cheerful courage

I’m slowly realizing how much courage it takes to follow Jesus for myself.

I’ve read a lot about the courage and boldness of others, about the Apostles driving out demons and giving strength to the lame and proclaiming the gospel under threat of death and torture. I’ve often wondered what that’s supposed to look like for me, here and now. I suppose it’s not all that different.

Peter and John answered them, “We cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20)

The Greek word used for boldness is perresia (Παρρησία). It means free & fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance.

Boldness is seeing and sensing the fear and trudging forward nonetheless.

Boldness is embracing the freedom that we have in Jesus.

Boldness is being sure of His good intentions for us.

Boldness is finding joy in the assurance of the good that lies ahead.

Boldness is speaking freely, living freely, that which we’ve seen and heard.

Living boldly can be devastating. It can be community-shaking and other-people-disappointing. Living boldly can be lonely and isolating.

I firmly believe that God calls and speaks to each of us uniquely. His voice often comes as a whisper, as a slow stirring of a single heart. This inner work goes unseen by others and felt by only a few.

Each of us are asked to leave our fathers and our mothers and our homes and our comforts. Each of us are told to pick up our crosses and carry them daily. And, as each of us are made and woven entirely differently, those things will look, feel differently for each of us. I’m learning that this means that other people won’t, don’t, can’t understand what our journey really looks like. We can’t ask other people to discern our next right step because they are not walking our journey; they must walk their own.

Others may not understand; other will not understand. This journey is our own. We must walk it with boldness, with wisdom, with hearts tuned to His voice. We must take up our cheerful courage and walk in fearless confidence into that which Jesus calls us into.

lighten my darkness

For it is You who lights my lamp; the Lord my God lights my darkness. // Psalm 18:28

When I feel like I am drowning in blackness, gasping for hope but gulping down sorrow, lighten my darkness, Lord.

When my desire for wholeness digs me deeper into brokenness, lighten my darkness, Lord.

When my self-reflection leads not to self-correction but to self-loathing, lighten my darkness, Lord.

When my longing to be known drags me further from Your knowing, lighten my darkness, Lord.

Lord, lighten my darkness.

Lighten my darkness, Lord.

hidden work

“The people [outside in the court] were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering about his long delay in the temple. But when he did come out, he was unable to speak to them. They realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute.” - Luke 1:21-22


I try my best to share; I desperately try to explain, my hands waving in the air. No words will come to do this justice. After hearing from the Lord, after discerning His will, left unable to speak.

I feel like Zacharias.

I try wildly to explain these things growing, living, changing inside of me. Words cannot wrap around them, give them shape. They seem like unknowable things. I feel like an unknowable thing.

The work of God is not for all eyes to watch. For a season, it sleeps, unknown to everyone outside of the soul that sees and feels the pulling, stitching, shifting inside itself.

The work of God lays hidden inside of me. I have scratched at my throat, searching for the syllables to make others understand. The words that have bled out never feel like the right ones, stained by tears and sobs and a heavy heart.

But hidden work is not un-miraculous work. Hidden work is intimate and raw and excruciating. It brings tears and sleepless nights and yet, somehow, closeness.

It is not for all eyes to watch.

My soul knows this well. I feel the hum of the hidden work. It makes me want to sing and scream and tear it open for others to see, though they won’t understand--not yet.

Someday, these words will come easily, to tell the tale of the hidden work. And when they do, I will scribble out the words: I AM is gracious.

openness

A few months ago, I bought The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions. I can't stop talking about how beautiful it is to read and pray the prayers of others who lived so long ago and yet served the same God that I serve. God's character is steady and steadfast; He does not change with the ages.

I read this prayer yesterday, on the edge of a few hours wrestling with some high level (for me) anxiety and it gave me such peace.

Banner of Truth Ministries publishes these prayers as part of a devotional series, which you can read here.

LORD OF IMMORTALITY,

Before whom angels bow and archangels veil
      their faces,
  enable me to serve thee with reverence
    and godly fear.
Thou who art Spirit and requirest truth
    in the inward parts,
  help me to worship thee in spirit and in truth.
Thou who art righteous,
  let me not harbour sin in my heart,
  or indulge a worldly temper,
  or seek satisfaction in things that perish.
I hasten towards an hour
  when earthly pursuits and possessions
    will appear vain,
  when it will be indifferent whether I have been
    rich or poor,
    successful or disappointed,
    admired or despised.
But it will be of eternal moment that I have
  mourned for sin,
  hungered and thirsted after righteousness,
  loved the Lord Jesus in sincerity,
  gloried in his cross.
May these objects engross my chief solicitude!
Produce in me those principles and dispositions
  that make thy service perfect freedom.
Expel from my mind all sinful fear and shame,
  so that with firmness and courage I may
    confess the Redeemer before men,
    go forth with him bearing his reproach,
    be zealous with his knowledge,
    be filled with his wisdom,
    walk with his circumspection,
    ask counsel of him in all things,
    repair to the Scriptures for his orders,
    stay my mind on his peace,
  knowing that nothing can befall me
  without his permission, appointment
    and administration.

a plagued journey

I am trying to read more poetry, to make it more of a spiritual discipline.

I read this one today, "A Plagued Journey" by Maya Angelou, and the last stanza found me.

 

Through all the bright hours   

I cling to expectation, until   

darkness comes to reclaim me

as its own. Hope fades, day is gone   

into its irredeemable place

and I am thrown back into the familiar   

bonds of disconsolation.

Gloom crawls around

lapping lasciviously

between my toes, at my ankles,   

and it sucks the strands of my   

hair. It forgives my heady   

fling with Hope. I am

joined again into its

greedy arms.

wild strawberries

Opening eyes early, unfolding leaves

Heart already aching:

How did I get here?

Where did these roots come from?

 

Wild things are beautiful things

Growing where they were not

Planted

Planned

Pruned

 

Wild things are lonely things

Growing

Alone

Away

Apart

 

Blossoming fruit that is

Unseen

Unpicked

Unenjoyed

 

What would life be like in a field,

With fertile soil for my roots,

Towering trees for my shade,

Fresh water for my flowers?

 

Wild things.

Beautiful things.

Lonely things.

All are growing things.

a thought

I had a thought the other day that felt so novel, so entirely foreign to me in its simplicity:

What if it isn’t about what God is doing through me as much as it is about what God is doing in me?

Why does that feel so strange and new?

Why does it feel so liberating and terrifying and like ground giving way under my feet?

Why does it feel like this could change everything?

drifting, anchored

I started to scribble out these thoughts while sitting on the porch of a cabin in Perkins Cove, Maine. Some friends connected me with a family there who offers up their “studio”, right on the water, to people serving in ministry to use for a few days of retreat.

Olive and I spent three nights there in May--a sort of post-spring, pre-summer retreat.

On my second day there, I woke up too early...but I did manage to catch this.

IMG_1477.jpeg

As I sat on that porch later in the day, the sweet springtime sun on my skin, I listened to the sailors, busy at work on their ships; I watched the unmanned boats drift ever so slightly in the cove. It brought me to a familiar passage in Hebrews which describes our faith as an anchor.

“And now we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness. This is where we find his strength and comfort, for he empowers us to seize what has already been established ahead of time—an unshakeable hope! We have this certain hope like a strong, unbreakable anchor holding our souls to God himself. Our anchor of hope is fastened to the mercy seat which sits in the heavenly realm beyond the sacred threshold, and where Jesus, our forerunner, has gone in before us. He is now and forever our royal Priest like Melchizedek.” - Hebrews 6:19-20, The Passion Translation

I guess that I’ve never really thought much about how an anchor works. I mean, it isn’t that complicated but I’ve never really used one. The anchor is fixed to a static point yet doesn’t keep the thing it is anchoring completely static. The anchor cable, the line tying the boat to the anchor, allows for changes in the tide, for water rising and falling.

I think that as the water has risen and fallen, as I’ve felt myself drift along life, as the waves have pulled me to the furthest reaches of my anchor’s cable, I’ve been paralyzed with the fear that it won’t hold, that my faith isn’t true or pure.

Lately, I’ve been confused because I’ve felt disappointed. Disappointment is a feeling which which I am well acquainted. I feel it towards myself often; I can never do enough or be enough.

But this disappointment has been different, this feeling foreign. It’s been not directed towards myself, but towards my life and I suppose towards my God. And I know what they will say, what you will say: Jesus never promised easy. I just don’t understand so much of what is or isn’t happening in my life.

It’s brought fear because I don’t understand the things that I’m thinking or feeling, the impulses and fears that I am experiencing. It’s brought shame because I don’t know what to do with them.

And I haven’t doubted, and yet I have asked

Is He really good?

Is He really working all things together?

My life often feels composed entirely of frayed threads. The weaving together feels impossible.

But here I am, looking over water, feeling like I’ve been pulled to my very limit, and yet the anchor holds. A boat never strays too far, never wanders for too long. And as it reaches its end, it is already pulling back towards the anchor.

I love the way that The Passion Translation frames this: “we have run into his heart to hide ourselves in his faithfulness.”

Even when it feels like we’re drifting, we’re still tightly secured.

Drifting, gusting winds, shifting sands--they are the reasons that trees have roots, that houses are built on foundations, that boats have anchors. It’s the reason that God grants us and grows in us faith. It is holding, He is holding.