Emmanuel,God with Us

What kind of God are you

that would be the Creator of all that is, ever was, will ever be,

with power unknown and depths unsearchable,

yet you would walk amongst us?

You, who would call us ‘very good’

and give us authority over your creation?

What kind of King dies for the least deserving and most wretched?

Who suffers for the sake of those that inflict the suffering?

 

Your mercy and grace are unfathomable.

Darkness yields to your Light.

Deceit and Lies are dust in the Wind of your Truth.

Hatred crumbles when pressed by your Love.

All the universe will kneel at your name.

And I am betrothed to You.

I am Your beloved and you pursue me with relentless patience.

You are my God, my Sustainer and Helper, my Stronghold and Salvation.

My Hope and my Redeemer.

I give thanks that You would know me and love me with an everlasting love.

 

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Encountering Mystery

I had spent a very, very long time trapped in a space mentally and emotionally which felt like complete hopelessness and loneliness, clinging to a tiny shred of hope. It was like the glow of a single, twinkling Christmas light in what felt like an otherwise black abyss. I had started going to Crossroads about 10 months before, and a series of events had made me curious enough to begin asking, “Is there a God? And if there is, is God good? Who am I to God?” This ended up with me landing in India, going to some of the darkest places I could imagine, and challenging this God to show up.

I experienced a moment there that I will never forget. Crossroads partners with several homes in Mumbai and Kolkata, India, that rescue girls and women from sex trafficking. I was in the first group that went to Kolkata and we spent one of our days there putting on a day camp for the girls. We sang, we danced, we played, we taught each other songs and we also did some crafts. One of the crafts was to make a beaded bracelet or necklace. The different colored beads stood for things that were important to us or things we wanted. Examples would include hope, friendship, love, wisdom, etc. I was making a bracelet with one of the girls when she noticed the beads I had chosen to use. “No, no, no. More love.” I was confused, and asked her what she meant and she smiled and laughed at me. “You!” She pointed. “More love,” she said as she pointed at my bracelet, which barely included that color at all. She then proceeded to dismantle my entire bracelet and fill it with the color of love.

My heart broke in the most wonderful way possible in that moment, like walls around it were crumbling. It was as if all the darkness I felt like I was covered in turned into a liquid and puddled at the bottom of me and suddenly, the world seemed to be made of color. Of light. This child who had been through so much could see the very thing I felt I lacked but that I so desperately longed for and she piled it on, unabashedly. She taught me to worship as we sung, “Rejoice in the Lord, always, and again I say, Rejoice!” I was overwhelmed, I was baffled, I was in the process of becoming. If this young girl who had experienced the true darkness of mankind so fully could worship God, could call out for love with a hungry heart, than certainly there was something special happening here. Some kind of extraordinary goodness that could say, “Even in this place I will give you joy. Even in your suffering, you will know love. Loneliness is a lie because there is a God that loves you and is always with you.”

It wasn’t the first time or the last time that I encountered the Mystery of God, but it planted a seed of faith so deep inside of me that it successfully took root. I began a steadfast pursuit of this God that comes close, who moves in our lives today. While I’ll never fully know or understand God, I feel called into this Mystery that is. I get a sense that not only am I welcome to explore the character and nature of my God but that my desire to know God brings joy. When I begin feeling alone or discouraged, I look back on this moment and I remember how God used the ordinary to speak about the extraordinary and I rejoice.

What a Day

As I was working today, out of nowhere, the thought crossed my mind, “Ask for prayer from Colin _________.” So weird. I worked on the same team as him for a few months maybe 5 years ago and ran into him once at church. I’m not even friends with him on facebook or linkedin. But I felt pushed to act so after an internal debate, I sent him a message that said:

Hey Colin, I don’t know if you remember me but we worked together at ___________ and you gave me some pointers about God (thanks again, btw)? Well, I was just sitting here working and felt super prompted to ask you for prayer. I don’t know WHAT I’m supposed to ask you to pray for but… it’s a really strong push so I’m just going to put this out there. I hope all is going well for you. Thank you, Kara

He ended up replying to me, thanking me for being obedient. He asked for us to talk on the phone (because he felt God prompt him to pray for me over the phone). When I saw his message I sent him my availability and number. Then, as I was making brussel sprouts later (because yum) the thought passed through my mind, “Give them your tickets.” And I was like, NOPE. See, I had these two tickets to see Mumford & Sons and I was super excited because I couldn’t get tickets to see them when they came through a couple years ago. Unfortunately, my friend backed out of going to see them because she decided to go to Germany so I’d been trying to find someone to go with. On Sunday I had even prayed about finding someone to go to Mumford. But then this… I kind of tried to pitch the idea to God of selling them instead, if God didn’t want me to go,  but that didn’t sit well. The more I tried to find a way out of it, the more certain I was that I was supposed to offer them to him. Maybe he’d say no? Maybe it was about obedience, not sacrifice?

So he calls and I ask if he likes Mumford and he’s kind of indifferent but says he’ll check with his wife. We chat a little and he prays prophetically for me. During the prayer, he says that all kinds of doors are going to open for me, with business and (this word slipped my mind, but I sensed community or a growing togetherness). He said that I’d know what to do because God would shine a light on those things; that God would make my path clear to me. He thanked God for hope, and said that I was entering a new phase; a time of thankfulness and that there was great power when I give thanks to God. He said that God enjoys watching me (I sensed delight), that I’m like a little bird soaring into the sky, flapping my wings, soaring and tweeting. Then he saw freedom from my past, gave thanks to God for healing from the past and it’s redemption through God.

I thanked him. I told him I actually had a tattoo of a bird soaring into the sky, wings spread, which I got over a year ago when I kept seeing the image in my head. He suggested that God was affirming that vision. I also said that I was getting ready to speak on grace and I would be talking about ex’s and my past. I hadn’t realized until his prayer that I needed the encouragement and comfort of these words. Then we ended the conversation after I thanked him for what felt like a dozen times.

I heard from him a little later that his wife likes Mumford and if they could arrange a babysitter they’d love the tickets. Later tonight, he confirmed they were good and I sent him the tickets. As hard as it was, I am thankful that God would use me to bless a couple with a nice night out. I want to remember that it’s more about generosity and obedience than sacrifice. Anyways, that’s it. Just felt like I should record this somewhere.

Louie Giglio: Goliath Must Fall (Catalyst Notes)

Louie Giglio is a pastor, author, speaker and founder of the passion movement. He’s written a book called Goliath Must Fall and that’s what he spoke about at the conference. His vulnerability and raw emotion around his struggle with depression and his journey with God really resonated with the audience.

Louie Giglio started by reminding us that that there are still giants in the land: comfort, rejection, greed, anger, depression, anxiety, etc. We see in the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 that Goliath was a beast. He was around 9 feet tall and his armor weighed over 100 lbs. total. The tip of his spear ALONE weighed 15 pounds! The Israelite people were dismayed/terrified by the giant; they lost hope in God’s ability to handle the giant. We respond the same way to our giants sometimes. Even though we are with Christ, it doesn’t change the fact that we are in a battle and will face troubles and tribulations. We can become paralyzed by our troubles and frozen in the moment. Goliath actually taunted them twice a day for forty days before anything happened! But the biggest thing to take away from this story is to remember this: You are not David, Christ is. 

Consider what David says in I Samuel 17:34-37, “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.’ And David said, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’ And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!'” It was the power of the Lord that delivered David, not just a little boy or a man slinging a stone. 

In the same way, we slay our giants not through our own work but by the power of the same God that delivered David. We need to wake up and look up because there IS a giant slayer who has our back! When David slayed the giant, it wasn’t about David. It would be ludicrous to believe that this untrained boy would would slay a trained, experienced soldier (and giant) with a stone. David’s response to God’s faithfulness? “Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it… And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.” (I Samuel 17:51-54) David walked twenty miles carrying the head of the giant not because he was a badass or prideful but because the defeat of Goliath pointed to the glory of God. 

It’s the same thing when it comes to defeating our giants. It isn’t just about our freedom, it’s a testimony to the power of God to conquer anything that might come against us. We sometimes make the mistake of worshiping our giants or talking about them more than we talk about God. We certainly shouldn’t ignore the giant or pretending it isn’t there but we should use caution, however, when we consider what we say and what kind of authority and power we give to the giants versus God. These “addictions” are cute when they are small but when they are full-grown giants they have the ability to rip your head off and your heart out.

So consider what and who you worship. Worship doesn’t make everything better, but it does shift our point of view. When we worship God we are reminded that we worship a giant slayer rather than a giant. We enter at the ground level but as you worship, as you preach the gospel to yourself, your perspective is transformed, like rising to the top of the London Eye. Worship is not a feeling, it is a decision. It is a treasure and a weapon given to us by God.

 

Things from Worship

I had a really great time at Bethel Worship in Lexington last night and I wanted to record some experiences or reflections from it.

First, this song. I’m going to be speaking on grace in a couple weeks and then bam! This song hits me like a brick wall: A quote from “Abba” is: “Grace is the collision on the way back home. With the arms of a Father who won’t let go.” And then, in case I wasn’t getting it, the conviction and the experience of remembering my return to God felt like a fire being set inside my chest: God ran to me. Abba threw his arms around me and I knew his love.

During the pitch for Compassion International, I was listening to this man talk about his family and his encounter with the kids while he was on a mission trip. It was a good story but I wasn’t hyper engaged; I was mostly just looking around at all the people there and feeling excited that my sister was going to get to have a night of worship. I looked back at the picture of this man and his beautiful family that was projected on the screen and for a moment there was silence as these words passed through my mind: “I will give this to you too.” And I was startled. So I prayed a bit, repented a bit, gave thanks for a bit. Those words felt mostly like comfort though, reassurance. As if I was being reminded of something I already knew.

Mid-way through the worship, I felt prompted to kneel. I have felt this often during corporate worship and I have always ignored it because how weird would that be? But I kept feeling the push, so much so that I was a bit distracted. Then I heard the lyrics, “every chain will break…” and it caught my attention. The super crazy thing I had heard during our church journey was that I was a chainbreaker. Then they start singing about every knee bowing. I told some of my friends and they were like, just sit. That’s basically the same thing, but something in me rose against that. “Did you hear sit? Or kneel?” So I knelt. And the words of Luke 16:10 came to me, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.” Then, as I prayed, I recalled a verse I had been talking to God about earlier that week, Romans 8:31: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” I had written about this verse in the context of freedom in love, but I had also mentioned my love of the word hupernikao, or “more than conquerors.” And it was like an epiphany: be more faithful in these little things, because they are building the habits that will grow faith and bring freedom from fear. We are not only conquerors of death, we bring new life: we resurrect, we reconcile, we restore, we redeem. We don’t bind people in chains, we break them.

So that was… cool.

A Few Songs

As a preface, I don’t know a ton of Christian music and it’s because I’m super purposeful about when and where I listen to it. I don’t like it as background music because I don’t want to become desensitized to the meaning of what is being said or what I am saying to God. That’s certainly not how everyone encounters music; it’s just the way I am around this type of music. That means that a lot of my music comes from recommendations or worship experiences.  Here’s a few that are really resonating with me in my times of prayer and worship:

Even When It Hurts (Praise Song) Live – Hillsong UNITED

I know there’s abundance happening in a lot of spaces in my life and so it might seem like a contradiction but this song? It feels like it’s been the song of my heart the last few months.

No Longer Slaves // Jonathan David & Melissa Helser // We Will Not Be Shaken Official Lyric Video

I love so much of this, but one of my favorite lines is, “You split the sea so I could walk right through it, my fears were drowned in  perfect love; You rescued me so I could stand and sing, ‘I am a child of God…'”

Pieces (Official Lyric Video) // Brave New World // Amanda Cook

“It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed, You’re love is proud to be seen with me. You don’t give your heart in pieces, You don’t hide yourself to tease us. Uncontrolled, uncontained, Your love is a fire burning bright for me…”