your Savior has come

I was looking through some prayers and messages I’d written down in my notebook in the course of the last year or so, and I came across this that I honestly don’t even remember writing down. But it was the word that I received from God at the time, and it’s an encouraging one:


Your Savior has come. I am right here with you. You are My child. I see where you’re prone to stumble. Trust Me during those times. Fall into Me when you fall. Make Me where you turn, not yourself, not your old habits, not what you’re used to protecting yourself with, not what you think you deserve. I will protect you. I will catch you when you fall over, and I will heal your wounds. Your Savior has come, Daughter; I am here. I came for you, and you have Me.

“Liar” is not your identity. “Prideful” is not your identity. I wash these names that you have seared into your heart. I remove the scars you’ve inflicted upon yourself on account of those names. Trust Me from now on. These “identities” are no longer there to “save” you. Only I am here to do so. They will trap you and ensnare you if you give them the chance. I will release you. I will set you free.

Fall into Me. Let Me be your identity. Don’t try to live up to what you think I want. I want you. As you are. Let Me make you what I want you to become for My glory. I know you, and I still want you, I can still use you, and I will still use you. I finish what I begin.

Don’t ever lose sight of that.

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ohana

Dear Family,

What does this word actually mean for you? You toss that word around when it’s convenient for you, and when it’s not, you hoard it to yourselves and keep it exclusively. When has that word ever been used to describe us?

Yet you asked me this week—no, you shamed me—in order to convince me you’re my family. You tell me that you can’t believe I would trust an outsider over my own family. It’s not the first you’ve shamed me with this either.

But let me ask you something.

Where were you?

Where was my family when I had to put a restraining order on one of our members? You were on the side of my abuser. Where was my family when I longed to belong to it? You were abusing me and shunning me from your presence. Where was my family when the inheritance I received from my grandmother disappeared and the account closed? You were the ones closing it. Where was my family when I was suicidal in high school because of the abuse? You were oblivious to your role in my suffering, and you could not be found.

How do you ever expect me to trust you? How could you ever ask that of me?

I have not allowed you to define this word for me for quite some time now. The word “family” does not belong to you.

It belongs to the Person who guided me out of suicide. It belongs to the Person who redeemed my greatest abuse to lead me to my greatest salvation. It belongs to His children, who have walked beside me and carried me these past fourteen years when you were nowhere to be found.

“Family” does not end with blood.

Blood may be thicker than water, but grace runs deeper than blood.

You made me feel that I needed to earn a place in this family. Was being my mother’s child truly not enough? Yet in this grace community, there is no such thing as earning a place in the family. We are family because of Him.

This word is still being redeemed for me, but here and now, I claim it as my own. It is not a word for you to throw at me to acknowledge your authority. This word will not be reduced to something so petty.

This word means hope. It means acceptance. It means love—love unconditional, love to the point of sacrifice, love for life.

This word is too precious to me now. You cannot define it for me any longer because I know what it is now.

My Father told me. He showed me with His loyal love.

I have a new family now. Maybe you can join it some day. But you’ll have to understand, it’s on His terms, earned by His death.

I hope you can give up your small definition for His great plan.

sealed by Spirit

Sin, by definition in the Bible, is not wronging another person. It is assaulting the glory of God, rebelling against God. Sin, by definition, is a vertical phenomenon. — John Piper

Ephesians 4:30 says not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, who seals us as God’s own.

To grieve = to oppress or wrong; to inflict sorrow on.

Grief goes beyond anger; it is the intersection of anger and love. It is anger after being stripped of its bite, its bitterness; anger softened by affection, turning it toward the offense and not the offender.

What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…”

AKA.

Do not stir up this painful anger soaked in love, do not distress Him, do not cause Him to mourn.

“… by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

We carry the Holy Spirit with us everyday: when we love, when we laugh, when we worship.

When we sin.

No wonder David said, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”

Just before this confession, David also described sin to be “transgression” and “iniquity.” And forgiveness is described to “blot out,” to “wash,” to “cleanse.” These words express the seriousness of sin and the great lengths God goes to in removing ours.

Our sin grieves the Holy Spirit.

Grief is anger tamed by love.

The Holy Spirit loves us.

He loved us without beginning. The words used to describe the love of the Father and of the Son apply also to the Spirit. His love is just as eternal, just as sovereign, just as loyal, just as unchanging, just as unfathomable.

He loves us by sanctifying us to be more like our Savior. He marks us as God’s own. When we stray, when we sin, when we grieve Him by our sin, He pursues us and brings us back to Him.

This is why it is only against God that we sin. Yes, we do sin against others, but it is first God that we grieve before all else. It is first God that we offend; He lives in us. Sin is disobeying God’s Law, going against His holiness, denying that He alone satisfies our souls completely and totally, rather than our addictions (which, isn’t the reason why we are addicted to these things because they do not satisfy?).

When Nathan exposed David’s sin, he did not pick at what David had done to others (which were definitely legitimately sin); he instead asked David, “Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight?”

God’s love is loyal. The Holy Spirit’s love is loyal.

Was it not the Spirit who showed us Christ, who brought us to Calvary, to the base of the cross of Jesus? What love is this, that He should bring me to the place, the moment that would change my life forever?

Because of the Holy Spirit, I can fall in love with Jesus and be His bride. Because He let me see who Jesus was; because He broke my hardened heart and made way for Jesus to rest His throne in it. Because He opened my blind eyes, opened my deaf ears, opened my clenched fist to allow me to see and receive His grace.

He loves me as deeply as my Father and my Savior. He compels me to return after I wound His heart, after I grieve Him. He calls me to confess, to release all the dirtiness of my life into His hands; to repent and replace those things with gifts given by Him for the work of His glory.

No faith is genuine which does not bear the seal of the Spirit. No love, no hope can ever save us, except it be sealed with the Spirit of God, for whatever hath not his seal upon it is spurious. Faith that is unsealed may be a poison, it may be presumption; but faith that is sealed by the Spirit is true, real, genuine faith. — Charles Spurgeon

He calls me His and brands me with Himself to set me apart as His most beloved bride, daughter, friend, and servant. He walks through life with me, and He is a Friend and Helper beyond my wildest dreams.

I do not want to grieve this Friend again. Through I know, in my imperfection, it is inevitable that I will fail and sin, I pray that I will recover quickly, seek Him out immediately, and be willing to be humbled, discipled, changed for the better—because He will not leave me where I land.

Because He loved me, I can love Him back.

What a wonderful gift of grace and love we have.

hello

Hello.

My name is Miki.

And I am…

What?

What exactly am I?

Not enough.

Unseen.

Shamed.

Unneeded.

Unnecessary.

Dead weight.

An after thought.

… what am I?

I allowed those adjectives and labels to define me for most of my life. I was the kid who didn’t matter but knew how to follow the rules. I would never be the smart kid (even though I was smart), the athletic kid (even though I was athletic), or the favorite kid (well, I’m not a boy, so that shot that chance). No, I was designated – by a vote I was never part of, I should add – to be the kid that made all the other kids in the family look good.

Well that’s a crap job. What kind of sad label was that to put on your chest (or forehead for you quirky weird-ish kids)? “‘HELLO MY NAME IS’ Miki, and I’m the kid that makes my cousins look good”? Seriously?

Then high school hit, and I was a whole new set of adjectives.

Ungrateful.

Disrespectful.

A liar.

Undeserving of a voice.

Not worth your time.

And a couple more “colorful” ones.

They all came from the same sources, though. How did the words suddenly get so hostile?

I guess cuz that was right around the time I started fighting back.

So.

If you can’t shame her into submission anymore, then you beat her into submission. When that doesn’t work (it didn’t), you slander her to the point where she can go no place else but back to her “family” – and thus, back to submission.

Like hell.

Go back to the people who shamed, then attacked, then slandered me? My, have they underestimated my monstrous sense of self-worth.

See, there’s a catch with words:

If they’re not true, they have no power over you; and contrary to popular belief, they have no influence over the makeup of your identity.

If you call a mouse a car… guess what? It’s still a mouse.

So then.

Labels aside.

Hello.

My name is Miki.

And I am…

Forgiven.

Redeemed.

Vouched for.

Beloved.

Made righteous.

Important.

Blessed.

Loved on.

Saved.

photo credit:http://mindtheproduct.com/

Hello.

My name is Miki.

And I am enough.

Ashes

So this was my first assignment in my creative writing class. It was a personal narrative assignment, specifically about a difficult time. I played on a theme and talked about two. You might recognize parts of the second half of the narrative cuz I had to supplement the assignment with some old blogger posts since I couldn’t quite summon the same emotions anymore. Funny thing about healing, eh? XP

Some parts were pretty hasty, partly cuz I couldn’t quite figure out what else to describe and how else to describe it and didn’t want to conjure things that weren’t real at the time or otherwise. Not the strongest work, but hey, that’s why I don’t have a degree yet, right? 😛 Judge me if I’m still doing this after the MFA. ^^

Thanks, Cam & Levi and everyone who helped proof and look over it. 🙂 And thanks for all you guys who’ve walked with me in some way or another whether through these times or another (or another or another or another :P) and for bringing some light into my life (especially when it’s so overcast all the time up here). 🙂

I’ll take literary criticism if you wanna leave some (please don’t rip my heart out and stomp on it, though :P). Encouragement is good, too (primarily on the writing, but encouragement on life is nice, too). ^^ Both are needed for an (hopefully) up and coming (hopefully ^^) writer. And give praise where it’s due (::cough:: to Jesus ::cough cough::)!

But please, no comments about how much these times sucked or that you couldn’t do it if you were in my shoes (I wouldn’t have volunteered if I had the choice) or how “strong” I must be to get through them. I’m not strong. It’s clear from the text that I’m not. God could’ve given this life I’ve been living to anyone. Really, he could’ve split my story up into a dozen or more lives, and it’d have been traumatic for each one. But somehow he found enough faith in me to put the stories all into mine. So who’s really the strong one here?

Appreciate the thoughtfulness, but let’s give credit where it’s due, yeah? ^_^

~*~*~*~*~*~

I am a phoenix.

Sitting in the bathroom, tears sketching lines from her eyes down her cheeks, she looked in the mirror at the exhausted and unfamiliar face.

“What have I become?”

Living in a nightmare, surviving one day just to get to the next, she wondered when it would be over. Was she strong enough to put another foot in front and another and another? Her thoughts fell into the abyss of potential and plunged ever deeper.

It can end now.

Eyes shot open, the tears continuing their solemn brushstrokes along the canvas of her face. It can end now, the consideration echoed in the pathways of her mind.

The thought echoed down passageways she had never traveled before. “It can end now.”

“But then… what about mom?”

Can she truly forsake her and leave her alone in the nightmare?

If you end it now, you lose. They win. Don’t do it.

New voice. Logical. Hopeful.

No, she could never do such a thing. To be this selfish? To seek release when the one dearest to her needs her the most? This is something she could never bring herself to do. Instead, she would rise above revenge, her problems, and her abusers. With that in mind, she exited the bathroom.

When her uncle had moved in a few months ago, it was a difficult transition from a house of two to a house of five when he brought his son and nephew with him. It had gotten progressively worse as time went on. Arguments, neglect, emotional abuse – these things made an appearance more and more consistently, to the point where she and her mother avoided returning to the house they lived in for eleven years until late evening hours. Still, she never expected to find herself in her bathroom contemplating suicide.

Her uncle had probably been the closest to a father she had ever gotten, though his living on the other side of the world majority of the year hid many of his shortcomings and the dark part of his personality. Yet her mother had always described him to be an upstanding, responsible man, who sacrificed much to care for his siblings when they were growing up. His was the model to strive after.

And one fated encounter brought her to the road towards freedom. The road shook and the pedestal he was placed upon crashed to the ground, and it was shattered in the blink of an eye.

One morning, her uncle and his family waited in the living room for her and her mother as she left for school. With a video camera. An ambush. He advanced upon her, and fearing for her safety, her mother pulled him away. He grabbed them both, threw them down, and pretended to be assaulted to pose for his camera.

And all of this… over a phone bill.

A sudden strike against her cheek, even she wasn’t sure it would ever come to that. The endless war was ending soon. A restraining order was placed, and a fragile, temporary peace descended upon the two females.

Amongst the chaos and confusion, she was growing up too quickly. An outstretched arm reached toward her in peace and offered her the ability to be a teenager. Out of love and grace, a friend’s family brought them to a church, filled with believers who spoke her mother’s tongue, lessening the burden that fell on her shoulders.

In the courtroom, what she least expected to see was mercy, especially coming from the wounded. After hearing that this man could ultimately lose his visa and be sent back overseas, her mother chose to drop the charges because the crimson in their veins runs thick with the same blood.

A picture of the Gospel.

Unbeknownst to her, her steps had been guided down the path to her freedom from the moment she chose to listen to that second voice.

Don’t do it.

Thinking of it now, she realized just how much she would have lost had she listened to the first. Instead, she was led down freedom’s path, a road not frequently traveled – though well paved and well tended – by a mysterious voice, powerful enough to calm the crashing emotions on the shore of her heart, yet gentle like the sun drifting to sleep beneath the horizon.

He called to her again. Many times. Interspersed between the whispers of the velvet night, His voice could be heard echoing in the depths of her soul. And as she followed the path her uncle had opened for her, she found Him: the Man who commands the voice, seated in humble majesty, a lazy smile crawling across his simple face.

“You’re finally here.”

She dropped to the earth, knees caressed by the gentle brush of the grass, and folded into herself, tears cascading down her face, heart pounding erratically against the steel bars of the cage erected around it, begging desperately for release.

He continued to call to her; she continued to cry. She knew that to follow Him would cost her everything. The face of her mother flashed across her mind. How would she tell her? Then the face of her late grandmother, humbly knelt in front of the family’s idols bent over and praying the sutras off the page. What would it mean to be eternally separated from her?

“It’s your choice.”

Again, an extended hand. She placed hers in the flat palm of the warm hand, calloused by labor, scarred by nails, and she found freedom in His embrace. She belonged to Him, thanks in part to her uncle.

Her uncle: the man who bestowed the second character of her name, meaning “the appearance or bearing of.”

The first burning of her nest, the first rebirth: complete.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

I don’t want you.

This was the voice she heard as she read over a letter from an attorney in San Francisco. On the page was a short, quick, professional letter asking for her to contact this sender: an abduction lawyer.

I don’t want you.

The words on the page raged and swirled, the words pulled deeper and deeper into a black hole, where emotions went to die.

A year previous, during her last year of high school, their financial struggles brought them to the end of their rope. Her mother reached out and applied for welfare and was put into a training program and eventually found a job in which to support them with. During the time however, much information was collected, and it was revealed that no financial support came from her father, and he was to be informed and sought after.

No word – not for a whole year. Then again, it had been much longer since he’d left.

Upon visiting home for winter vacation after her first college semester, she received this letter in the mail. It hit her harder than she wanted to admit, especially to her mother, and weighed heavier upon her than she could bear to carry. No contact from him, still, just a letter from a stranger. She wasn’t even worth his time.

Her parents did not have the “fairytale romance” – or any kind of romance. They were barely friends. Their future together, decided economically by their families, and her father and mother were married. And his life continued to be shrouded in darkness – his life, his heart, his lover. His heart had left long before he ever had. It may not have been there at all.

On the day she received this greeting, she took her first step into the spiral of depression, anger. What about her made her so detestable in his eyes? Was she not flesh of his flesh, no matter what happened between he and her mother?

Struggling to banish him from her thoughts, she focused her energy into her studies, choosing to ignore the loneliness and bitter heartache that had already taken root deep within her soul. This pattern continued for years, and had it been her choice, would likely extend to today.

But He had bigger plans for her, and what marvelously creative plans they were.

From the outermost recesses of her mind and heart, a still small voice called out to her yet again. Thoughts, which she fought desperately to suppress with the weight of a thousand mountains, rushed through the cracks and flowed like lava, searing and transforming her rock-hard heart.

She needed healing – more so than she would admit in a million years.

And He wanted to heal her. Wholly. Make her an entire person. He wanted to mend her heart so that she could love from all of it and not just the parts that feel comfortable, the few unscarred parts she allowed others to see. This was the gift He wished to give her: a heart that is flesh and tender, a heart that is whole.

All around her, others speak of trivial requests from their fathers. They talk of ways their fathers have loved them, and the ways they wished their fathers would have loved them.
How much would she give to be in those shoes? The shoes that belonged to the fathered, the shoes that belonged to those who can say their fathers loved them even if it were just for a minute, the shoes that belonged to those who can talk hockey and culture and faith with their fathers.

How much would she give?

To be able to picture as a little girl a knight in shining armor with the face of her daddy coming to save her from distress. To be able to ride on her dad’s shoulders as they walked around, enjoying the kiss of the sun’s rays and the embrace of the autumn wind together. To be encouraged every time she fell down from learning to ride her bike as a kid. To have little trivial disagreements about the boys she liked.

But these things she could never have. In the years under her belt, the one gift she wished to have received from him was that he wouldn’t have given up, he wouldn’t have left.

But he did.

He left.

And he never looked back.

Still.

Though she may not be able to express love to a father she barely knew, she could be thankful for the physical life he’s given her that, in truth, came from the creativity of a Father who would never leave her heart lonely.

In the end, it is for His glory. He calls her His – in every sense of the word. She belongs to Him. She is His daughter, His princess. He gives her the love she’s always wanted from a father and gives it freely and abundantly everyday.

Yet she doesn’t know how to receive it.

Love from a father. What is it like? How does one go about receiving it? How does one go about giving back?

Forgiving her earthly father… she never thought she needed to. He had departed so early and abruptly from her life and growth that she felt he was a stranger in nearly every way. But he was not a stranger; a stranger would not be able to wound her heart so mortally. He was a man whose responsibility was to raise her and love her, and he threw it all away along with a daughter he wished he never had. He was a man who left her to fend for herself when she needed a father the most, in order to chase after his own fleeting desires. He was a man who broke her heart, shattered it to pieces, and scattered it to the four winds.

To pray for him? To forgive him? To… love him? Who am I that I can do such a thing? By the love and mercy of God, this daughter was called to do such. And by His strength alone she could pray blessings on a man she would rather curse for eternity.

Even so, as time has gone by, peace had begun to heal her heart. It continues to be painful to pray for him. To pray against the wrongs he’s done and possibly still doing… that’s simple. That is something she can do. To pray blessings on the man who trampled on her heart? To pray blessings on the family he replaced her with? How can she? They are the hardest prayers she will ever have to pray.

Struggling to forgive, straining for justice, she judged this man and labeled him a sinner. His sin cut deep and severed tendon from bone. He abandoned her, he cut out her heart and dropped it without a second glance. Yet she is called to forgive him.

She felt, however, that if she could forgive this man, she could do anything. She knew deep within that her lack of forgiveness for him and her anger that boiled into hatred would poison the fruit He wished to grow in her. She wanted to be fruitful for Him, and more than anything, to be made whole.

Forgiveness would come soon enough – soon enough on His time. To be forgiven, one must forgive. Were his sins really much different than her own? Had she not once left her Love, ripped out His heart, and spat in His face?

The sinless God came to the earth He created, relinquishing His right to be praised, clothing Himself in frail human flesh, and donning a servant’s clothes to wash the feet of those He taught. The sinless God, who had and still has every right to be angry and hateful toward us who break His heart over and over and over and over again, chose to forgive, and His love compelled Him to die for those who break His heart and His laws in order to allow them to come back into fellowship with Him.

The innocent sought the guilty for reconciliation.

So how could she, in her selfishness, justify hating this man for what he did? She was just as guilty as he. And their sins were against no one but Yahweh, God Almighty.

She would learn that forgiveness was the key to her freedom, and it was just within her reach. Forgiving him would release her from her anger, release her from her bitterness, release her from the cage she slammed shut long ago, and allow her to use all the wasted energy and time to focus on that which was more important and lasting like putting a smile on her Father’s face.

Her earthly father, having taken no active role in her life for over twenty years, taught her the only lesson he ever needed to teach her: how to forgive.

Her father: the man who bestowed the first character of her name, meaning “phoenix.”

The second burning of her nest, the second rebirth: complete.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Phoenixes are magnificent creatures. Through severe physical and emotional trauma, they are able to rise more beautiful than before, wearing their scars like jewels.

The appearance of a phoenix – a name given to her by the two people who would push her to live up to it for years to come; her name is a promise – a promise that life would not be easy for her, but also a promise that the scorching fire that licks her skin is a temporary sting that would lead her to be born anew.

Her name is a promise from God, a promise of a difficult life and a promise of perseverance through the fire. Scars etched deeply upon her heart and upon her past – they are being refined by the fire to shine like silver and gold.

He wants her heart. The heart that had been trampled on and forgotten about is the heart that the King of the universe wants to set His throne upon, to make His home in. He reveals to her from beneath a shrouded veil a heart that is whole, a heart that is radiant, a heart that is beautiful.

This is her heart. The scars that were once adorned on its surface have been healed and transformed by her Savior. These storms that were meant to batter and break and dirty this heart have caused it to shine even more radiantly than it once had, and more radiantly than it once could.

This is her heart. This is His home. There is still healing that must take place.

But He knows her.

And He will meet her in the storm.

And when the rain subsides, peace comes like waves spilling over each other before finally breaking on the beach, the scent of the sea an hour after a storm – the scent of peace – lingering lazily in the air.

In the scream of silence, the caress of a whisper brushes across her face. Born from the imagination of the Most High God, He seals her with His promise.

She is His masterpiece.

I am a phoenix.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-
featured in WitnessLA Part 1 Part 2

Grace Complete

“It is finished.”

The words that marked a dying man’s last breath.

His words are a comfort to know that it is by grace we are saved, that not of works so that no one can boast. It is finished because He has finished it.

What is it about grace that frightens us so much? The idea of receiving something with no strings attached. Don’t we do that for our friends and loved ones? Then if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to those we love, how much more will our Father who is in Heaven give what is good those who ask of Him? The gospel is His gift to us. Gospel from Old English meaning “good news.” Can there be a greater gift than perfect love and divine royal blood given on our behalf? Can there be better news?

Yet the idea of grace has us running and screaming like the plague. From a God who is so amazing, we believe there must be some kind of “catch” to this gift. Do we question when we receive a gift from our friends? Generally not. There might be a “why” involved, but we usually accept it because we know they gave from their love as a means to show us they care. So why is it different when God is giving us a gift? He’s given many others before. Our breath and our life are beautiful gifts from God. Yet He loves us so much that He is willing to go even further. So that we are not forever bound by sin, God cast Adam and Eve away from the Tree of Life, and though because of their sin they could not reside with God, He never left them. His presence is a gift we receive when we choose to receive His grace.

What is it about grace that frightens us to the point where we decide that it can’t be all there is? To the point where we add onto it things that really don’t factor into what grace in the Gospel does for us? We tell people to live this way or that way. We tell people that they are wrong. We tell people that they have to DO MORE STUFF to keep their salvation. We profile a believer and tell others to measure up to it.

Beloved, don’t you see that these are our responses to His gift rather than ways to receive it?

Because if these are what’s important….. why did the story not end sooner? Why didn’t it end with Jesus’ baptism? Why didn’t Jesus just say “peace out” after He gave us some nice lessons? Why did Jesus have to keep pushing the buttons of the religious leaders who thought they had salvation worked out? Why did Jesus have to shed His blood and suffocate on a cross?

Do you know the Savior? Why is He the Savior if His gift is not enough? If what He went through is not enough to give us life? We spit on grace when we choose works instead. If it is by our means and our works and things that are humanly possible, then why did the sinless God have to die on our behalf? What kept Him on that tree, waiting for death to take Him?

Love. Love that killed a man who had no fault. Do you know that the Savior is in love with you?

Grace.

Grace, beloved. Grace that tells us this is something that we can NEVER earn, that our sin is something we can never atone for on our own. To atone for a sin, one must give his life. The wages of sin is death. And this man took our death that when the righteous Judge looks upon us, He sees the blood of the Lamb who was given on our behalf. In the Old Covenant, God allowed an animal to be sacrificed for a family’s sin. Blood was shed and a death gave way to life. There were restrictions. The animal had to be pure and devoid of blemishes. The blood of the last Passover Lamb signed the New Covenant. That through this sacrifice all mankind can come to the Father. And who was more blameless than Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

God has written us a beautiful love story through the life of His Son. So why are we trying to alter it? God is as creative as He is sovereign. Just look at the world around us. The green leaves of spring topped off with blossoms of bright reds and pinks. The stars that dot the night sky. The sun that gives us warmth. The human body and all its complexities. Can man or other creature have this creativity?

Grace came from Love. True Love died to bring us to Himself, that we may die to our old selves and have life anew in His resurrection. Grace is grace because it cannot be earned. Grace is beautiful because it cannot be earned.

“It is finished.”

If He says it’s finished…… I’m sure as heck going to believe it’s finished.

Who is Jesus?

There is a guy we tend to call the Prince of Peace, the Holy One, the Savior. But who is He really? To us? to the world?

He is a man we claim to know yet pretend we don’t. He is a man we claim to love yet we continuously break His heart. He is a man we claim to follow yet the paths we walk don’t reflect it. Who is He, really? To us? Who should He be to us?

We always see Him depicted as a white man with an ethereal glow. Sometimes clothed in splendid robes, sometimes looking solemn and serious. Sometimes He’s holding a lamb and looking up toward heaven. Sometimes He’s smiling gently. Many people believe He is a condemning, angry, and spiteful being. Many people believe He is as tender as a mother toward her child. No wonder we think we know who He is. No wonder we don’t.

Our culture, our society keeps trying to tell us who He is. We see the images painted across stories and artwork and rantings and ravings. No wonder we are confused.

We go to the source to find Him, and even then we run into problems. Verses get taken out of context and twisted to say what we want them to say. We get too lazy to read whole sections and chapters and books, so we’re okay with the verses thrown at us by others since they’re reading out of the bible anyhow.

So how can we know Him?

He is to be sought out. The person of God is not so hidden that man cannot find Him when he seeks Him. The will of God is not so hidden that a man cannot find it when he seeks it.

He was in the beginning. He was with God in the beginning. And in the beginning He was God. He is the Living Word through whom all things were created that have been created and apart from Him nothing was created that has been created. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, but the darkness can not comprehend it.

One spring evening, He came into our world witnessed by the most humble of assemblies. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords born of a virgin with an animal feeder as his crib. Creation witnessed His birth and bowed to Him. A star marked His coming. Men – princes – from all corners of the earth followed this star to find Him. Thousands upon thousands of miles on foot, by animal, using whatever means possible, they came to pay tribute to the One and only King born on a clear evening in the back of an inn.

As He grew, He gained wisdom beyond understanding and used it and taught others of it and equipped them. All man and all God, He forsook His place in the heavenlies to bring those created in His image back into fellowship with Him. The Father, the Spirit, the Son – the epitome of perfect fellowship. And we are invited to join in it as well.

Then one night, His heart became burdened for the destiny of His creation. As a man, He felt the pain of a single cut. As a man, He felt the burden of His mission. He prayed all night, leaving His life in the hands of the Father. He was so burdened that He sweat blood through His pores, making His skin ever more tender to the touch. He hoped for another way, not as He will but as the Father will. The weight of sin rested solely on His shoulders; from the first sin that started with a fruit to the sin just before He establishes His kingdom and every single sin in between. Flesh and bones were never meant to carry this load. Yet He did with the knowledge of what He would be blessed with after it was done: fellowship with His beloved. He prayed. He waited. His heart was broken as a kiss sealed His fate.

And the next morning, he began a journey that would open a path for us to find Him wherever we are at. His tender skin was torn apart, and He had already lost too much blood, yet He continued to stand and walk and carry the instrument of His death on His shoulders. He begged for forgiveness on his children’s behalf. Forgive them. Forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.

He hung for hours that likely felt like eons. A man hung on either side of Him. One chided Him, telling Him to free them all if He is the Son of God. The other… his heart broke at the sight of God’s guiltless Son dying the death that he and his comrade deserved, a death that is thought to be a curse from God. He asked Him to remember Him. The Son looked on Him and loved Him. His heart was repentant. The man would be with Him in paradise.

Many still hoped He would free Himself. If He were truly the Savior, then He would not be cursed by God. They waited and waited, but He stayed on the monstrous contraption. Then with His very last breath, he proclaimed, “It is finished.”

The first man who believed was a Roman soldier. “Surely… surely… this man was innocent.” And others repented at this site. And all creation felt the Father’s broken heart.

And three days would pass until His beloved would see Him again. He rose from the dead and left the world’s sin in the grave. He was the final Passover Lamb, offered as a peace token to the God of justice that He may bring His children to Him without defiling His righteousness.

It is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. It is finished.

“It is finished,” He proclaimed on the cross. So why do we add so much to His sacrifice? We look at someone and pass judgment. This person is not “good” enough. That person is not “pure” enough. Those guys aren’t “doing enough” for Jesus. These people won’t go to heaven.

Who are we to pass judgment on each other? We hypocrites should remove the log in our own eye so we can see clearly enough to take the speck out of our brothers’ and sisters’ eye… that we may see Him clearer.

We mock His sacrifice when we add onto it. In the Old Testament, a family atoned with God by sacrificing the best pure animal as an offering. Blood was shed in this covenant between God and His people. The New Covenant was signed with Jesus’ blood. We have nothing to do to earn a place with Him. He has done the work, and in response to it, He has told us to tell others of Him, to bring His sacrifice into their lives. This is not a command given to us that allows us to be with Him. This is a response to what we have received from Him. This is a gift from us to Him to bring His beloved to Him.

The man who hung next to Him changed his heart even as he was about to perish, and Jesus gave Him life. It is finished. It is finished because He finished it.

We see this Man through so many filters. Television, role models, paintings, writings, teachings. But why? When we try to see Him through other filters, we will never truly see Him. We must look at Him and toward Him, and we will see Him clearly then and only then.

It is finished. So bless Him. True Love died on that day to bring us to Him. And True Love rose and took us in His arms and gave us the opportunity to bless Him.

the God I praise

God will get His glory, and God deserves to be praised. Recent events have shown me who God is and just how insignificant I am, yet there He is watching over me with all the love and provision of a Father.

What exactly is it that draws us to Him? Actually, I think human nature causes us to turn around and run the other direction from where He’s standing. But sometimes, God stops a few of us, and we see who He is and why He deserves to be praised.

What is it that we want from Him? A free ticket out of hell? Doesn’t that sound so selfish? Here’s the God who created the universe and spans it with the width and breadth of His hand….. and all we want from Him is a way out of the punishment we deserve?

We can make a case to God’s goodness and justness and love, that He’ll let us into Heaven because of those reasons. But it is precisely God’s goodness and justness that prevents us from entering Heaven as sinners. His standards are high, and we can’t meet them. This is why, in His love, He sent Jesus to be our sin, and as He died a righteous man with the world’s sin cast upon Him, He then rose a righteous man and left the world’s sin in the earth. His love gave Him peace as He went to the cross because He knew that this action would give Him His children. Of course, physically He was in turmoil to the point where He sweat blood, causing His skin to be ever more tender to the touch. The weight of humankind’s sin from the beginning of time to the end of time was crashing on a Man who forsook His place in the Heavenlies to become soft flesh and frail bone in the form of a being He had created from the dirt in the earth. It’d be silly to think He wasn’t in despair. But deep down in His heart was peace. Not the feeling of peace but the state of peace.

This is the God I praise: the God who, in His creativity, gave us a complex world of vegetation, water, and life; the God who, in His creativity, gave this world 8 siblings (yes, I’m still counting Pluto) to share a solar system with; the God who, in His creativity and knowledge, placed us in the perfect spot in our solar system to receive life and light from the nearest star; the God who, in His creativity and love and pride, wrote every chapter of my life thus far and will continue writing this story till the end; the God who, in His lovingkindness, died a cursed man’s death to save a wretch and call her holy. And His.

This is the God I praise.

God will always deserve to be praised. Whether I am going to heaven or not (I’m confident in my salvation, but God’s still God no matter what), whether the world is in turmoil or not, whether I have money in my bank to pay rent or not….. God still deserves to be praised. Just being able to borrow another breath from Him in the mornings when I awake and look out at the world and see the canvas where He painted His art… these things alone show how much God deserves to be praised. And to know what Jesus gave up for me, for my sake… how can I not look at my God and see how much praise He deserves from me?

This is the God I praise.

Trapped

Weariness pricks the corners of her eyes as she slowly flutters them open to observe her surroundings. Where was she now, and just how far did she travel? How long had she been running away? What had she hoped for? Him to come hurling after her and begging her to return, promising everything will be perfect if she agrees?

Well… probably. She never really was a dedicated one, it seems.

What have her actions reduced her to? When she ponders His sacrifice for her, she doesn’t feel joy or thankfulness. She feels guilt. She sees Him hanging there, His love bleeding from every pore of His body, and yet, all she could see was her guilt – her guilt for running away from the Man who did this for her. It is no mystery to her that her place is not at the foot of the cross but on it. She should be looking at herself, yet there He is, blatantly in front of her and taking the punishment meant for her.

Is this what His gift to her has been reduced to? The gift He meant to give from His heart, the gift He meant to draw her towards Himself, what has she done with it. The sacrifice of true love by the Pursuer of her heart has been reduced to a tool to destroy their relationship.

She wants to see this gift as exactly that again – a gift. She wishes to accept it with joy and love and gratitude. She wishes to love Him more powerfully than she had before.

But what is stopping her? She can’t detect His presence near her? Has He left her? Is she in this wilderness by herself, completely defenseless against what lurks behind the shadows? Is she sailing into the eye of the storm, waiting for her little boat to capsize and the waves to drag her into the depths? She would deserve nothing less, she knows.

Yet faintly, she sees the image of a Man she knows, desperately trying to get to her. His image flashes before her eyes. He is being held back by the shadows of her heart – shadows she cannot bring herself to let go of. He reaches an arm out to her, calling her to take it, pleading her to accept it. Tears run down His face as she begins to see more clearly the weariness etched upon His features. He had been battling for her since the day she left Him, since the day she accepted the lies to be truth. Bruises, cuts, scars she’s never seen before mar His face now. Through barely opened eyes, she peers at Him. She is so weary – the shadows she clings onto suckting the very life and energy from her body. She only needs to do one thing – reach a hand toward His and take it. But her body is so heavy, and every inch of her is so tired.

Take His hand. Please, take His hand. What will it take? What does she have to let go of?