And the Wind Died Down

Only when we come to recognize and embrace the sweetness of Christ’s grace in the hard times are we able to rejoice in the richness and depth of His grace in the good times.

As the title of my website might suggest, the story of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14 is my favorite story in the Bible. I have realized over the last couple of years how rich this story is with meaning; with truths of grace and mercy and hope in every word.

We can read a story such as this so many times, year after year, and yet, in a single moment, we can read it again and find new meaning and new significance.

When I first started writing, it was like my ‘walking on water’ moment; the moment I knew God was telling me to step out of my comfort zone and walk in faith; to trust Him with the story that He had given me and surrender all that I had gone through and was learning to the purposes of His good and perfect will.

For it is in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).

Unfortunately, as we human beings often do, I got distracted. I started writing for my own purposes; desiring the approval of those around me more than God’s approval, seeking to write and encourage in ways that I saw best, and following the advice of others rather than trusting in God’s perfect wisdom.

This wandering was not just in my writing though, but in my relationships with others, my walk with the Lord, and in my pursuit of joy and peace.

The words of Robert Robinson’s hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing rang so true in my life at that time – prone to wander, Lord I feel it // prone to leave the God I love.

So with eyes averted and devotion divided, when the wind and waves came, I became afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30)

grace upon grace

In perfect wisdom and love, God used Peter’s failure and mine alike to loudly proclaim His infinite grace. As author C.S. Lewis puts it –

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

And so it was in those moments when I felt way in over my head; drowning in a storm of my own making filled with lies of disappointment, fear, and failure that God spoke the loudest; where grace became the only solid ground on which I could stand.

I cherish those seasons of pain and uncertainty in my life the most though because it is in those moments that leave us stunned and without words that the Lord speaks the loudest.

It is in the moments when we have no where left to turn that His open arms become a sweet refuge.

It is when we are broken that He mends us and makes us whole.

It is when we are empty that He fills us.

And it is only after we have been through a storm that we are able to look back and recognize His saving grace.

and the wind died down

As I look back on 2018, I see beautiful moments of friendship, growth, joy, and hope, as well as tough seasons of anxiety, fear, and doubt. However, more than all of these, I see the unparalleled grace, mercy, and patience of the Lord.

I see my Savior; my Redeemer; the Rescuer of my soul, who despite my moments of resentment and unfaithfulness, never left my side.

When I was broken, He made me whole again.

When I was empty, He fulfilled my every need.

When I felt alone, He comforted me.

When the silence seemed overwhelming, His voice rang loud and clear.

And now, as I look back on the good and bad of 2018 and embrace the Lord’s goodness in the toil and joys alike, I feel the wind dying down around me and grace and peace in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus my Lord (2 Peter 1:2).

It is important though to remember that these seasons of turmoil and rest; of raging storms and quiet waters, all point to a greater reality.

In the storms of life, God loudly proclaims to our bruised and broken spirits that this is not all that there is; that though these sorrows may be painful, they are light and momentary nonetheless.

Storms remind us that we have the hope of eternal and perfect peace in Christ Jesus still waiting for us.

And in the same way, when we are granted seasons of rest and the storms of life die down around us, we are reminded that the good things in this world are but murmurs of the greater weight of glory that is yet to come.

And it is when we recognize this and embrace it in every season of life that we are truly able to rejoice in Christ Jesus; thanking Him with joy and thanksgiving for His good and perfect gifts and sitting back, beaten and bruised by the storms of life to worship Him still.

One of my favorite quotes by John Owen says that ‘beholding the glory of Christ in this life is preparation—small “dawnings of eternal glory”—for the joys of heaven, where we will see Christ in His glory fully.’

This life will be filled with good and bad; with joys and toil, happiness and sorrow. This is simply the reality of our human condition. However, as we learn to recognize and embrace the sweetness of God’s grace in our joys and sorrows on earth, we are preparing our hearts for the day of rejoicing when we will fully behold His glory; when the dawning turns to day, the storm [sin] is silenced forever, and we enter into ‘the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We will come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. We will come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel’ (Hebrews 12:22-24).

We will be Home, where joys abound and the wind is no more.

Set That Woman Free

The Sinful Woman

Coming Undone at the Feet of Jesus

Read Luke 7:36-50.

As I think back to this time about a year ago, I see a lot of heartache, a lot of pain, and a lot of confusion.

I see darkness.

I see hopelessness.

Like the woman in Luke 7:36-50, I found myself in a place of solitude and isolation; seemingly having no way of escape.

Granted, my entrapment was not due to the same sin as this nameless woman, but it was caused by sin nonetheless.

It was caused by worry, self-fulfillment, vain striving, and a forgetfulness of who God was in my life.

I sat sulking instead of still.

I worried rather than worshiped.

I strove for satisfaction rather than sanctification.

I was, and most certainly still am, a sinful woman.

However, when I think back on that time, another memory stands out in my mind as well; one filled with hopeful tears and joyful anticipation.

It was a Sunday afternoon and God suddenly became real to me.

The vitality of His presence shook me to my core.

I fell at His feet, completely undone by the love and goodness He so readily demonstrated to me that Sunday afternoon.

This passage – often read, considered, maybe studied from time to time, but in the end always skimmed over, is one that I believe offers a lot of insight for the lives of women.

The example set by this woman trapped in a sinful lifestyle but undone by the love of her Father is one that should not be quickly overlooked.

Consider a sin that you have been stuck in for a long time.

Think about the times that you’ve tried to step away, successful for a period of time but never failing to fall back into its defeating rhythm.

It’s hard.

Now consider this sinful woman.

She was trapped in the sin of prostitution. That is all we know. We don’t know how or why she found her way into this lifestyle.

Perhaps she was forced.

Perhaps it was out of fear that she’d be left alone.

Perhaps this was her livelihood; her only means of survival.

We simply do not know.

All we know is that she was a sinful woman who was not welcome.

Do you feel unwelcomed because of your sin?

Do you feel as if your sin is painted on your forehead for everyone to see?

Perhaps this is a sin that you can’t even pinpoint the beginning of – it’s just always been a part of your life.

Perhaps there are emotional motivators behind this sin; motivators like fear, anxiety, or depression.

Perhaps this sin is your way of survival; the only way to protect yourself.

I don’t know, but believe me when I say – God knows.

He knows the depths of your sin just like He knew the depths of the sin this woman had committed.

Yet He loved her all the same.

In fact, He, being the only one who truly knew what she had done, loved her deeperharder, and longer than anyone ever had.

And that was enough!

That was enough to completely undo this woman, and it is enough to completely undo you as well.

That same God who loved this sinful woman loves you in all of your sin.

Let that settle for a moment.

It wasn’t until this woman realized the magnitude of God’s love for her that she fell – broken, emptied, defeated, and undone at the feet of Jesus.

Those exact qualities; those qualities of being poor in spirit are beautiful examples of a woman desperate for her King.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  – Matthew 5:3

To be completely undone by the greatness of Jesus Christ is a quality that escapes most of us. We are constantly striving to have it all together; to play it cool and be steady under pressure.

This woman was experiencing tremendous pressure under the weight of her sin, yet day in and day out she maintained.

Are you maintaining right now?

Are you fighting with every ounce of your being to play it cool under the weight of your sin?

Take this sinful woman’s example – fall at the feet of Jesus, undone by the love and acceptance He longs to give you.

When you find yourself face down at the feet of Jesus – broken, emptied, defeated, and completely undone by all that He is, the very essence of God will rush in like a crashing wave and fill every void space with a sweet sense of abandon; a vivacity that can cause a prostitute to fall before a man and wash his feet with her tears, hair, and expensive oils.

I experienced this kind of undoing that Sunday afternoon a year ago.

I had been striving so hard to be everything I could; to adjust to my new life out of college with grace and independence and work hard while remaining humble.

But the loneliness and depression hindered my ability to experience the overwhelming peace and assurance of Jesus Christ, so I maintained.

I woke up every morning under the weight of my worry, anxiety, and self-sufficiency with little to no change that very same night as I crawled back into bed.

The moment I realized it though; the moment that the goodness of God Almighty became real to me was the moment I was completely undone by His love and acceptance.

It was a moment of absolute abandon; of worshiping God through tears of surrender.

Sister – come undone.

It’s okay!

It’s okay to not be okay.

Cry, take a load off, and fall at His feet.

Your tears are prayer too – Romans 8:26 – so go ahead and cry.

Sometimes it’s our tears that bless and glorify Christ the most.

There is no power, no height, nor depth, nor anything in all of creation that can separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39) so you have nothing to fear; nothing to lose.

You are held secure in His loving and gentle hands.

He already knows, so empty yourself and allow Jesus to gently take your face in His hands and say – “Your faith my daughter, has saved you. Now go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

Come undone today and watch as Jesus takes your brokenness and builds from those pieces a woman who has been set free!

The Eye of the Storm

One of my passions is natural disasters.

While my studies mostly focused on the humanitarian efforts of post-disaster response, I always found the natural disasters themselves to be very fascinating.

I love learning about the awe-inspiring power that they display; how regardless of our innovations and technology, wind and water will forever have the upper hand.

Because of this passion, I would jump at the chance to ride in one of those airplanes that fly straight into the eye of a hurricane.

Call me crazy, but I think that would be awesome!

The eye of a hurricane is at the very center of the storm and believe it or not, is the calmest part of the storm. “Skies are often clear above the eye and winds are relatively light. The eye is calm because the now strong surface winds that converge towards the center never actually reach it” (Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Illinois).

That’s where I want to be!

In the eye of the storm.

We go through a lot of storms in our lives though, don’t we?

Sometimes we find ourselves fighting through the fiercest winds and waves, unsure of how we’ll ever find our way out when our present circumstances restrict our ability to see or feel.

One storm in particular that always stands out in my mind was in between my sophomore and junior year of college.

I had survived freshman and sophomore year…barely, and was now anticipating the approaching fall semester of my junior year and was absolutely dreading it.

I couldn’t even tell you why, but all I knew was that I just couldn’t go back there.

There was so much to do; the pressures of performance, acceptance, and achievement weighed heavily on my mind and then of course the looming terrors of failure and loneliness nipped at my heels.

Sophomore year had started me off in the nurse’s office only weeks into the school year. I had managed to make myself physically sick due to stress, anxiety, and depression.

It was then that I knew something was wrong, but through the remainder of that school year I couldn’t manage to find my way out of this particular storm.

I tried to hold onto things of the past; staying huddled in the memories of better times.

When that didn’t work, I tried to hurry things along and force life stages to happen sooner than they should in hopes of changing my presently painful circumstances.

Let me just tell you now, this does not work.

In fact, it only made matters worse.

When we are in the storms of life, we often try to do one of two things. We either try to move backwards and relive happier times or we hurry forwards, attempting to outrun the storm.

Yet, just like a hurricane, behind us and in front of us the torrents rage and the winds howl, but stillness can also be found.

When we move with the storm and position ourselves in the very center of God’s love and grace, we find blue skies and calmed winds.

We find ourselves in the eye of the storm.

Even though all around us the storm still rages; trees snap, houses tumble, relationships are broken, and opportunities are lost; even with all the destruction and heartache rushing around us, if we remain firmly planted in the center of God’s love and grace, we will experience internal respite and peace.

Many of the fears we experience in the stormy seasons of life boil down to one thing:

Proving our worth.

I overwhelmed myself with activities my freshman and sophomore year because I wanted to prove that I was capable.

I sought relationships because I wanted to prove that I was desirable.

I pursued God because I wanted to prove that I was a good Christian.

I feared failure because that proved that I wasn’t enough.

I feared loneliness because that proved I was lacking.

We are constantly trying to prove ourselves.

However, when we strategically place ourselves in the center of God’s will; in the very eye of the storm, we don’t have to prove ourselves, for it is in Him that we live and move and have our being.  – Acts 17:28

If this is true and if we full-heartedly believe this, we will begin to realize that we have nothing to prove because it is not for ourselves that we live, but rather for Christ (Philippians 1:21).

If our lives are for Christ, then we are not tasked with the responsibility of proving ourselves but rather  with proving Christ and His worth, which He has already done.

He proved Himself. He proved to the world His power, sovereignty, and authority over all things while on that cross.

When we position ourselves in the center of the storm, acknowledging that God and His purpose are in all things; when we stay in step with Him and remember that it is by Him, through Him, and for Him that we press forward, we will soon understand that we have nothing to prove because the One we live for has already done just that.

He proved Himself on that cross so that we wouldn’t have to prove our worth, for our worth lies at the very foot of that cross.

We have nothing to prove, therefore we have nothing to fear while in the eye of the storm.

 

The Road to Emmaus

Sometimes I really miss the old flip phones.

They were so much simpler than the iPhone; offering a lot less distraction and time wasted sifting through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

My favorite part about the flip phone though is that whenever I was frustrated at the end of a call, I could dramatically slam my phone shut.

Seriously, I know I’m not the only one who found that incredibly satisfying.

Furiously pushing a button on a touchscreen just isn’t the same.

This is how I felt that day after getting her voicemail for the third time in a row. I had a few spare moments in my day and desperately needed to talk to my friend and get her advice on something that had be plaguing my thoughts all day long.

I just needed to talk.

I needed to vent.

I needed wise counsel, guidance, and a listening ear.

Yet all I got was her voicemail…over and over again.

I wonder if this is how the two disciples in Luke 24:13-35 felt.

The events of recent days past must have been plaguing their thoughts, dreams, and memories. They had just seen their Teacher, their Master, their Lord, and their friend murdered.

Beaten before their very eyes.

Hung from the cross like a criminal they knew he wasn’t.

Helplessly standing by.

Afraid.

Unsure of what the next couple of days, weeks, months, or years held for them in this disrupted, corrupt, and divided land.

Can you imagine the amount of grief, confusion, questioning, and venting they needed to get off of their chests?

Thus we find them; these two disciples of Jesus walking down the road to Emmaus.

Verse 14 describes them as being deep in conversation with each other; discussing all that had happened.

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him (Luke 24:15-16).

I think it’s easy for us to read this passage and think to ourselves, “well gosh, how did they not even recognize Jesus? How, if they had spent so much time with him, did they not know his face?”

How, if we have Jesus living and breathing in and through us, do we not recognize His voice?

Consider that.

Consider how many times we, with all good intentions, seek the godly wisdom of others before Wisdom itself?

I will be the first to admit that I do this all the time.

In fact, I did this just the other day.

With confusion and uncertainty looming in front of me, rather than going straight to the only One who could offer any kind of consultation or understanding, I desperately grasped for the advice of others.

Now don’t get me wrong – God puts amazing, wonderful, and very wise people in our lives for this very purpose – to receive wise counsel.

He even instructs us on the importance of seeking this wise counsel on many different occasions (Proverbs 12:15, 11:14, 19:20-21, 15:22) (2 Timothy 3:16).

So I am not saying that seeking the advice, guidance, and wisdom of others is not important.

It is very important, but even the most important things can be misprioritized.

We live in a day and age where constant input is the norm. We are persistently feeding our minds with discussion, news feeds, music, podcasts, information, and the opinions of others that we are often kept from recognizing the voice of Jesus.

Like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, even though the input they sought from each other as trusted friends was good, it was noise nonetheless.

It’s not just that the disciples didn’t recognize Jesus, they were actually kept from recognizing him; meaning there was something actually hindering their ability to hear the voice of their Teacher.

We often get so distracted and so hung up on getting the advice of others; on hearing their opinion and what they would do in our certain set of circumstances that we end up preventing ourselves from hearing the still, small voice of Jesus.

We end up filling our hearts and minds with others’ interpretation of who God is rather than seeking to know God for ourselves.

When we constantly subject ourselves to these outside sources, two things happen:

  1. Our minds become numb; and
  2. We override our ability to be still.

We lose the ability to really listen to what we are taking in and truly digest it and understand it. The voice of God can so easily slip into the background; into the mix of input that we are constantly feeding our minds that we either mistake other voices for that of God’s or miss God’s voice altogether.

We become numb to the awesome and very distinguishable power of His voice while we quickly lose our ability to quiet our thoughts long enough to hear Him.

It wasn’t until these disciples were in communion with Christ; until the bread was broken and the wine passed around, that their eyes were opened (Luke 24:30-31).

This isn’t to say that we necessarily need to partake in eating the bread and drinking the wine to hear God’s voice – though that is a sure way to cleanse the heart and soul.

This is more to say that we need to seek communion with Christ; intimacy, relationship, and time of one-on-one union with Him to train our thoughts to dwell on His still, small voice.

Daily intimacy with Jesus Christ, seeking His guidance and His direction above and before all else, is the first and only true way to cultivate a spirit after God’s own heart.