dear one

oh dear one,

you there with the burden of memory and the longing to be soothed and safe and seen – come lay down that back-breaking load.

has no one held your face in their hands, eyes laid upon soul-bearing eyes, and told you that you are a walking miracle?

has no one taken your troubles into the chambers of their well-worn heart and watered the ground under your feet with an ocean of empathy?

has no one reminded you how brave and beautiful you are? or that the cracks running through you like seams – your fragile places – are where the light gets in?

has no one held your hand in theirs and kissed your scars and told you that you are beloved? that your life is a brilliant flame – an enchanting wonder all of its own – that is even more captivating in the darkness?

oh dear heart…take these words in like water for the barren desert that has surely become of your tender heart – seeking moment by moment for an oasis.

you are the treasure.
you are the brilliance.
you are the beauty of the earth.

and you are loved
loved, loved.

you are loved.
you are loved.
you are loved.

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to the One I love the most

Jesus,

I love you. I love that you love me no matter what I’m going through or struggling with. I love that you were misunderstood and that your radical words and way of life and love were different than the religious interactions, rules, and experiences the people were accustomed to.

I love that you knew WHO you were even when you were despised and rejected and people talked amongst themselves about how you should be someone else entirely. I love the way you spoke to the woman at the well, the way you saw beyond the crook Zaccheus was and LOVED him deeply and let others know, publicly, that Zaccheus was loved, valued, and worth your time.

I love the way you communed with your Father.

I love the way you didn’t see people as issues but instead saw them as wounded souls in need of fountains of grace and torrents of healing love.

I love how you didn’t just give people a temporary fix to physical ailments but you actually reached far beyond their blindness, deafness, and sickness in order to mend the brokenness in their spirits – to resurrect the death of their souls. I love how you rescued people not only from physical disease, but also from the anguish of social alienation. I love how you came not just to feed the 5,000 but to demonstrate that you care for our every need – see our every ache, groaning, and longing – and notice our deep need for a Provider and Rescuer.

I love the simplicity of your conversations, the depth of your compassion, the boldness of your confrontations with religious Pharisees.

I love the miracle of your birth – how you trusted your created beings to care for you in your helpless, infantile state.

I love your humility – how you didn’t always try to defend yourself from attacks on your character and true self and I love your determination to protect those you love – how you didn’t shy away from confronting injustice – against the children, the adulteress, the leper, the Samaritan woman. I love how you revealed yourself to those who truly hungered for you. I love how you pursued those who were running from themselves and hiding behind authority, influence, and power but really just wanted to be sought.

I love how you questioned the commitment of the rich young ruler, stepped in between the adulteress woman and her violent accusers, and I love how you let the outcast woman anoint your feet with her tears and hair and kisses. Because it was pure worship from her heart. I love how you don’t see us as the same but instead, connect with us intimately because you know each of us deeply and are well-acquainted with our most crippling fears, our most daring dreams, and our darkest, most well-kept secrets.

I love how you retreated from the crowds to spend time with the men in your inner circle. And I love how you had an intimate and different relationship with each of them. I love your wild at heart approach to your vagabond life. I love that the people you recruited to be your ambassadors don’t fit the profile the world thinks they should. I love that you introduced a new definition of greatness to mankind. That in spite of your unassuming nature, you walked and talked with authority.

I love that you believed in those you created and called to follow you. I love that you don’t prevent our mistakes – that you let us mess up and let us realize the gravity of our mistakes and grieve them and then find freedom in your love and grace in your eyes. I love that you want us to be carefree and childlike – I love that you can be trusted to meet our needs and care for our souls.

I love that you can’t be explained, confined, or fully interpreted. I love that you are mysterious. I love that you are here and now. I love that you speak to all of us – each of us – in different ways – in ways that penetrate the walls we’ve built and flood into our empty places. I love that you are the God of seeing.

I love that you say I’m fearfully and wonderfully made and I love that you sacrificed much for me – and that I can’t repay the debt I owe – because grace is such a weighty gift to bestow. I love that when the Father looks at me, he sees you. And I love that you meet me in the mess and want to know me even when I don’t feel worthy of being known. I love that you bless me not because of what I do or don’t do but because of who you are.

I love that you have an awesome sense of humor and know how to make me laugh. 

I love that you are LOVE. Feed and nourish my soul, precious Jesus.

Because you are exactly who I need.

-s

my tragic flaw

tragic flaw (n):  a flaw in character that brings about the downfall of the hero of a tragedy

My name is Sarah. And my tragic flaw is that I don’t know how to live in the present.

In my last post, you might have noticed that I’ve lived in a lot of different places in the past 5 years. Which is beautiful and amazing, and yes, it’s an adventure.

But with every new adventure, there is a slew of new goodbyes and a cold wave of loneliness which sweeps across my heart.

And this has become a lifestyle. Maybe it will always be my lifestyle.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that when I started to pull out of my friend’s driveway last month and her son ran around to my car, crying, to give me one more hug and say goodbye, something inside me broke.

And all the way home, I cried my eyes out and cried aloud,

“Why do I always have to say goodbye? Will the goodbyes ever end?”

And the simple answer is no, they will not end. Because even if everything about our lives stayed the same for the rest of our lives (not likely), the lives of those around us would change.

And goodbyes are bound to happen. Because this isn’t Heaven. This earth is the place of goodbyes.

So how do I live faithfully in this life? With a heart surrendered and longing, but not broken? How do I give God the pieces of my loneliness, aching, and questioning and just believe that He is enough in the present?

When I was in the Czech Republic in 2011, my heart was often in Nashville. And when I was in Nashville after a summer in the Northwoods of Wisconsin in 2010, my heart stayed in the Northwoods. And the rest of me longed to be back there. Often.

In South Africa, I missed my church family. A lot. But South Africa became home. Yet the tension remained…my heart was never just in one place. Which caused me to miss out on what was happening right in front of me because too often, my mind was consumed with what had happened in another time, in another place.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have daydreamed about living in Colorado. Years worth of daydreaming, let me assure you. And now I’m here – in this beautiful state. And I see pictures of my friends returning to South Africa and my heart weakens. And my soul longs for that home. Because Muizenberg became home and the people there from 15 different nations became my family.

Yet God has called me here. For such a time as this. And it is one thing to believe that He called me here and has reasons and purposes for me. But it is quite another to learn to be content in every situation, as my brother Paul learned as he engaged in a life of continual ministry. 

See, a tragic flaw is a trait that leads to a character’s downfall. And I know that if my gaze is continually fixed on a time, place, or group of people other than Christ and the place and people He has placed in front of me now, then 

I will 

surely

fall. 

I know that in past transitions – and oh, how there have been many transitions – God has used the feeling of loneliness and isolation to draw me into deeper intimacy with Him.

Yet sometimes, I run to my memories and call upon my old friend nostalgia to keep me company. But this is poisonous to my soul. Because while there is so much value in memories and recalling the beautiful adventures God has already brought me through, to dwell on those memories and think of them as better than the life before me is nothing less than idolatry. 

What? A memory can be an idol?

Sure. Anything that we place as more important or preferable to God in our midst now can be an idol.

And while I don’t intend to disappoint…this post doesn’t have a resolution. There is no “and this is what God showed me and how it is all going to be better.” Because I haven’t arrived at that point yet.

I’m living in the middle of this tension. Recognizing my tragic flaw and living in the awareness that a tragic downfall is the most logical conclusion if I continue down this path of the restless heart. 

But there is hope.

Because Jesus.

Simply put, there is hope because JESUS.

He is. He was. He will continue to be.

And He is the hero that has redeemed me and will redeem all of my flaws.

So hands open, heart hoping, I confess my weakness and pray that He will tame this restless heart. 

a wretch like me: running into marvelous light

My face is wet with hot, salty tears. I have been sobbing for the past hour as I have listened to the wise words of my brother Erik and the compelling testimonies of two women who are dear to my heart.

Though I am 1200 miles away from my church family, the Spirit of God is certainly closing in the distance. Geographical distance has no bearing when it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit. As I listened to Erik’s message, I felt like I was in the sanctuary with everyone else. Last week, my dear friend Lisa gave her testimony along with Erik’s phenomenal talk on homosexuality as a part of the Journey’s Counter Culture series. And yesterday, my amazing roomie Kelly and my good friend Mercedes both shared during Erik’s talk on abortion.

The conviction, humility, and passion of Erik’s message and the incredible boldness and courage of three women to share their stories has absolutely wrecked me. For I, too, am a sinner with a story that God has been speaking truth and light into over the past few years – out of darkness, out of shame. I, too, am a broken person who has fears, regret, guilt, and shame from struggles that have far too long been kept hidden away, for fear of man.

And I know that in this season, God is bringing more healing and life and light into the wounded and shameful areas of my heart and I look forward to the day when I can soon share details of my story that have not been shared before. I look forward to the day when the painful and shameful parts of my past will become part of my public testimony. Because I know that God is BIGGER than my fears and His light is more POWERFUL than any darkness and His truth is more PIERCING than any lies of the enemy. And I know that He will be glorified through my brokenness and weakness, because that is the kind of champion God that we serve. 

So I wept because I know that His grace is sufficient for me.

And I wept because I know that when men and women of God begin to bring their sin and struggles into the light, that sin and shame loses its power. And as men and women of God step through the fear and lies and speak openly and honestly about their shortcomings, fears, and failures, light overpowers the darkness.

And the captives are set free.

Something happens in the heavenly realms when we, as broken people, admit our sin and our need for a Savior. Truly – something breaks in the spiritual realm when we confess our sins and ask God for the grace and forgiveness and strength to carry us. When we admit that we cannot heal by concealing our sins or striving for perfection or trying to keep it all together, then God’s grace abounds and He is glorified and we are FREED.

And friends, as individuals like Lisa, Kelly, and Mercedes publicly declare what God has done in their lives, then other people are led into freedom.

In Revelation 12:11, it says, “And they have conquered him [the accuser, the enemy, the Father of lies] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”

When we choose not to love our own lives or try to make much of ourselves or make our sin and struggles look good and when we choose to let Christ’s truth spill over us and break the chains of the enemy’s lies, then the enemy loses his power. 

We are encouraged and commanded in James 5:16 – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

This confession is not God’s ploy to get us to air all of our dirty laundry so we can feel horrible about ourselves. No – on the contrary – God knows that in speaking our sins to each other and confessing our sin and brokenness, coming before our Lord and Savior in prayer, we will be healed of all of the shame and guilt of our sins.

Because Jesus bore the punishment of our sins on the cross. And while we have already been freed and forgiven by Christ’s blood, unconfessed sin – both to God and to others – keeps us in a prison of bondage, and we remain slaves to the memory of our sins even if the sin itself is far behind us. 

We serve a God of love who is all about freedom.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

-Galatians 5:1

Jesus wants us to live as FREE men and women! He delights when His children cast off their heavy weights and chains and take up his yoke, which is easy, and his burden, which is light (Matthew 11:29-30).

So friends, will you please take a moment to listen to the testimonies of these women? Will you take a moment to come to Jesus or to a friend regarding your own sin, which maybe you have tried to push down over the years?

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

This is true. We have an enemy, called the “father of lies,” who is constantly trying to destroy us from the inside out. But we also have a great hope – a great Advocate in Jesus, who is fighting for our freedom.

Did you know Jesus prays for you? He does. Check out John 17:20-23 if you want to see for yourself. And just as Jesus prays for us, we should pray for each other. And be willing to share and confess our sins and struggles to each other. Because freedom is found in confession and repentance and declaring the glory and grace of God in the midst of our deepest darkness and most futile efforts to fix our brokenness. 

I don’t know what you are struggling with. I don’t know what lies are battling for control of your mind and possession of your soul. But I do not that our God is bigger. And that He has called us into marvelous light – out of darkness and out of shame (1 Peter 2:9-10).

I urge you, brothers and sisters, pursue this great God who grants healing and hope to the hopeless and defeated places of our hearts. He is worthy and He is able to turn our stories of pain and shame into testimonies of redemption, grace, and victory. 

I love what Erik said about God’s grace – which is the crux of why we can live as free even though, at one point, we bore the stain of our sin. He said, “Grace does not force us to make much of ourselves. It forces us to make much of our great Savior.”

Hallelujah. Thank you, Jesus.

This is my prayer and I invite you to pray this along with me today if you are feeling attacked by the enemy or torn down by the shame of a sin and a burden God is calling you to lay down:

Sweet Jesus, you know the depths of my heart. And you love me the same – which amazes me! Father, your grace ASTOUNDS me. Lord, that you know the weight of my sin and still forgive me and love me and want to journey with me towards complete healing and freedom amazes me. Flood the darkness with your light, precious Redeemer! In the name of Jesus, keep the enemy – the father of lies – far from me. See me and shower me with your Truth and light and love, most Holy God.

Please provide friends and mentors and lovers of God who will help point my eyes to You, precious Lord, and will walk with me in this journey towards hope and healing. Help me, Father, as I continue to step into the light. Give me the courage and boldness to step in obedience and walk the road you have laid before me. Jesus, please grant me the peace and hope that I need in this journey.

Thank you, Lord, thank you for your grace! Thank you for saving a wretch like me! Thank you for freedom and light and life! Grant us grace as the Body of Christ to walk with and love each other with the love of Christ as we walk with each other. Give us the courage to live honestly and to be transparent with each other. Father, we are broken. We have no goodness in and of ourselves. Please help us to see You and to look to you and to live in the light of your Truth. 

You are beautiful, Jesus, and your grace is truly amazing. Thank you, Father, for your love and care for me. Precious Lord, bring freedom into our hearts today. Right now, God, shine into our hearts and lead us out of shame and into healing and hope. For you are worthy of all glory and honor and power, and we believe You can be glorified through even the darkest parts of our stories. Thank you that you are a God who pursues us and desires freedom for us. We praise your name, most High God! Amen.

May we walk in the light as He is in the light. And may we encourage our brothers and sisters who are faithfully walking in boldness and truth and accepting the grace and mercy He so freely gives. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

27 graves

543339-connecticut-school-shooting

My heart is completely broken today. I have no smile to offer, no words of comfort to console, no understanding to impart. I have truths to lean on – Ancient truths which grant me hope, not in circumstances, but in the promise of Presence.

The promise that I may cast my cares on the Lord and He will sustain me. For He will never let the righteous be shaken.

But I feel shaken.

I am wrecked. Grieved. Heartbroken.

Tears have been my companion since yesterday morning when I first learned of the devastating shooting in a small town in Connecticut. One man’s emotional instability – one man’s rage – ripped dozens of lives to pieces. Hundreds, even. How many families are sitting in silence today, too shocked by their new reality to even speak?

27 beds will be empty tonight.

27 graves will be prepared for innocent victims who had no time to protest before their lives were stolen from them.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

I cannot fathom the pain of the parents who lost their children yesterday. I cannot imagine the ache in the hearts of the children who lost brothers, sisters, and cousins. It is inconceivable to me that parents dropped their children off at school yesterday morning, fully expecting to pick them up just like any other day, and were told that their children would never come home again.

None of us can fathom it. We are all shocked. Outraged. Grief-stricken.

And afraid.

Because if someone was able to get into a school in a small, peaceful town in Connecticut, what about the schools of our own kids? What about the schools of our parents and friends, who are teachers? If our kids aren’t safe, who is?

Nothing is sacred anymore. Nothing is sacred.

Hear the word of the Lord, 
    because the Lord has a charge to bring
    against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
    no acknowledgment of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
    stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
    and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

We can blame poor regulation of gun sales or the prevalence of mental health issues and our incapacity to deal with it properly. We can impose stricter security measures in all of our schools or homeschool all of our kids and refuse to send them to school. But these solutions are only temporary. And they serve only to prevent the same outcome. But what about other acts of terror? How can we foresee and prevent those?

Devastation in response to this traumatic and tragic massacre of American children extends outside of American soil as well. Dozens of delegates from other countries have expressed their own shock and sympathy in response to hearing the news of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Everyone is horrified.

Why would anyone assault children like this? Why would we turn against each other like this, killing the most innocent among us? If we cannot trust each other to value and protect the sanctity of life, then what do we have to believe in?

Some trust in chariots and some in  horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

In the midst of this tragedy, we are pulling together as a nation to mourn this atrocity. We are unified with many other countries as we express shock and horror at such a heinous crime.

But our hubris, which will lead, once again, to our tragic downfall, is that we believe that “we, the people” can fix this. We believe that if we can continue to construct a patchwork quilt of moral codes, rules, regulations, and sheer grit, then we can prevent further tragedies from taking place.

If only we can restrict gun access, keep a closer eye on the mentally ill, heighten security measures, screen people with risky behavior, instill the right values…we can keep this from happening again. And that belief keeps the greatest of our fears at bay: that history will, indeed, repeat itself in our lifetime. In our neighborhood. On our watch.

So we vow to come together and take a stand. And as noble as that sounds, we cannot stand on the foundation of our own skewed morality and depravity.

Their deeds do not permit them
    to return to their God.
For the spirit of whoredom is within them,
    and they know not the Lord.

As a nation, as a culture, we are increasingly accepting of everyone else’s moral code. How can we ever agree on what is morally “right” when we are unwilling to tell someone else that they are morally “wrong?”

We are appalled by this crime (and rightly so) because it is cold-blooded murder. The annihilation of innocent children.

Yet abortion, the means by which hundreds and thousands of children are killed on a regular basis, is never met with such a widespread, unified reaction. As a nation, we have decided that this method of murder is permissible because it is someone’s choice.

I have read countless news reports on the Newtown shooting and I have yet to hear anyone defend the shooter as justified in his actions because killing these children was his “choice.”

See the problem? We cannot prevent these types of crimes. Because we have so blurred the lines between what is criminal and what is permissible that we only call into law that which shocks our collective conscience. And friends, there are very few things that prick our conscience collectively. We only acknowledge injustice as such when it directly violates us. When it seems to directly impede our personal safety or freedom.

I have heard many people say that since we have asked God to leave our schools, He has left them. That is why tragedy continues to strike. But this is inaccurate. God has not abandoned His people. He is omnipresent. He is Emmanuel. God with us. But God will not force Himself on us. While He has the power to make Himself known, He is not obligated to protect us in every situation.

When our Creator asks for our obedience and we abandon the safety of the shadow of His wing in order to pursue our own skewed perceptions of morality, how can we expect Him to guard our every step?

“But this command I gave them:  ‘Obey my voice, and  I will be your God, and you shall be my people.  And walk in all the way that I command you,  that it may be well with you.’”

This earth has a real Enemy. Who prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. And we are handing ourselves over to be devoured every time we stake our safety and security on our own protective means and measures.

Friends, there will be those who debate until their dying breath the existence of God, the love of God, the care of God. But do not make the mistake of damning yourself because you spend your entire life loathing an invisible, unloving god who only cares about rules, hates those who sin, and can’t wait to send heathens to hell. Because you will have wasted your entire life loathing a fake god.

Instead, look to the Author of life. Allow yourself to consider the Living God of the Bible. And see how the selfish, inconsistent god of your imagination pales in comparison. And then look at the grievances of this world through the lens of that God. Whose law is love and whose Gospel is peace. Who is not a God of chaos or of confusion but of peace. And then see if maybe, just maybe, living a life of obedience and reverence to this God is not a closed-minded or ignorant way of life, but a life of freedom, hope, peace, and redemption.

I do not understand any more than you why those children had to die. But I do know that my God is a one of great compassion and I believe that as we grieve, He is grieving as well. And rejoicing, at the same time, because those children no longer face any threat of this fallen world. For they are now free from the fears of this world.

So when our grief, our heartache, our anger, and our pain do not bring us the answers our souls do desperately seek, may we consider that perhaps this world never will bring answers or comfort. But hope may still be found in the God of comfort whose Light is more powerful than the deepest darkness of our grieving hearts and this tragically broken world.

when they lower me down, in the ground

When my last breath is gone and they lower me down

Remember I’m not really dead in the ground

Don’t mourn for me here, for my spirit lives on

Someday I’ll be home in my Father’s arms

 

Promise not to cry when I die in the flesh

I’ll be bowed at the feet of the Victor o’er death

Bent to touch the hem of His righteous robe

What a beautiful day when I’m finally home

 

So don’t weep for me when I’m finally free

Home at last, where I have always longed to be

Free to dance forever in the presence of my Maker

Freely I will worship my beloved Savior

Beyond the grief of sin, my heart will delight in Him

When I hear my Lord say, “Welcome home.”

 

Whatever the cause when my life here has ended

Know that its length was just what He intended

When my ministry’s fulfilled in this earthly life

He will read my name from the Book of Life

 

How will I stand before the King that I adore?

When I’ve lived less than holy and have come up short?

It’s because of His precious blood and His power to save

He drank the wrath of God on the cross and walked out of that grave

 

So don’t weep for me when I’m finally free

Home at last, where I have always longed to be

Free to dance forever in the presence of my Maker

Freely I will worship my beloved Savior

Beyond the grief of sin, my heart will delight in Him

When I hear my Lord say, “Welcome home.”

 

Though the world says “death has won,” do remember this request

When life has left this mortal flesh

When I go to be with my Lord for all eternity

There is no place that I would rather be

 

So don’t weep for me when I’m finally free

Home at last, where I have always longed to be

Free to dance forever in the presence of my Maker

Freely I will worship my beloved Savior

Beyond the grief of sin, my heart will delight in Him

When I hear my Lord say, “Welcome home.”