At the Edge of the Deep

Have you ever found yourself
at some jagged edge
where earth yawns out into ocean?
In the wake of its frightening beauty
you are breathless.

Dash and fizz of waves against rock,
mangled seaweed tossed in foam,
briny sting of air, you can just taste.

Dizzy, you stand at its great mouth.
The earth is on its toes
tottering at the edge of the deep.

(From, Maineland, by Caitelen Schneeberger)

Though I haven’t physically stood at a coastline like this in years, I still sometimes feel like I’m teetering on the edge of one, struggling to keep my balance.  I know I stand on firm ground, yet it’s hard not to be thrown off by busyness, work, family drama, sickness, worrying about tomorrow, etc. Like the tumultuous depths of the sea, God’s ways are unfathomable. His will is good, yet in the midst of trials, doesn’t it often feel like we’re flopping chaotically and without purpose in a raging sea?

If you’re standing at that coastline, and you raise your gaze toward the horizon, everything suddenly looks calm. A smooth, even line separates the sky from the sea.  You can still hear the fierce rush of everything at your feet, but if you stop trying to follow the chaos of it and focus on the ground beneath you and the still skyline in the distance, it becomes more of a cathartic experience.

I practice yoga now and again for the physical benefits of relaxation, flexibility, and balance, and I’ve learned as I practice that when attempting to hold a balance pose, you must find an unmoving spot on the floor or wall to fix your gaze. If you keep looking down at your feet, or at what your arms are doing, or worse, at someone else who is struggling to find her balance as well, you are bound to lose focus and fall.

When we fix our eyes on things that are fleeting and unstable, we will be swept under the waves of doubt, worry, and sin. We will be caught off guard by tragedy, thrown off track by people who let us down, and embittered by circumstances that are out of our control. We need to raise our eyes and fix our gaze on the unmoving LORD. We need to  stop trying to completely understand the chaos or change it. We need to stop trying to fight against it.

What is chaos to us, is actually God’s perfectly designed plan, and the more we submit to that, the less thrown off we will be by those trials and the more we will begin to see those things as opportunities for our sanctification and growth.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2)

For “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,  who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

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My Empire of Dirt

All is vanity….but God is the one you must fear (paraphrased from Ecclesiastes 1 and 5).

A few years ago, just months before he died, Johnny Cash covered the song “Hurt,” by Nine Inch Nails. The meaning of the song is debated. Originally an alleged suicide note, Cash’s version has been named an epitaph to his life, but I believe it is more than that. It’s a gospel song, even if it wasn’t written with that intent, and I’ll attempt to prove that here, or at least argue that the theme heavily alludes to our depravity apart from Christ, the futility worshiping ourselves, and the glory of the Cross and what Christ did for us there.

As the first verse implies, to ignore the hurt and the emptiness we feel, we often turn to crutches. We “try to kill it all away,” but when the drug wears off, or the credit card gets maxed out, or the box of chocolate is empty, or person we trusted lets us down, we “remember everything.” We can’t ultimately hide from our sin and idolatry, and we will always come to the end of ourselves. This pattern, without the hope that is found in the redeeming love of Jesus, leads to death.

God spoke to this through the prophet Hosea:

They made kings, but not through me.

They set up princes, but I knew it not.

With their silver and gold they made idols

for their own destruction

(Hosea 8:4, emphasis mine)

The plaintive chorus cries out to “my sweetest friend” (Christ). The speaker offers up his “empire of dirt,” realizing that all he has done, all he has collected, every idol he has served, and every dollar he made, spiritually amounts to nothing (“Everyone I know goes away in the end”).

The final line of the chorus, “I will make you hurt,” alludes to the truth that the depravity of the hearts of all Mankind led our God to sacrifice His Son for us. In his mercy, he gave us eternal life. Jesus willingly went to death on our behalf.

Because of this, our song doesn’t end with our guilt and the meaninglessness of life. Even this song ends with hope of “starting again.”

When God looks at us, he no longer sees the empire of dirt that we are.

He sees His Son, Christ. He sees us as clean.

My prayer is that I would remember the futility of my “empire of dirt” and the things I treasure and cling to for comfort. May I be reminded that “where my treasure is, there my heart will be also” (MAtt 6:21), and pray that God would “create in me a clean heart…and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

“Hurt”
(originally by Nine Inch Nails)

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

[Chorus:]
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

I wear this crown of thorns
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

[Chorus:]
What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

Bruises When We Fall

I could say it in my sleep:

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding;

in all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make your paths straight.”

My favorite verse in the Bible is Proverbs 3, verses 5 and 6. Until recently, if you had asked me to tell you anything about chapter 3, or the surrounding verses, I would have come up short. I was convicted as I read on, and the Lord gently reminded me that the context of “popular” verses like this one is key in truly understanding what the Lord wants to teach us through His Word. The following verses to 5 and 6 are:

“Do not be wise in your own eyes;

fear the LORD and shun evil.

This will bring health to your body

and nourishment to your bones.”

What a sobering reminder that we can say all the “right” things, and do all the “right” things, but still be “wise” in our own eyes, not truly seeking Christ.  This brought me to another sobering reminder, that

pursuing the Lord and trusting Him with my mind is

what brings health and nourishment to my body.

I spend a lot of time reading and studying about health, fitness, food. I try to fill my body with nourishing foods, and go to great lengths to make healthy choices, but I don’t spend nearly enough time in the Word. I have found myself feeling pride in the fact that I have a growing knowledge of these things, but what good is it if I am leaning on my own understanding?

If my mind is weak feeding off of my own ambitions, and trusting in my own knowledge (which is PUNY compared to Gods), my body will waste away.

Have you ever struggled with depression?

I have. And I have many dear friends and family who do. I’ve seen it and felt it enough to know that when the mind is consumed with doubt, sorrow, pain, anger, fear, worry, sin, and selfishness, the physical body suffers.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Psalm 32

This isn’t to say that health, wealth, and prosperity will follow those who do A, B, and C correctly. The scriptures are full of examples of our capacity for the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows.

We will get sick.

We will have seasons, often long seasons of doubt and depression.

We are meant to wrestle with our faith and feel the

bruises when we fall….

but then, dear sisters, we are CALLED to trust Him….and to experience the

PEACE of God which surpasses all understanding.

I pray that this post points you toward that peace today!

Harried

I am NOT a morning person.

In my dreams, I’d wake up when I want. I’d eat a late and leisurely breakfast while Greg gave me a foot massage, and then we’d both sip mimosas by the pool while our children sat quietly reading books on philosophical theology and playing Mozart on their tiny violins.

In my dreams, I said….

In reality, morning hits me like a bus. I find my stomach sinking at the first “Mmmmaaamaaaa!” I hear over the monitor.  I trudge downstairs, squinting against the wretched sunlight, often bumping into something, or stepping on a toy, which only irritates me more.

There are no mimosas. There are no foot massages. There are no tiny violins. There is just morning.

The word that comes to mind when I try to describe this feeling is harried…. (not to be confused with feeling “harry,” although a week without a chance to shave my legs will give me that feeling too).

This word so perfectly describes the more frenzied moments of motherhood, that even Webster used a mom as the subject in the definition’s sample sentence:

harried
adjective
harried mothers with their crying children HARASSED, beleaguered, flustered, agitated, bothered, vexed, stressed, beset, plagued; informal hassled, up against it.

If I were perfect, my initial reaction to the day would be thankfulness to God for breath, for life, and for my family. It saddens me that my first reaction to Baby’s hungry cries, are actually to want to cry myself, and to mourn the death of sleep (at least for the next 15 exhausting hours)!

Like the prideful woman I am, I have told myself the lie that I am the ONLY mom on the planet to ever think and feel that way at 7 AM. While I know the opposite is true, I still feel the conviction to do as the Proverbs 31 woman does. She rises early in order to prepare and provide. She can “laugh at the days to come.”

Laughter, as we know, is cathartic. It releases endorphins, burns calories, and intimates having joy and contentment. Imagine being so filled with “strength and dignity” (as our P31 Mama was), in our roles as wives and mothers, that we can actually laugh at the mornings to come!

In God’s timely way, he recently caused me to stumble upon this wonderful blog called Inspired to Action. I was immediately encouraged by Kat’s  honesty about her same struggles, and how it led her to start an accountability program.  “Maximize Your Mornings”  is designed to encourage moms to rise earlier, get more time with the Lord (a key factor in starting the day right), and to “wake up for our children, not just to them.”

What a concept!

I have committed to try this. I know it won’t always happen perfectly, but it’s worth striving for. I’m setting my alarm for 6:30 AM, and even if I just get a half hour to pray and prepare, I know it will deepen my relationship with God, and change the way I am able to love and serve my family throughout the day.

Join me in this challenge!

Confessions of a Pharisee

Road Rage

What is it about driving that makes us so quick to be impatient and judgmental? I know I am not alone in this. And I believe it it has, on more than one occasion, revealed to me an area in which I am in DIRE need of sanctification!

I took Aria to Michigan a few weeks ago to visit family, and on our way to the reunion it started pouring rain. I was on the freeway, trying to keep the car steady on the slick road. As I was trying to focus through the splattered windshield, I realized that the blue Miata behind me was tailgating me and would not back off. At that moment, I was road-blocked in the passing lane with a slow van in front of me and a sedan blocking my right side. I had nowhere to go.

Mr. Miata was getting ticked….and so was I. Who was this guy, speeding up so dangerously close to me in a rain storm? And I had my infant in the back seat!

My heart began to pound with growing anger toward this stranger.  I motioned to him through my rear view window that I couldn’t move, and that he should “back off!” The subsequent array of gestures that ensued from his end were, to say the least, unpleasant.

We exchanged perturbed looks as he finally zoomed past me a moment later, and we were again on our separate ways.

I grumbled in my heart the rest of the way about how horrible he was. I imagined of all the nasty things I would have liked to say to put him in his place,  and thought of how justified I would be in telling him off.

Then, when the heat of anger began to drain from my face and my pulse finally slowed, the conviction set in. The Holy Spirit whispered into my soul the truth that I had chosen to ignore in my moment of rebellion. I had given in to sin. And I knew it.

I didn’t even know this man from Adam, and here I was judging him….even cursing him in my heart. The pang of guilt rang clear in my heart as I recalled Jesus’ words:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. ” (Matthew 5:21-22, emphasis mine).

I was the Pharisee in Luke 18, mocking God, thinking that I was justified in my reaction, when in reality, I failed miserably to “turn the other cheek,” and represent Christ. Even though words were never exchanged, I know my face had communicated all the unloving things I felt.

The tax collector in Luke 18, on the other hand, fell to his face under the weight of his sin. He saw the darkness that was in his own heart. He confessed it, and repented of it. He walked away justified.

If only I had been more self-controlled in that moment, and reacted more patiently and lovingly. But I am not perfect, and I fell short.

It is in those moments when I realize I’ve fallen short that I can be humbled and rejoice that I have a loving God who wants to save me.What Christ did on the cross covers our shortcomings. It is his sacrifice that compels us to season our words with salt, saturate our actions with love, and spread his glory broader and deeper.