A Letter to Your Weary Heart, and Mine

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Dear Heart,

The world is an ugly place these days. You feel it deep.

People are lost, empty. Lashing out in their confusion.

You don’t understand it. Neither do they.

Dear heart, don’t become jaded.

The news bleeds these days. It’ll rip you raw, but don’t let it numb you.

Apathy is just as dangerous as hatred.

All this hurts so deep, but don’t close your eyes to the broken.

Don’t shut your ears to their cries.

Don’t close your heart off. I know you want to.

Fear runs rampant. It trembles in the bravest knees.

Dear heart, don’t let it debilitate you.

Dear heart, the world needs you.

Your voice is small, but your light is steady. It shines brightly in this darkness.

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You don’t have all the answers and your love isn’t big enough to fix a broken nation, not to mention a broken world.

But you have hope and you know a Love that is able.

You may not be able to heal a hurting society, but you can soothe one hurting heart in the mess.

You can reach for another trembling hand and clasp it brave. Because hearing “you are not alone in this” can break down defenses and soften a bitter heart.

People will challenge your intentions, your beliefs, your strength. They will call you names to shut you up because they’re afraid of the truth in your words.

Will you stand under pressure?

Will you fall on your knees in prayer for the victims, because it could have been you?

Will you intercede not only on behalf of the persecuted and abused, but for the persecutors and abusers as well?

Because all need grace.

Especially you. Especially me.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Dear heart, don’t weary yourself with worry. It is not your battle to fight.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.

Be still and know His heart – toward you, toward them.

Be still and know that He is working good out of all this mess, because that’s what the Father does.

Be still and know. He is greater. He is good.

 

“This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s…you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” 2 Chronicles 20:15b, 17 NLT

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A Letter to Your Weary Heart, and Mine

A Prayer for a Broken Nation

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My second alarm pulls me out of bed at 6:39 and I stumble to the bathroom still heavy with sleep. Email notifications come tumbling in and another screaming headline falls heavy in my chest.

More dead and injured in these racial wars and haven’t we had enough??

Yet another round of bullets tear through skin and hearts and the seams of this nation.

What has happened to you, America? When did you become a land of fear and hate instead of the freedom you sing of?

How can we “keep calm and carry on” when people are fighting each other, as if people are the enemy?

We have pushed God out of the picture and failed to see the spiritual war waging around us. Faces buried in technology and hearts bound with busyness and striving, our souls are starving for love and acceptance. Our words have become weapons, putting down and wounding the very people God has created and called beautiful.

It’s all part of Satan’s cunning plan – his plan to break the heart of God by hurting the ones He loves – blinding humanity so they fight each other instead of coming together against him, the true enemy of our souls.

I see a video of flashing lights and gunshots and motionless bodies and the tears stream down these pale cheeks. I’m not proud to be an American today.

Yet my heart is grieved for this country of mine and what am I doing about it?

I’ve often quipped, “Oh, I’m just not into politics…” and carried on with my head in the sand but is this right?

Conviction cuts deep.

Father, I ask that You would shake our sleepy bones from their graves of complacency. Break our hearts for the state of this world and this nation. Awaken us to be the people You have called us to be. Give us the faith to stand on Your Word and the courage to speak up and speak out for Truth.

“The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by God to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,”
honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
you’ll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.”

(Isaiah 61:1-7 MSG)

Family of God, this is our anointing too. We are the prophets, the messengers of God in this age.

I implore you to search your own heart. Get on your knees before God. Let Him break your heart for the things that break His. Allow Him to humble you, and to raise you up again by His grace to be the hope that this would so desperately needs.

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If ever there was a time that Daniel’s prayer rang true, it is now:

“I turned to the Master God, asking for an answer—praying earnestly, fasting from meals, wearing rough penitential burlap, and kneeling in the ashes. I poured out my heart, baring my soul to God, my God:

‘O Master, great and august God. You never waver in your covenant commitment, never give up on those who love you and do what you say. Yet we have sinned in every way imaginable. We’ve done evil things, rebelled, dodged and taken detours around your clearly marked paths. We’ve turned a deaf ear to your servants the prophets, who preached your Word to our kings and leaders, our parents, and all the people in the land. You have done everything right, Master, but all we have to show for our lives is guilt and shame, the whole lot of us—people of Judah, citizens of Jerusalem, Israel at home and Israel in exile in all the places we’ve been banished to because of our betrayal of you. Oh yes, God, we’ve been exposed in our shame, all of us—our kings, leaders, parents—before the whole world. And deservedly so, because of our sin. ‘Compassion is our only hope, the compassion of you, the Master, our God, since in our rebellion we’ve forfeited our rights. We paid no attention to you when you told us how to live, the clear teaching that came through your servants the prophets. All of us in Israel ignored what you said. We defied your instructions and did what we pleased. And now we’re paying for it: The solemn curse written out plainly in the revelation to God’s servant Moses is now doing its work among us, the wages of our sin against you. You did to us and our rulers what you said you would do: You brought this catastrophic disaster on us, the worst disaster on record—and in Jerusalem!

‘Just as written in God’s revelation to Moses, the catastrophe was total. Nothing was held back. We kept at our sinning, never giving you a second thought, oblivious to your clear warning, and so you had no choice but to let the disaster loose on us in full force. You, our God, had a perfect right to do this since we persistently and defiantly ignored you.

‘Master, you are our God, for you delivered your people from the land of Egypt in a show of power—people are still talking about it! We confess that we have sinned, that we have lived bad lives. Following the lines of what you have always done in setting things right, setting people right, please stop being so angry with Jerusalem, your very own city, your holy mountain. We know it’s our fault that this has happened, all because of our sins and our parents’ sins, and now we’re an embarrassment to everyone around us. We’re a blot on the neighborhood. So listen, God, to this determined prayer of your servant. Have mercy on your ruined Sanctuary. Act out of who you are, not out of what we are.

‘Turn your ears our way, God, and listen. Open your eyes and take a long look at our ruined city, this city named after you. We know that we don’t deserve a hearing from you. Our appeal is to your compassion. This prayer is our last and only hope:

‘Master, listen to us!
Master, forgive us!
Master, look at us and do something!
Master, don’t put us off!
Your city and your people are named after you:
You have a stake in us!’”

(Daniel 9:3-19 MSG)

 

 

A Prayer for a Broken Nation

The Truth About Coming Home

I’ve learned, as a writer, that there are certain words you can’t force.

There are times when you must write even though you don’t feel inspired and that can certainly be useful, but there are certain times you can’t.

These are the words that come from quietness and pondering; the kind that seem to overflow from somewhere deep within.

This is what I have found to be true.

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I have been back on US soil for over a month now and I’ve wanted to write about it all – how crazy and scary and amazing the past 9 months have been – but I couldn’t. The words weren’t ready.

But as I’ve began to finally settle into a rhythm in this new-old life and discovered that it’s far harder (and far easier) than I anticipated, words have been simmering at the back of my mind and in my spirit.

And when 4 different people (who you didn’t even know read your blog) in the last two weeks ask about your old blog and if you still write on it because you should…you know it’s time.

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For me writing has always been about breakthrough, about sorting through the pieces after a storm and making sense of it all, turning it into something beautiful, something useful, and passing it back to those who follow.

But lately there has been this whisper in my spirit – something about writing humble, about not having some wisdom to offer after everything is alright, but being something to offer in the midst of the process. Something like carrying hope alongside the hurting and not merely throwing it back from the finish line.

I’ve been humbled a lot over the past few months – had my eyes opened to who I am without God, when I loose sight of His way and misplace His Lordship with my own. It’s a terrifying thing to realize you are capable of doing the very things you’ve judged others for.

And I’ve prided myself in being a non-judgemental person, an empathetic. But sometimes God strips away the person we think we are, and shows us what we really are apart from His grace.

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No part of me wanted to leave Indonesia. And I had plans to stay. I had it all worked out in my head how I was going to make it happen. But that last Friday in April I was offered a choice that wasn’t really a choice to return to the US and continue my studies. I cried ugly for a whole weekend, threw a lot of questions at God. Yet His only answer was the same thing He always says,

Do you trust Me?

So I swallowed hard my plans and my tears, packed two suitcases, and hugged my friends and life in Bali goodbye.

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I know this is just a season. And I’ve come to understand why I’m here. The Lord has work I need to do, people I need to talk to, things I need to learn. It’s a process. I’m learning patience, trust, and discipline.

But I now have a job that I love and is challenging and stretching me in new ways. My church is launching a new campus in a different part of town and I get to be a part of that. I am meeting new people and building relationships and making connections. I have an opportunity to study at a great university with wonderful professors. God is good. He is really good.

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I’ve learned that you can’t force things, and sometimes you can’t choose.

There are times when you must follow blindly, just trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He really truly does know best.

And with quietness and pondering,

This is what I have found to be true.

~Grace

 

P.S. I am thoroughly enjoying being back with my family. ❤

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The Truth About Coming Home

When Letting Go is Tough and Hope Comes Hard

I chuckled at how I probably looked staring contemplatively out of the bus window in the middle of 40 chattering, laughing kids with the wind whipping wild my curls while some kind of chill indie techno pop or whatever blared over the speakers, but there was something about the way the afternoon sunlight blazed golden across the tall grasses in that field and I couldn’t stop staring.

I soaked up the moment soul-hungry and mentally lingered, wondering at how underrated the Midwest actually is.

There’s something magical about camp season. When you escape to a piece of no man’s land tucked somewhere in the hills of who-knows-where with spotty cell phone reception and a gazillion sweaty kids for a week to run ridiculous relay races in the blazing heat and throw water balloons at each other that are actually filled with warm chocolate milk. Such fun.

But in all seriousness it’s kind of my favorite. And I kind of cry a little every time I have to leave because there’s nothing quite like getting away from normal life for a week or two (or four) to hang out with cool people and be silly and love on Jesus to the sound of an acoustic guitar and cicadas.

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“MuKappa” campsite

The funny thing is that I had some great plans going into this summer. I was going to work this camp, get into this relationship, apply for this job, move into this apartment…it was going to be perfect. I had it all figured out – my life for the next couple years. All in the name of loving Jesus, right?

Well, something started to unravel in me. Somewhere between a few certain whiny campers and another thunderstorm and mud all over everything (because we camped out in the woods for a week and it rained the whole time and I’ve never seen so much mud in my life) and soaked sleeping bags and sleep-deprivation. Suddenly here was the end of my rope and things weren’t working out and I couldn’t do this anymore.

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chief meeting in the rain

But Father kept whispering softly to me – in quiet hammock moments, in laughter and conversation around the campfire, on muddy trails, through falling rain. It was half a week later that I stopped long enough to listen, to lean in despite my disappointment and frustrations. His words came gentle, “Silly child, trusting in your own plans. Don’t you know to put your hope in Me alone? Do you really think you know what’s best for you?”

His probing laid me open and the next few days felt a little raw. It was a gradual releasing – of my plans and stubbornness – a softening. I thought I had pliable been all along. But there I was, “my” life and “my” future in my own hands again and it’s never comfortable to peel back the fingers of a clenched fist.

It didn’t make sense to let go. Because my plans made sense. They would work out perfectly with what I wanted and how I was going to live out the things God had placed on my heart if He would just work with me…

Ha.

Yeah. Sounds rather ridiculous when you think about it that way.

So I let go. Even if it meant doing the same things I’ve been doing for the past two years and living in my parents’ basement until I’m thirty. (Okay not really, but that’s how it felt if I’m honest….And don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but you know what I mean…)

With that releasing came such a peace.

Because if I was letting go it’s because God had something better in store and I’ve walked with my Father long enough to know He never disappoints.

I packed my suitcase that Saturday morning after camp was over and the goodbyes were said, and strangely enough I found myself looking forward to getting back into the routine of my life – housework, homework, and afternoons in the office.

But I come home to a surprise I was not expecting. It explains the releasing, the heart conditioning, and the hopeful expectancy for the future.

My season in the basement is over.

I’m going to Bali.

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me in my hammock 🙂
When Letting Go is Tough and Hope Comes Hard

The Hard Truth about Faith and Kingdom Living

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The sun came out and just like that, it was spring.

I’d been waiting. So long.

Winter always seems the hardest.

I was eating regularly and sleep was a priority and strength dripped life slowly back into these fragile, anemic bones…yet I still felt just that – fragile.

I usually loved clouds but there was no break in them for the sun and I was breaking deep in my own stormy mind. It kept hitting me fresh – my apathy in the face of Christ’s agony and here I was stuck face down in the mud of my own self-pity. Who was I anyway?

He was breaking me piece by piece and there were hard conversations and tear-smeared pillowcases but there was grace. Always grace.

Monday night bible study and Dawn’s sweet words like hope in my tired days. Giant plates of sushi and teasing laughter and good conversation. Americanos and finished homework. Long bike rides and hot baths.

Grace. Little tastes of Him in the everyday moments.

And it came late morning on a Thursday – after several early mornings of sleepy bible reading and seemingly unfruitful prayer time – like the breaking of clouds, like sunshine on cold pavement:

The spirit-fog lifted.

“You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 MSG)

It came back like an old, familiar friend – this focus, this urgency for the kingdom of God.

What have I been doing??

Comparing myself and my doubts and my failures to His holiness and perfection…and here it was in front of me the whole time:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8 NIV)

I wondered if I’d ever really learn that deep down.

But here He was reminding me again: It’s not about you! Silly you… It’s not about your life or your job or your future…it’s about ME. It’s about eternity and MY kingdom and how are you working towards that?

Um. Well…

It’s not about yesterday and how you’re not all you thought you’d be and how you’ve messed this up again…it’s about who you are in ME and how you let ME work in and shine through you right now in this moment.

Oh yeah…

Okay, God. Help my unbelief.

It’s time to put down the self-pity and self-condemnation. It’s time for purpose once more, for focus, for kingdom living.

Sunshine pored through the blinds, spilling across my desk and into my spirit. Warmth, like life in these bones.

So this is living now.

The Hard Truth about Faith and Kingdom Living

This Is Salvation

I’ve been fascinated with him, ever since I picked up a book titled The Jesus I Never Knew. Philip Yancy writes frankly of his surprise at the contrast of the mild, almost timid Jesus he grew up being taught about to this suddenly bold, character who waltzed into the middle of comfortable Judaism, so sure of himself, arguably arrogant with his lofty claims, this daring rebel who defied tradition and spoke like he created the universe.

And it’s been argued for centuries who he really is – liar, lunatic, or the Lord he claimed to be.

Yet if he really was this – this person with the fullness of the mighty God all wrapped up in human flesh – what does this mean for us?

For the God of the universe to have visited this little planet…dare we grasp the gravity of its connotations?

Sometimes I forget. I walk blindly through my days, apathetic to the person of Jesus – who sweat agony in a silent garden – Very God humbled to submission. He took on all my guilt and shame and worries along with the rest of the worlds’ and how can I not fall humbled in adoration at the thought? I worry like it’s my right when the God of the universe suffered so deeply that I shouldn’t have to… I insist on carrying my own guilt like a punishment, on earning my way back into favor like His kind of love could possibly falter at a little thing like human weakness. He already knows. He knew in that moment when he felt every failure on his shoulders.

And he loved anyway. He died anyway.

Ann Voskamp once wrote of how we’re left wrung out when we try to climb rungs we weren’t meant to – as if we could reach God by our own efforts – because the task is kind of like dragging camel humps through needles’ eyes and we will never earn our way to goodness or happiness or fulfillment. Yet still we insist on trying. And God watches us with gentle eyes, always waited for us to give up – and give in to the Love that closes the distance between the weary heart and His own.

So I read this Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ and even the tedious details cannot hide the wonder of a God who gave up splendor for human brokenness to break through our thick-skinned apathy to him.

Because we had grown tough. Humanity swallowed centuries of disappointment and hearts swelled heavy with the burden of religion, of blind repetition to redeem their constant failures. Continuously reminded of their shortcomings, they grew so heavy – jaded. Distant from a God whom they could never reach.

I prayed like that for years – throwing my prayers upward, figuring most times they bounced off the ceiling, but if I was faithful enough, fervent enough, they would be just strong enough to touch the gates of heaven and bounce weakly into the throne room.

And it wasn’t until reading Brother Lawrence that I suddenly knew in my spirit He was here right in front of me and behind me and beside me and inside me and no matter how quietly I whispered to this God of mine, it was as loud as could be because He was here, leaning into every word.

And this God wore His heart on His sleeve for hundreds of years, aching deep at generation after generation of rejection yet ever patient, waiting for that perfect time to send His biggest gift. The one He’d been saving…anticipating since the first breaking off in the first garden. His presence in human form – Immanuel. So we could touch Him and hear Him and know Him. So He could dwell with us and in us. So we could once more be like Him.

This is Salvation.

And this is the truth our souls ache to seek out, to explore the mystery of this God who once limited Himself so there would be no limit to knowing Him.

This Is Salvation