Monday, December 04, 2006

Layers of Clothing

This is the poem I shared in my presentation tonight, and will share with Come Thirsty in context when I give share my personal story with you once we conclude The Drama of Scripture.

I wear my pride like layers of clothing—
Layers that cover my disgrace.

I need You to peel away my pride layer by layer
Until I am uncovered and bare before the One who made me.
You know me intimately
And yet I am afraid to expose myself.
I am afraid to be seen as flawed and imperfect,
So I try to hide.

I hide under all these layers of clothing.
And I need You to peel away my pride layer by layer
Until I am uncovered and bare before the One who made me.
I need to be cleansed in Your showers of grace;
Renewed in Your seas of mercy.
But I cannot feel the impact of the soft, tender drops of water
Until I am uncovered.
I must stand completely exposed—
Exposed and vulnerable before You.

I need You to peel away my pride layer by layer
Until I am uncovered and bare before the One who made me.
Only then can You begin the painful process of making me new.
I shrink back with embarrassment
Because You see me for who I am.
If I want to impress anyone, Lord,
I want to impress You.
Yet all I have to offer comes from Your hand;
I cannot give You anything that You don’t already possess.

You have peeled away my pride layer by layer
And I am uncovered and bare before the One who made me.
A tear falls from my cheek as I stand bare and exposed
With nothing but a weak, frail, faithless heart to give You.
If I had anything of lasting value that could compare to Your worth,
It would be Yours.
But all I have to give is me,
And so I offer me freely.

You have peeled away my pride layer by layer
And I am uncovered and bare before the One who made me.
I give You all of my inadequacies and weaknesses,
All my frailty and imperfection.
I acknowledge that only You are good and wise,
Strong and pure.

So here I stand uncovered and bare before the One who made me.
My pride is peeled away like layers of clothing
And my shameful self is exposed.
Now I am ready.
Ready for You to take my life and use it for Your glory.
Transform me into something beautiful.
Let this sinful, unintelligent, impure creature glorify You.
For I am Yours, Father.
I am Yours.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Open Door

The door swings wide open. I am excited, curious, fearful. I have seen others enter and exit, yet they are not the same when they leave. Change. Transformation. Alteration. I have been told I cannot help but be changed once I enter. Is it worth the risk?

The door swings wide open. I take one step forward but shrink back from the intense light that is emitted. Yet something compels me to enter. I hear a voice. “Absorb the moment. Relish the moment. Live the moment.”

The door swings wide open and I cautiously tiptoe in. I cannot peel my eyes away. Beauty. Majesty. Power. I open my mouth to speak but I cannot utter a word. Sound ceases. The world fades. I am standing alone. I am uncovered, exposed, vulnerable. I begin trembling, shaking to the core, yet peace surrounds me. I am in the presence of a Mighty Lion and I am safe.

The door swung wide open, I entered, and I never want to leave. I drink in its glory, bask in its loveliness, bathe in its truth. I find purpose, and for that moment all that matters is that I am here with You.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Prayer: A Sweet Fragrance

Indescribable Power
Unceasing Praise
Heart Leaps with Joy
Kneeling Before the Throne
Boundless Grace
Faith Strengthened
Wounds Healed
Trials Accepted
Love for God Grows
Intimacy Deepens
Hope Realized
Answers Revealed
A Quiet Heart’s Cry
Unrestrained Passion
Incense/A Sweet Fragrance
Creation Communicates with Creator
My Will Joyfully/Humbly Surrendered
My Eyes Turned toward Heaven
My Ears Attuned to Your Call
Admitted Helplessness
Utter Dependence on You
Dead in Transgression
Alive in You
Continual Growth
Being Still and Knowing He is God

Prayer is a sweet fragrance lifted up before our omnipotent Father. We can barely grasp the power of prayer, but we know it is a connection with God Almighty. The words above are the images that come to my mind as I ponder this beautiful communion with my Savior. As I stared at the shape of the words on paper, I noticed they resembled a vase. Though this was purely coincidental, how appropriate that they resembled that which holds a sweet fragrance—for that is the essence of prayer.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Waiting Room

Here I am again tonight in a place that seems all too familiar.
I am praying for a sign that you still hear my little voice—
That You still care.

I am tired and weak and weary.
I fall before Your throne and cry out to You.
My head knows You’re sovereign,
But my heart has such a hard time believing.

What if my will does not line up with Your will for my life?
What if I cannot come to a place of total surrender,
No matter how hard I try or how many unsuccessful attempts I make?

I need to be reminded that You’re in control.
I need Your strong, gentle, loving arms to envelop me
And Your sweet words to comfort me.

I need to know that You are God, I am man.
You are the Master, I am the servant.
You have my best interests at heart
And know me better than I know myself.

That is what You reveal to me
As I wait silently in this place tonight.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

His Love is Deep

As I think about my own sinfulness, and how often I willingly sell myself to other gods and worship idols while claiming that my heart belongs to Jesus ALONE...
And as I think about the nation of ancient Israel, whom we are studying in Come Thirsty each week...
And as I realize with shame that I am not much different from them...
I am struck by these song lyrics.

May they encourage you today, not because of who you are, but because of the One who called you by name to serve Him.

"Your Love is Deep"
Jami Smith
Your love is deep
Your love is high
Your love is long
Your love is wide
Deeper than my view of grace
Higher than this worldly place
Longer than this road I travel
Wider than the gap You filled

Who shall separate us
Who shall separate us from Your love
Nothing can separate us
Nothing can separate us from Your love

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My Babylon

An artist's creative rendition of ancient Babylon:
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

My Babylon

Meaningless. Everything other than what brings You glory seems meaningless to me.

It is frightening. Sometimes I am dreadfully afraid because I am immersed in a culture that makes decrees against Your statues and stands up for everything I stand against.

And I am left to wonder where my place is in this big, cold, empty world where I am often found standing alone.

I am in the heart of my Babylon. The exact place from which I want to run far away and never look back.

Then I realize I have no place to run. Babylon surrounds me; the only light that penetrates the darkness is inside me.

So I must stand and let You shine your light through me, even though it is painfully uncomfortable at times because I look and feel and think differently from the world. At first I can only emit a flicker of light and I fear my Babylon will overcome it—overcome me. What if my Babylon squelches any potential for hope?

But You refuse to let that happen because You have called me to stand here for a reason. I cannot tell whether I affect my Babylon, not just yet, although I can say something powerful is beginning in me. I purpose in my heart to stand unwaveringly and never be shaken, even when I am shaking from fear or downtrodden by discouragement. Because everything else I see around me in the heart of my Babylon is meaningless.

I only desire to cling to You.
Keep me clinging to You.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Across the Street or Around the World

It was the late 1980s and Steve Green, one of my favorite vocal singer's/songwriter's, penned the following:

There's a call going out across the land in every nation
A call to all who swear allegiance to the cross of Christ
A call to true humility, to live our lives responsibly
To deepen our devotion to the cross at any price
Let us then be sober moving only in the spirit
As aliens and strangers in a hostile foreign land
The message we're proclaiming is repentance and forgiveness
The offer of salvation to the dying race of man

CHORUS: To love the Lord our God is the heartbeat of our mission
The spring from which our service overflows
Across the street or around the world
The mission's still the same
Proclaim and live the truth in Jesus's name

As a candle is consumed by the passion of the flame
Spilling light unsparingly throughout a darkened room
Let us burn to know him deeper then
Our service flaming bright
Will radiate His passions and blaze with holy light

This song is "playing" over and over in my mind as I type this and reflect on our class today. Today we examined creation, but we cannot do justice in forty-five minutes to a creative act by God, coming into being by the spoken act of His voice, in seven days (or eras or generations, depending on your view of creation). As I alluded to in class today, I am not concerned so much with how as with what, and I am not so concerned with what as with Who.

Many generations have passed since the creation of Adam and Eve, and from two people came nearly two hundred nations spanning seven continents. This equates to 6,643,632,481 people as of 2:59 p.m. Sunday, August 27. (To see what this number has escalated to since the time I wrote this, check out It's pretty staggering). And each one of those 6,643,632,481 people is unique. And according to Genesis, each one is made in the image of God and has infinite value and worth, whether or not he or she is aware of it.

Today in Come Thirsty we had a handful of countries represented, thanks to Estela inviting her friends to join us. The more I reflect on that, and as I hear Steve Green's song on continuous repeat in my mind, the more I am in awe of God. It all began with God using a bit of creativity. "In the beginning, God created." He didn't hold a meeting, write a doctrinal statement, or inaugurate the first potluck. God spoke, and so it was. And it was good. Indeed, very good.

And so we can all sit in a room today, representing many different countries, cultures, languages, nationalities, tastes, interests, hopes, and fears, but we all represent one God--one God who created. So as the "call goes out across the land in every nation--a call to all who swear allegiance to the cross of Christ," may we stand up and proudly answer it. May we gather together as we did today, many nations and peoples and tongues, knowing that we are all "aliens and strangers in a hostile and foreign land." May the heartbeat of our mission be "to love the Lord our God," and may the message we proclaim be "repentance and forgiveness: the offer of salvation to the dying race of man." For isn't that what creation is all about? Let's proclaim the glory of God!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Broken and Spilled Out

Not all of you may know that I have only been attending First Baptist for six years. The first eighteen years of my life I was raised at another solid, Bible-believing church in Saint Charles. I have many memories: from attending potlucks and pig roasts, to acting in church drama productions, to releasing balloons to celebrate breaking ground for an addition to our church, but one of the memories that is etched most carefully and precisely in my mind is that of the music. I was in awe of the phenomenal talent at our church--our music pastor and his wife had sung with the Metropolitan Opera prior to taking the pastorate position--but I was even more in awe of the musicians' heart for God. Though I heard many songs over those eighteen years that are just a fading memory now, there is one that if I close my eyes, I can still hear being sung by my music minister and his wife: Broken and Spilled Out.

When Bryan Harden, my new music director, called and asked me to choose a song to sing as a solo at our East Campus, it did not take long for this song to resurrect in my mind. I remember being impacted by it in my childhood, and I wanted others to be as moved as I had been. The words are so powerful--connecting a woman in antiquity who poured out her perfume at the feet of Jesus, to remembering Jesus Himself--God's perfect treasure--being poured out for us, and finally to our plea that we might be broken, spilled out, and used up for Him. What an amazing cry of our hearts for our lives to be poured out at Jesus feet as a sweet offering to Him!

Here are the words to the song. The cry of my heart is that you might be ushered to the foot of the cross once more as you reflect on the One who was broken and spilled out for love of you:

One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn
And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a pris'ner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of you Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on Thee
Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon
Let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee
Lord You were God's precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me
The love of the Father
Just for love it was done
And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me Jesus
God's most precious treasure
Lavished on me
Broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet
In sweet abandon
Lord, You were spilled out and used up for Me

In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July!

The Fourth of July is my favorite, non-religious holiday. Lately I've been thinking about why that is, and I can't quite pinpoint the reason. I think it has something to do with fireworks. These days, you can see them almost any day of the year, whenever there is a big celebration downtown Chicago or the Cougar's hit a home run, but they don't strike me quite like they do on the Fourth of July.

I love fireworks on the Fourth of July. There is something about them that takes my breath away. When I was little, I was terrified of the noise they made, but I still went to see them faithfully year after year. Plugging my ears through each *pop* and *bang,* I stared in wonder as the dark night sky became gloriously lit with every color of the rainbow in a flash of light, then went completely dark again, only to revive with color a few seconds later once more. Even though I cognitively know that the burst of light is coming, it still surprises me somehow when I witness it. Even though I know how beautiful it will be, the experience of it is so much greater than I can even imagine. Even though I know the fireworks will be big, it is not until I see them that I am amazed at how grand and massive and powerful they truly are.

And my thoughts turn toward God. The Light of the World. The second coming of Jesus Christ is certain; it will be wondrous and beautiful. The sky will be filled with a burst of His glory. All people will stand in awe and wonder as the Savior of mankind--the Redeemer and King--appears. And it will be surprising. Like a thief in the night. Like a firework that is lit off before the show even starts. Like the pop and bang that terrified me as a child, but mysteriously, I was drawn to it. I knew I was safe. I know I am safe. I know I am saved. And so I look forward to that coming day, when my knee will willingly bow at the feet of Jesus in awe of His beauty, strength, majesty, and power. Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Come!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Reflections on the Funeral Service: What Do I Know?

Sara Groves: "What Do I Know" from the album Conversations
The Song Which Opened the Funeral Service:
I have a friend who just turned eighty-eight and she just shared with me that she's afraid of dying. I sit here years from her experience and try to bring her comfort. I try to bring her comfort, . But what do I know? What do I know?
She grew up singing about the glory land, and she would testify how Jesus changed her life. It was easy to have faith when she was thirty-four, but now her friends are dying, and death is at her door.
Oh, and what do I know? Really, what do I know?
I don't know that there are harps in heaven, Or the process for earning your wings. I don't know of bright lights at the ends of tunnels, Or any of those things.
She lost her husband after sixty years, and as he slipped away she still had things to say. Death can be so inconvenient. You try to live and love. It comes and interrupts.
And what do I know? What do I know?
But I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of him, that must be pretty good. Oh, I know to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord, and from what I know of him, that must be very good.
What do I know? That question pulses through my mind as I watch a grieving family with expressions of sorrow mixed with a sense of numbness walk down the same aisle at church I walk down joyfully each Sunday morning. What do I know? I wonder as I see a mother who looks like she is about to faint make her way into the pew and sit with her husband by her side. What do I know? I judge I know very little as I see a room full of weeping people--more populated than any Sunday morning church service--and the room becomes hazy, blended, collided. I recognize the faces of the director of my kindergarten from nineteen years ago. My elementary and junior high principles who I befriended in the nine years I attended their school. My grade school gym teacher, Mrs. Jukinitz, who my classmates and I jokingly referred to as "Mrs. Juggle-Nuts". The music director of my junior high in front of whom I tried out for advanced choir with butterflies in my stomach. My third grade teacher who still remembers my name after all these years. My fifth grade teacher who everyone was afraid of and supposedly made a kid lick up dirt from the floor. My high school biology teacher whose tests I failed but somehow managed getting a "B" in the class because he knew I worked hard. My ninth grade health teacher who also coached volleyball, my favorite sport. The single Bible teacher who every high school girl had a crush on, momentarily forgetting he was more than ten years older than us. Then there were students I knew, and their parents. Students who I mentored; students who I went to church with; students who I grew up with. They were all there. My worlds collided. But the occasion was death rather than life. So many people I knew, but what do I know?
Laurel's funeral service was beautiful. One and one-half hours of testimony to the godly woman God molded and formed her to be. Friends shared happy memories, and other shared regrets they had because they had not expressed to her their admiration of her before she died. Her faith was definitive of her life, and many in the audience loved God deeper because of her testimony. I sat in the pew and prayed that none of this would be in vain. I prayed that God would bring beauty out of this horrific tragedy. I sat and asked myself, "What do I know?"
To reference another song, there are times "I have to say the words I fear the most: I just don't know."* I do not know why God would take the life of a twenty year old engaged woman who loved Christ deeply and served Him wholeheartedly. I do not know how the tragic and unexpected death of someone they loved can bring those in the family who don't know Christ back to Him. I do not know how her parents will find the strength to go on from day to day, or how her little siblings will fare without their big sister.
But I do know one thing. God is good and God is loving. "I can only see a part of the picture He's painting. God is God and I am man, so I'll never understand it all. For only God is God."* To His wisdom I submit. His plan I embrace. Laurel fulfilled the mission she was born to accomplish.
I may not know fully, but right now she does. Praise God, she knows.
"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
~The Apostle Paul, I Cor. 13:12~
*Lyrics from "God is God" by Steven Curtis Chapman from the album Declaration

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Written in the Sky

I love to hear engagement stories. You know, guy buys ring for girl. Guy gets nervous. Guy sets out to do something completely romantic that girl can brag about in the coming days. Magical night comes. Guy gets sick to his stomach. Girl thinks guy is about to dump her. Guy grows too nervous to talk. Girl starts getting agitated. Guy forgets his speech but somehow manages to blurt out "" Girl cries and forgets to say yes. Guy gets sick to his stomach yet again. Hours later girl randomly blurts out "yes." Couple are so in love they forget the awkwardness. Girl tells her friends how romantic the night was.

I always thought it was cool when a man's love for a woman was written in the sky--literally. Have you ever seen those airplanes that fly in a precise pattern as to write a message? Some men capitalize on those moments and write "I Love You. Will You Marry Me?" in the sky.

As I heard Louie Giglio talk about our awesome Creator God, I couldn't help but think, "Wow! God has written His love the sky!" Is that a weird thought? That God is in love with Himself? But it is true. And it's not something to feel uncomfortable with, even though it runs counter to our sin nature and at times can sound as pleasant as fingernails on a chalkboard. When we realize God loves God, we can truly begin to live. It's all about God. It's not about us. Wow, does this seem to hit me like a ton of bricks...I mean asteroids lately.

But I think it is also true that God is in love with us. I don't mean that He needs us. God needs no one. I mean that He chooses to love us because we were made in His image, and when He sees us, He sees something of Himself. God created the universe for His own glory, but perhaps He wrote the message of Himself in the sky for us to perceive His glory (see Psalm 19).

Thank you, O Creator, for letting us witness the resounding beauty of the universe. Thank you for writing Yourself into the story of life so that we might know You.

In case you missed this week, I posted pictures above from the NASA website--many of which were seen in the video we saw at Come Thirsty. All pictures are credited to, which is in no way affiliated with this website.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

God is...God

Ah, the monotony of my journey to and from Wheaton everyday. It only takes me about twenty-five minutes to get there (longer in rush hour traffic), but my impatient nature becomes quickly bored with the trip. I am so familiar with the route; sometimes I think I can drive it in my sleep.

To break the monotony of the morning trip back home today, I flipped on the radio to hear the song "God is God" by Stephen Curtis Chapman playing. After coming from my counseling class and hearing about the deep pain that so many people experience on a daily basis, the words to the first verse washed over me like a flood. And I think about my own life. There are these horribly real moments in my life when I have to look at life's circumstances and say, "I just don't know." Then I fall upon the truth that "my life has been formed from the dust." I do say "fall," because this is hard to accept. I want to be in control. Being but a speck of dust is uncomfortable as it strips me of any layer of pride I attempt to cling to.

Once more, I stand in awe of God as the curtain falls on my own self-centeredness and I am ushered back into the reality that this whole gig is about God. Wow. I might not "see the picture He's painting," but I can rest assured "God is God."

Oh Father, might I not grow so familiar with the truth of Your Sovereignty as I am with my morning journey down monotonous streets. Might the steps I take in my daily walk with you be in tune with the cadence of this life. May I feel the pulsating beat of the passion and energy of being in relationship with You. Let Your holiness bring me to my knees once more, as I recognize that I am only dust. You are God. I am not. And while "I may not understand it all," I rest in this truth.

"God is God" performed by Stephen Curtis Chapman on the CD entitled Declaration:
Verse 1:
And the pain falls like a curtain
On the things I once called certain
And I have to say the words I fear the most
I just don't know
And the questions without answers
Come and paralyze the dancer
So I stand here on the stage afraid to move
Afraid to fall, oh, but fall I must
On this truth that my life has been formed from the dust

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part of the picture He's painting
God is God and I am man
So I'll never understand it all
For only God is God

Verse 2:
And the sky begins to thunder
And I'm filled with awe and wonder
'Til the only burning question that remains
Is who am I
Can I form a single mountain
Take the stars in hand and count them
Can I even take a breath without God giving it to me
He is first and last before all that has been
Beyond all that will pass

Oh, how great are the riches of His wisdom and knowledge
How unsearchable for to Him and through Him and from Him are all things
So let us worship before the throne
Of the One who is worthy of worship alone

Chorus repeated

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Needing a Little Yada!

Ah, a new year. Welcome to 2006! Did you create any New Year's resolutions? I already thought about the New Year's resolutions I would aspire towards this year, and which ones I would inevitably break...hopefully making it through at least the first day.

But there's one I pray God will help me keep this year. I resolve, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that I will experience Christ to a greater extent this year. I'm not talking about mere feelings or emotions, but the essence of the Hebrew word yada. To review from our study in James, yada means both knowing and doing--experiential knowledge. This is a revolutionary thought. After all, our culture has ingrained in us that knowing is doing. How many times do you walk away from a sermon, feel convicted, but never really do anything about it? Is your life transformed by the Gospel, or is all that head knowledge merely accumulating like dust mites in the attic? Conviction alone is not sufficient, and knowledge without action is useless, or as James puts it, "faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26b). Don't let society fool you into thinking that knowledge alone is power. Knowledge put to use for the glory of God is power!

So get a little yada into your life this year. I know it's what I'm craving.