for the grace of God as it has removed the blinders of pride and self-righteousness to align my sight with His once again. The place of humility and repentance is messy and painful, but it is also beautiful and authentic and full of life itself. I want to live with clear eyes. What I see may be painful, it may be heavy, it may be messy. But it is worth far more than the softened, fogged over vision of a put-together life. Any amount of real vision full of real throbbing life is worth any amount of mess and pain in order to obtain it. I’m on a quest to see yet clearer still. Want to join me?

Eyes to See

Blank eyes shrouded in darkness, oblivious to any sense of light or beauty. Behind them was a man, filthy and penniless, condemned to a life of purposeless misery from the moment of his birth. He sat by the roadside, his translucent gaze fixed upon his surroundings for hours on end, but for all his looking he saw nothing. Day after day he remained by the roadside, the passersby nearly oblivious to his changeless presence. It was as if he had become a part of the road itself, nothing more than a piece of dirt or stone. “Where was the purpose in the life of a stone?” he often had to wonder. “It cannot leave. It cannot follow. It can do naught but cause a man to stumble in his way.” His purposelessness weighed as a heavy burden upon his darkened soul.
Without aim his life began, and in like it would have drawn to an end, if not for the passing of a man, a man so filled with purpose the very rocks cried out his name. Compelled, the rock with the blank eyes followed suit, sending up his cry to join with the chorus of the throng. Something within him stirred for the first time in so many years his crazed mind could not count their passing. The rock rose to his feet and began to stumble through the crowd. No longer oblivious to his presence, the passersby sought to squelch the blind man’s screams, but he would not be deterred. Desperation drove him. He could fall no further into demise than where he already sat, so he had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
His cries gained the passing Rabbi’s gaze, a gaze that caused the hands of the crowd to guide the blind one forward. Posited at the feet of the Rabbi, he laid bare his request. “I want to see.” Could the blind man possibly know for what he asked? He sought the gift of sight for his eternally darkened eyes, but whether or not his crazed mind realized it, he asked for so much more. The man received his sight when the hands of the healer touched his empty eyes, but he received vision when those new eyes fluttered open to gaze into the eyes of God. The senseless now made sense. The misery turned to joy. The aimless life found its purpose. A path lay before his feet. His eyes could see it now. The Rabbi turned with a twinkle in his eye and the seeing man rose to travel in the newfound way of life.
What is a spiritual quest, but a quest for sight? The Apostle Paul pointed out to the believers in Ephesus that when the eyes of their understanding were enlightened they would know the hope of their calling in Christ Jesus. To find one’s quest or purpose in life, one must have eyes to see.
Vision is the key to the kingdom. Sight controls perception, perception dictates belief, and belief determines course of action. Everything in life hinges upon what the eyes of the soul see, or choose to see. This is why the ultimate quest of the followers of Christ is to capture within their own eyes the vision of the Master.
This is the quest that I have chosen to make my own. In desiring to draw closer to the one I love, I have discovered the necessity of becoming more like Him. To become more like Him requires following a course of action He would follow; yet actions stem from perceptions. For this reason, the ever-increasing cry of my heart is for God to allow me to feel the things he feels, to hear the things He hears, and to see the things He sees.
This is a dangerous prayer, but a powerful one, a fact that has not eluded the notice of the fiend of heaven. All of his power lies within hindered sight and distorted perceptions known as the lie. Lies make one blind to the truth, slowly creeping upon the vision of the soul and trapping the ensnared victim in a world of false reality. It is here where decisions and actions are made upon premises that do not exist outside of the deceived mind.
Far too often I have sat as the blind man, trapped, miserable and purposeless by the side of road, the dead weight of lies turning my heart to stone. I have lived under distorted perceptions regarding God, myself, and the people around me. Though I may not dare to openly admit it, I have lived with the underlying belief that I am the central player on the stage called life, and that every other player, including God, is accountable, in some way, to me. My true intentions become evident as my actions form the mirror that reflects the inward perceptions of my heart, the ones I live by rather than the ones I profess. It is only when I honestly face the attitudes of my heart, calling them the ugly things they are, that I can be freed of their hold and granted the vision to change.
Vision has the power to change my relationship with God. When I understand that God is not trying to steal anything from me, but only has my best in mind, it frees my heart to trust and allow Him to rule in His rightful place. When I catch a glimpse of His incredible goodness and majesty, it invokes a response of worshipful obedience within my heart. When I see his bloodied form upon the cross on my behalf, I cannot help but throw my all at His feet in response to such a gift. But so many do not understand the why behind His ways. They cannot see who He is through the fog of this world. I also lack the capacity to fully understand the truth of His being…for now we see in the mirror dimly. What I do know is that if a glimpse of His face were possible I would not be able to muster the strength to continue to reject the immenseness of his love, nor would it be my desire to do so any longer.
Vision also contains the power to change my identity. When I see myself in proportion to the God I serve, it keeps me humble. It reminds me that I am not the center of the universe. Yet when I see myself as the joyous motivation for Christ’s endurance upon the cross, it frees me to walk in the confidence of being chosen. Too long have the children of this world seen their identity as worthless. They sit by the roadside in the bondage of a misconstrued perception while the creator of the universe sees their true value as priceless. Freedom lies in the enlightenment of the inward eye.
When I catch a glimpse of God and allow Him to set the perspective of my identity, then vision is free to breed a heart of compassion within me for the people whom God loves. When I begin to understand that those who insult me do so because of their own insecurity, it motivates me to impart value into their lives rather than hold offense at their words. When I listen to the story of one who is struggling in their pursuit of God, I can be encouraged to lift them up instead of condemn their apparent failure. Jesus took time to sit with broken people, to become a part of their world, and to hear their stories. His eyes saw past their failures and accepted them for who they were as God created them to be. My quest for vision requires me to do the same.
Last September I met someone, beyond which fact there was not much to tell. I met a lot of people last September and did not see much significance in one introduction among so many. She, along with many other faces, began to find a small place in my world. She made her presence known here and there among the moments of studies, meals, and the occasional Friday night excursion. Our relationship lay somewhere between an acquaintance and a friend, but I had no intension of pursuing it further. I took a sweeping look at her life, passed my judgment, and placed her in a box along with countless others who I would exist with but never care to sincerely know.
There she remained in my box for months, until, in January, God saw fit that we meet again, on His terms. For the first time, my deceived perception slipped away and I was introduced to the real person behind the one I saw on the surface. I stood in her hospital room at two in the morning watching her sleep. As the snow outside was falling into a paper-thin blanket over the streets of Cleveland, the grace of God was falling upon my heart, cloaking it in a blanket of compassion. Up to this point I had looked upon this person with physical eyes, filtered by the world. I had seen a girl who I believed did not measure up in the kingdom. But God gave me new eyes for her: His eyes. In that brief moment I saw what God saw when He looked at her. I saw a scared and hurting child desperately in need of love. Yet I also saw immense beauty waiting to be found and a picture of the wholeness that God intentioned for her life. Something within me was forever changed. Suddenly I cared, immensely. I felt the passion rising within me to fight for her and for the fullness of life that God desired when he took the time to delicately craft her soul into existence. The eyes of my understanding were opened, and I would never be the same.
The two of us have seen many hours and months together since that snowy January night. Walking together in the kingdom has not been easy, but neither of us regrets the care and intensity that has been invested in the relationship. On my part it has been an immense privilege to walk beside her and glimpse the potency of the love of God at work. The shared tears and laughter has changed both of us and knitted our souls together in a way not many understand. The one who I wrote off as incapable of depth has become a deep friend, a confident, and an encouraging voice in my life, and I would have missed it all if I had not cared to look and truly see.
To see correctly, one must look past the world of touchable things and find a window into the soul. Reality hides behind appearance. Those that appear to have it all together are usually the ones who are falling to pieces inside. Those who come across tough and harsh usually have the deepest wounds festering in their hearts. Those that have everything one could ask for can feel the most empty inside. Those that seem to have an answer for everything often feel secure about nothing. Likewise those that are quiet usually have the most to say, and those that are overlooked often have the most to offer. Things of the greatest value tend to slip past our eyes unnoticed while we are looking in all but the right place.
The blind man finally found the right place to look, straight into the eyes of Jesus. What he saw changed his life forever. It gave him purpose. It caused him to follow after the Healer and I doubt he ever chose another path. Vision set his world aright and has the power to shape yours and mine. There are moments when I see the truth. It is in those glimpses that I sense the rightness of the ways of God and have no doubt for how I should then live. But, at best, my vision flickers dimly, so my quest continues and will not end until the light of heaven fully sheds its illumination upon my sojourning heart.
The light of this world is nothing but a false reality. We live in this reality because, like the blind man, we know nothing of what the true world really looks like. Yet we must not allow our hearts to be content with the fake. As the blind man asked Christ to open his eyes, we must ask the Spirit to open the eyes of our heart to enable us to see the world beyond our physical senses, the world that shall not fade. This is the one true reality, and we must learn to live according to its principles. Then will the song of gratitude and victory be released to rise with renewed understanding from our hearts:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”