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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Learning How to Stay

I have a confession.

My handle on social media isn’t “vagabond” without reason. I’m always on the go, live out of suitcases all the time, couch surf on the regular. I haven’t left town but I haven’t been home in 3 days. I can sleep pretty much anywhere and I love the adventure of spontaneous sleep overs – sharing a roof with friends and closing my eyes nestled under blankets on couches with the knowledge that all I need is on hand and I’m with people who feel like home.

I’ve lived in three states, traveled to 7 countries, and have been immersed in close-knit community living for more than one significant and life-changing season.

I like to be on the move. I like to be the one who leaves. I don’t like to be left behind. Planes, trains, buses, cars…as long as I’m meeting people with the rush of a new adventure fueling my footsteps, I am content. I’m in my element. New places and faces are my favorite. My comfort zone is the place where I am moving on to something new.

But you know what is hard for me?

Staying. I’m restless, eager to experience something new, and I’m practiced at saying goodbye. And while part of this is my personality and probably always will be, I am realizing that some of it stems from the fear of not being fully known or loved. Because my heart has been wounded and scarred before, part of my defense mechanism is to cut out before anyone can cut out on me.

In this season, God has surrounded me with a few key people who are reshaping my perspective of what it means to commit. What it looks like to stay.

It’s astounding to me how much of my heart has opened up recently just because a few people have committed to S T A Y. They are committed to me for the long haul and after weathering a few brutal and messy storms together, I know they aren’t going anywhere.

That is what love looks like. Love is this inexplicable force that takes our hearts to depths and heights we didn’t know were possible. Love changes us. It gently removes our walls, brick by brick, and offers us the hope of being fully known and loved. And it is messy. It is scary. But it is so worth it.

So here is to stepping in rather than stepping back. Here is to learning to love in a deeper way. Here’s to learning how to stay.

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

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!

Confessions of a Modern Day Idol Worshipper

I’m a fraud at best. A traitor who claims to love Jesus with my words, yet spends more time loving the world than meditating on his words. A Gomer, bought with a high price by my Beloved, yet continuing to whore myself out to lesser lovers – the idols of this world which steal away my affections and hide my heart in their shallow graves when my heart could be hidden securely in the hands of my Creator.

Why do I do this? Why do I run to the world to satisfy the deepest longings of my heart when I know that my Lord came so I may have life to the fullest? 

There is no better life apart from an abiding walk with Jesus. And in my heart and head, I cry out for just a closer walk, yet by my actions, it is clear that I am not in pursuit of the One who dreamed me into existence and birthed me from dust so that he could save me from myself and deliver me into the heavenly realms, at the foot of his glorious throne in eternity.

This week, I realized the weight of my chains. The depravity of my addiction. The depth of my desire to love and be loved. And it gutted me. Because I have chosen to worship a lesser god. I have chosen, too often, to root my identity in man-made kingdoms of sand which will quickly fade and hold no meaning beyond this earth. Except the meaning that “where my treasure is, there my heart will be also,” and that the things I treasure here on earth expose who or what my heart truly loves.

My idol is not a golden calf or a statue of Baal. That would be absurd. Why, I would be a fool to bow to such a lifeless being.

But my idol is smaller. And no less foolish. My idol fits in the palm of my hand, does not move or breathe, and does not care about my heart in the slightest. It is the tool which keeps me connected to my friends, photos, emails, and the endless black hole of internet information which threatens to make human research and reason extinct.

Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m addicted to my iPhone.

Shocking? Scandalous? Anticlimactic?

Go ahead, roll your eyes. You might think you know where this is going. But I bet you don’t.

I’m not here to rant about technology, belittle the techno-generation, berate the culture of instant gratification, or mourn the degradation of text-only friendships.

Because I don’t think God cares about that.

But I do know that he cares about our hearts. And this is a heart issue. And one that I know I am not alone in coming up against.

When Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” (John 10:10), I don’t think he meant, “I came so that you may have life abundantly, but if you need some other things in your life to make you feel secure and happy, that is totally cool with me.”

No, actually, I think he meant, “Anything that you are relying on to feel full of life that is NOT me is actually a thief. And it’s destroying you. And it’s killing you. Because it is eating away at your soul and keeping you from fully seeing and experiencing me.”

After you whip out your iPhone (or respective “smart” phone) and scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, tell me, do you ever actually feel better about yourself? When you take a break in your day to pour over your Instagram feed, do the images of others living what looks like “the good life” actually increase your joy when you feel like you are barely hanging on by a thread?

Does that constant nagging that you have to prove yourself as a wife, mother, adventurous spirit, exciting person, or I-love-Jesus-all-the-time-and-my-life-never-sucks-super-Christian truly fill the void in your heart? Or does it fail to satisfy the part of your heart which is screaming, “See me. Love me. I am wasting away on the inside and just want somebody to notice?”

We all have a deep craving to be seen, loved, and treasured. We want to be affirmed, approved, and appreciated.

We all want to be noticed.

And while we are busy begging for the world’s affections, God is quietly and patiently waiting on us to be still in our hearts, minds, and spirits long enough to hear him in the stillness and realize that his love, which is stronger than death is enough to satisfy even the deepest, most desperate cry of our hearts. 

Even though idolatry is a major issue here, I think we need to focus on why we turn to idols rather than the 5-step plan to rid our lives of idols. We’ve heard enough sermons, written enough resolutions, and made enough attempts to give up our addictions. But have we ever really considered why we turn to these other things when God is so available and deeply soul-satisfying?

Here are some of my theories: 

1. We don’t believe God is who he says that he is and do not trust him to satisfy us like he says that he will.

2. We are afraid of admitting our weakness, desperation, and need for a daily Savior in a culture which tells us we need to have it all together and then flaunt our “have-it-all-togetherness.”

3. We are afraid that maybe God is enough and are scared that we might have to change everything about our lives once we discover that God is actually enough. 

Friends, take comfort in this –

God is who he says he is. And he tells us to wait on him for a reason…he wants us to know the depth of joy, love, peace, and satisfaction that life abundantly in him offers. And guess what? When we lift our eyes to Christ and allow his Spirit to fill us and satisfy us, changing everything about our lives isn’t even a thought. Because when we encounter the depths of God – when we truly pause to let God meet with us instead of striving and trying to work to get God’s attention (that is a topic for another day) – then we become changed people. And our lifestyles will naturally change to reflect that over time. 

So what does this have to do with my conviction over too much time, attention, and energy being poured into a silly piece of technology?

It has to do with my heart. With our hearts. It has to do with the sobering reality that far too often, I spend more time talking about what is going on in my world or posting pictures of my life or being connected to all the happenings of my friends than I do spending time with the One who created me and longs to reveal himself to me more each day.

Do you ever feel anxious after scoping out Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other website dedicated to empowering people to create their own cyber kingdoms? There is something to that. Because all of these websites captivate our eyes and tempt our hearts to long for the things of the world and our own empowerment rather than casting our eyes on the perfect Savior who not only saved us in the past, but is continuing to save and redeem us each day from our own pride, greed, envy, jealousy, and discouragement. 

You want to hear something scary?

I’m going to tell you anyway. Because this should frighten us and lead to some major reflection and repentance:

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them.

-Psalm 135:15-18

Did you catch that last line?

Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them.

Do you know what that means? If we are spending all of our time clutching our technology and posting and viewing pictures and updates, then we will become as dead and lifeless as the technology that we worship. And those thieves which steal our time and our affections will make us blind and deaf to the Truth even when Jesus is staring us directly in the face. I hope that terrifies you the way it terrified me when I heard it presented in a sermon recently.

We must understand – worshipping these earthly idols does not mean singing songs at things other than Jesus. That misunderstanding comes from a poorly constructed theology of worship. Worship is “adoring reverence and regard.” And we better believe that regarding the things or the people in our lives more than Jesus is no different or less absurd than Aaron and the Israelites making much of a statue of a cow. 

The cry of our hearts should be for more of Jesus and his Kingdom and less of our shabby, earthly kingdoms where we pose as kings and queens in a universe that revolves all around our activities.

Yes, Jesus frees us from the weight of our sins, but he also wants to free us from the pressure to prove ourselves to others, the anxiety that arises when we focus too long on the things of this world, and the discouragement that abounds when we dedicate ourselves to lives of comparison of others rather than celebration of the One who bought our freedom. 

My earnest hope is that you and I can set aside our idols only after we have taken the time to truly be still and look to Christ for satisfaction and fulfillment. He truly is as worthy as he says he is. And the life of abiding in Christ is also the life which demands and inspires authenticity – the comfort to be who we really are and admit that everything isn’t always hunky-dory, but Jesus is our hope and anchor even when this world threatens to drain us dry and drown us beneath the stormy seas.

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.”

the secret to staying where the light is: thoughts on shame, guilt, and grace

Today the gloom of the dust-colored sky is as palpable as the heat of my coffee mug, which brings warmth on such a dark, damp day. In contrast, the café at which I presently sit is luminous with its dangling lamps, bright signs, and colorful paintings. On a less cloudy day, the man-made light in this café would seem a cheap imitation of the sun’s rays on the outside of the glass. But on this day, being on the inside of the window means being where the light is. I am on the winning side today.

When I walk into my dark living room at night, the first thing I search for is a trace of light to guide my steps so I can turn on a lamp and shed more light in the room. If there is no light inside, I leave the door cracked so the exterior lights can help me find my way to another light source. When I am anticipating prolonged darkness, I generally carry a flashlight to guide me from one point of light to another.

Though it is a trivial observation, this idea of contrasting light has the gears of my mind turning. When presented with darkness, I always gravitate to the point with the most light. It is my nature to choose sight over blindness. I know that when I walk in the dark, it is easier to stumble over unseen objects. I know that when I venture out into the unknown without any light to guide me, my proclivity to clumsily trip over objects visible in daylight triples when I cannot see them under cover of night.

Yet when I find myself falling into spiritual darkness, rather than running towards the great Light of the world, I tend to shrink back in the shadows of shame, guilt, and regret. I prolong the darkness by my unwillingness to embrace the great Light set before me, choosing, instead, to cling to sin and shame, which not only keep me in bondage to their power, but also make everything else around me seem like a threat to my very existence.

This is contrary to my nature. I am designed to desire sight, life, light, and freedom from fear. But when I become entangled in sin and shame, my vision is warped to see darkness as my comfort rather than my captor.

Children ask for night lights because a hint of light in a dark room dispels the imagination’s notion that every shape is a monster, plotting a silent attack. We use flashlights so that we can see the path before us and avoid obstacles that could cause us to stumble and fall. So why is it that when we drift from God and begin to feel conviction, we often run deeper into the darkness rather than towards the hint of light inviting us to leave the darkness behind?

In Ephesians, we are instructed, “for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8) But what does it mean to be “light in the Lord?” How can I walk as a child of light when temptation threatens, sin strangles, and the world beckons me deeper into the depths of its depravity? Fortunately, Ephesians does not leave us without further instruction. The writer goes on to say:

“(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible,  for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,     

and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

~Ephesians 5:9-14

Here, we are not only told to pursue light over darkness, but we are told that when we do, our lives will bear the fruit of this – “all that is good and right and true.” We are told to EXPOSE the works of darkness rather than engage in them. And guess what? When we expose that which is done in secret, those hidden dark pockets of our lives, that sin loses its power. We know this from Scripture, but I also know this from my own life. For a long time, I allowed myself to be deceived by the darkness and it imprisoned and shamed me and out of guilt and fear, I was driven deeper into the darkness rather than toward the life-given Light our Redeemer offers. When God prompted me to bring it into the light, the stronghold lost its power.

Ephesians 5:15-18 goes on to tell us to make the BEST use of time – cautioning us that we live in evil days. We are called not to be foolish, but to “understand what the will of the Lord is. We are called to “not get drunk with wine” but to be “filled with the Spirit” – choosing the lasting life of God over the empty promises and false fulfillment the world offers.

But it is the last part of this portion of Scripture that really grabbed my attention. We are told we should also be “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,  giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-21)

So that is it?

To stay in the light means to breathe Scripture into one another’s lives? To sing songs of praise with one another? To lift up a sweet melody of praise not with our words or music, but in our hearts by continually giving thanks ALWAYS – in every circumstance – for EVERYTHING to our Heavenly Father? To submit to each other – perhaps by confessing our sins to one another and keeping each other accountable to revering and treasuring Christ?

Could it really be that simple? That by treasuring Christ, we might continually treasure Christ and therefore, continually stay in the light?

In my moments of retreating to the darkness rather than running into the marvelous light which Christ has set before me, I have elevated my selfish pleasure over the majestic person of Jesus Christ. When we neglect to treasure Christ, we choose instead to hoard the darkness. And we are left feeling empty, afraid, malnourished, and alone. It is only by running to Christ to free us from our prison of darkness that we can know the joy that has been set before us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So where are you these days? Do you find yourself retreating to the darkness of self-indulgence, self-pity, fear, and shame? Or do you desire to cast off the darkness and live as children of light?

I am drawn to these lyrics, by Tammy Trent, and pray that they would also speak to your heart:

Welcome Home My mercy’s waiting
Welcome Home to open arms
There’s no shame in your returning
Though you may have wandered far
Welcome Home.