The Grace of All Graces

Broken is the man, stained by sin,

            likewise the woman, born of his rib.

Lost are their children, strayed since birth,

            for they don’t understand the soul or its worth.

Ravaged by envy, driven by greed,

            they’re pushed and pulled by the evil one’s seed.

He’s planted it there within their hearts,

            leading them swiftly into the dark.

But light still exists in the form of Christ!

            For love overflows from the Giver of Life!

He takes the guilt and the shame we all bear,

            He wipes the slate clean, He signs His name there.

We’ve all been offered His infinite grace,

            both deeper than oceans, more expansive than space.

There is no end to the grace He bestows,

            the depth of His love, not one can know.

For He is beyond and so high above

            that He cannot sin; He simply loves.

His love is greater than all we have known,

            much higher than the eagle has ever flown.

No comparison of love will ever be found,

            for God is unfathomable, His grace too profound.

Yet our souls have weight, we’re given a choice,

            to ignore His gift or to follow His voice.

We are to choose between life and death,

            and God will decide in whom to place breath.

Though some will fall and rise no more,

            others will marvel at His graces galore.

For He yearns to take us to heaven with Him,

            to shower us in grace and to usher us in.

There with the angels His praises we’ll sing

            to the Grace of all Graces, our King of Kings.

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The Wide Sea

Sometimes the world feels so big, and I feel quite small.
There are things to do that I haven’t yet figured out how.
There are places to go that I’m unsure where to look.
There are people to meet that I’m unfamiliar with.
There are mountains to climb, yet I am still unequipped.
There are oceans to cross, yet I haven’t the stamina to swim.
I peer out the window and see the world, tall and ominous.
The people around me move so quickly that I can’t react.
There are days that pass by and I feel all too unaccomplished.
There are nights that worry prevents me from sleeping.
It’s difficult to admit when I feel overwhelmed.
It’s often embarrassing to ask another for help.
I’m no longer a boy, but am I truly a man?
I’m no longer a student, but there’s much more to learn.
The ambient noises are sometimes overbearing.
The constant advice is sometimes taken as criticism.
In this world so large, I’m truly very small.
I am a leaf on the wind, a single drop in the wide sea.
And so I close my eyes to escape the weight.
I close my eyes to dream of a place otherworldly.
I dream of feeling wanted, needed, loved.
It’s a distant and lofty dream, dreamt with regularity.
I close my eyes tightly and I drift off to sleep.
And when I awaken, I know what awaits me in spirit.
When I arise, I know that I’ll be embraced.
For I have been created and I am dearly loved.
I am wanted for a purpose, needed for many things.
In my life I will take countless small steps.
But when added up, I will have walked a great distance.
And so, I close my eyes tonight, ready for sleep.
I will once again think these very thoughts.
Once again I will dream this very dream.
And when I stir in the morning, I will once again rise.
Though small I will stand, and I will take many small steps.
I will go a great distance, until I become weary once more.
There I will lie down to sleep, to dream, and again to rise.

Lions & Trees, You & Me

Sitting in the garden alone,

            I pray out to the Lord who sits on His throne.

I marvel at His majesty,

            and wonder why He would ever think of me.

I am just a sinful man,

            tainted by the world, with sin on my hands.

The words I pray are quiet and small;

            how could they ever matter to the Lord of All?

 

Sunday morning we all sing,

            lifting up our voices in praise to the King.

Some will raise their hands to the sky

            while others will kneel down to pray and to cry.

In unison we glorify,

            but our words are often empty and our hearts so dry.

Five hundred voices harmonize,

            and yet they do no justice to the Lord on High.

 

Angels in the heavenly clouds,

            dancing and rejoicing and shouting out loud.

It’s an overwhelming sight,

            joyful explosions of both sound and light.

Even the lions and the trees

            are leaping in worship and bowing on their knees.

But still it’s simply not enough

            to glorify a God who is so glorious.

 

Yet somehow God is more than pleased;

            He’s filled with joy at the dancing of the trees.

He’s also honored by our songs;

            even sung by sinners, He’d hear us all day long.

He is even happy with me;

            a long lost son who’s come home on his knees.

Our God is oh so glorious,

            yet He still longs to love and be loved by us.

Plenty To Be Thankful For

Psalm 30 – Thank you, O Lord, for… lifting me up when I’m down, answering my call for help, bringing me up from the grave, looking on me with favor, keeping me secure, making my mountains stand firm, turning my wailing into dancing, clothing me with joy, and allowing my heart to sing!

Psalm 136 – Thank you, O Lord, for… being good, doing great wonders, understanding and making the heavens, spreading out the waters upon the earth, making the great lights, protecting Israel your people, leading them through the desert, freeing us from our enemies, remembering us always, giving food to every creature, and loving us forever!

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Thank you, O Lord, for… supplying us with faith, hearing our prayers, giving us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, allowing us to know you, opening the eyes of our heart, revealing the hope of your glory, enlightening us, empowering us with your strength, raising Christ from the dead, granting Him rule and authority, and fulfilling us through Him!

Philippians 1:3-8 – Thank you, O Lord, for… giving us partners in the gospel, granting us the spirit of brotherhood, allowing us to pray with joy, giving us confidence, beginning a good work in us and carrying it on to completion, dwelling in our hearts, sharing with us your grace, abounding in love, and filling us with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ!

Psalm 100 – Thank you, O Lord, for… giving us a reason to shout for joy, allowing us to worship with gladness, hearing our joyful songs, being the one true God, making us and making us yours, ushering us into your gates, loving us with everlasting love, and being faithful through all generations!

Colossians 3:15-17 – Thank you, O Lord, for… sending the peace of Christ to rule our hearts, making us as one body, giving us reason to be grateful, sending the word of Christ to dwell in us, allowing us to teach with wisdom, inspiring us to sing and rejoice, being our every reason to give thanks, and accepting our thankfulness!

The Light We Bear

Family has become quite the convoluted word, in today’s vocabulary. In the past, family was both defined and united by blood. At present, however, family has grown to become something different. It doesn’t necessarily matter whom you were born to, or where you come from. What does matter is who surrounds you and who you surround yourself with. You can’t necessarily choose your family, but you can choose to love them. And love is the bond that should overcome whatever outside forces interfere with family. Be it distance or politic, circumstance or belief; one ought to love his family. Each individual that makes up your family was created, same as you, by God, with a purpose. And that purpose is to love. The world has become a dark, dark place. Light has become all too scarce. But within each one of us is the ability to shine the small light that God has breathed into us. And light, much like the darkness, is contagious. The difference, however, is that light is stronger than darkness. One lone light can shine and a million particles of darkness will not be able to overcome it. One lone light can shine and it can spread to spark other small lights, and when many small lights are lit together, they create a wild, overwhelming glow that cannot be snuffed. In this world we have a purpose, and that purpose is to shine light into the darkness. As an individual you can only shine so far, but as a family, our light becomes much stronger and much more contagious. So let us be people who choose light over darkness, and let us be a family whose lights shine together and not apart. For life is not meant to be lived in the darkness, and one cannot love on his own. So let our family be a source of light, and together we’ll be a force of love.

Stepping Back

The past few years of my life have been a whirlwind of craziness, adventure, challenge, and growth. I’ve done so many things in such a small window of time it’s hard to keep it all straight. Just two years ago I was finishing up school and looking forward to finding a teaching gig. I landed a few interviews but with the economy struggling there weren’t many teaching jobs to go around. That led me to consider other options, one of which was teaching abroad. Looking back it’s quite obvious to me that God put this all in motion a long time ago. And here we are, nearing the end of 2014, and I’ve since spent almost two full years in Chile. Like I said, those years have provided me with a smattering of life experiences and moments that have been both challenging and unforgettable. Without a doubt these years have left their mark on me, in the best way possible, and I’m coming out a better man for it. This year God has taught me so many things, and most of them fall into these four categories: perseverance, prayer, humility, and trust.

Most of my time here in Chile has flown by. And I’m not exaggerating. It feels like I’ve blinked maybe three times since February and it’s almost October. Both this year and last have been filled with amazing experiences, but they’ve had their share of struggles as well. There were days I didn’t feel like getting out of bed, days I didn’t want to go to work, days I felt overwhelmed, and days I felt misunderstood or alone. But boy was I wrong. God has been with me the entire time. Those moments where I felt a certain weight on my shoulders were due to any number of factors. Homesickness, eternal winter, isolation, exhaustion, and even illness at one point. In each of these situations, among others, there were instances where I took my eyes off the Lord, the result of which left me feeling alone in whatever I was facing. The weight grew infinitely heavier when I tried to go it alone. But when I focused myself on the help and the hope that were always within reach, the problems I was facing slowly grew smaller and I gradually gained more faith that I would overcome them. Moments like these are bound to come, regardless of whether or not we lose sight of the Lord. Frustration, loneliness, and exhaustion are things that happen in life. What matters is how we react under such circumstances. God has taught me again and again the value of persevering. This was the first year in my life that I worked full time and lived on my own. Complicating things even more were visa issues, language barriers, and the fact that I worked independently the whole year. For the first time I had to pay all the bills on my own: rent, food, internet, cell phone, transportation, and the like. There were numerous moments where I barely managed to scrape enough together to pay all the bills. Private English classes were my main source of income but they were hardly reliable as my students could cancel at their own will. It was no loss to them, yet to me it made all the difference. Moments like these were tough for me. But pressing on in these moments develops character, and it prepares us for future challenges. It also helps us to get through the hard times quicker. I now know never to give up because I have it within me to press on. I have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me and I have God on my side. In no moment was I going it alone, and never will I have to. With the Lord’s help I know I will overcome.

I’ve also been taught a lesson or two about prayer. And let me be up front here; I’m not simply talking about asking God to do things in your life. That’s a vital piece of prayer, but a piece nonetheless. God genuinely cares about what’s going on in our lives. He wants us to succeed and he wants to help us. He also wants us to come running to him, whatever the situation calls for. Be it for help, a shoulder to cry on, to celebrate, or to ask for forgiveness. God is our Heavenly Father and he wants us to seek him out. I admit that there were stretches during these past two years where I fell away from devoting time to prayer. And those stretches were most likely when the lowest moments occurred. It wasn’t that God had stopped being faithful, or that I had hit a stroke of bad luck. It was my own lack of faithfulness to God. My own laziness, or whatever excuse you’d like to plug, prevented me from feeling close to God when I needed him. And that’s on me. Prayer is sometimes made out to be a chore. It’s like a checklist item that we feel obligated to complete at some point during the day. And while it should be done daily, it shouldn’t be a burden. From all of the examples of prayer in my life, too many of them have been in moments of hurt or need or desperation. It’s like we only resort to prayer if nothing else is working out. I am really bothered by this. God has been helping me and showing me how to restore joy to my prayer life. I look forward to speaking to him. Even if it’s at night before I fall asleep, I love telling him about my day. I love praising him and telling him how much I appreciate him. Sure, I ask him for help as well. I’m always going to need it and frankly he’s the one I most want to receive it from. But God is so gracious, and so good, that prayer should be joyous. It’s a privilege that we can speak to him freely and a massive blessing that he listens. And he truly cares! So pray faithfully and do so joyfully. You won’t regret it.

Humility. Man, are these fun lessons to learn. I’ll be flat out honest and say that I’ve always thought myself a pretty humble guy. I can’t stand showing off or bragging. I don’t revel in the spotlight. I try to never come across as arrogant or ungrateful. But sometimes I am way off base, and I know it. These lessons are the kind that sting at first, but for me it feels so good afterward. I’m thankful for the episodes over these past few years where I’ve been put in my place, so to speak. There were various moments in which I was shown what true humility looks like. I’m talking about the kind of humility where you submit yourself before others, even when they don’t deserve your time or respect or help. It reminds me of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. He’s the King of Kings and he had no reason to be washing the dirty feet of men that would later betray him. But he did wash their feet. This is the kind of humility that very few people are good at. I am trying to get better at it. I think our modern-day society possesses a very subconscious but firmly set idea of elitism. We are always comparing ourselves to the rest, aiming to stay above some meaningless standard we set for ourselves and others. As long as we stay above that line, we’re better than the rest. I have very gratefully come to realize that I am only the best at one thing, and there is no reason to compare myself with anyone else. Care to guess what it is? I’m not the best at soccer or hockey. I’m not the best at Spanish. I’m not the best writer. I’m not the best teacher. But I am the best at being me, and that’s precisely what God created me for. He didn’t make me to be any other way but the way I am, and that is perfectly good with me. I am made in God’s perfect image. I am made to glorify the Lord, to serve men, and to love them both with a humble heart. So in humility, I will ever attempt to do these things to the best of my humble ability.

Lastly comes trust. In today’s world trust is quite a rare commodity. There are very few people that we entirely trust. Be it with our belongings, our secrets, our past, or our lives. In order to give out trust we require others to earn it. Sadly, we hold God to this same standard. We don’t fully trust in him until he proves himself. We’re all about the proof. And even when he does, we sometimes rescind that trust because he didn’t come through in the way we wanted him to. Well, shame on us. God doesn’t need to earn our trust. He should always have it. God has provided for us in so many ways it’s absurd. He put us on this earth. He put breath in our lungs. He gives us free will. And he gave up his one and only Son to save us because we screw up all the time. So yeah, God deserves our trust. But what God has done this year is show me again and again, time after time, that he wants me to trust in him one hundred percent, all of the time. God has opened so many doors, just at the right time, that I can’t even count. He has also closed doors that needed to be closed, exactly at the right moment. And even when there were no doors to be opened, but he wanted me to get somewhere, he opened a timely window. I can’t even fathom or come close to explaining how incredible everything has been. God has guided me right to this very moment. What I’ve learned is to lean on God through everything, and to never doubt. If he wants something to happen, it’s going to happen. He always finds a way. And if not, no worries. It wasn’t meant to be and he’s got something even better in store. And that’s the fun part. If we trust in him, let him take charge, and team up with him, we’re in for one wild and fun ride. It may bring tough times and obstacles. In fact, it most certainly will. But when we trust in him there’s nothing to worry about. Trust in him, even when you have no idea what’s going on. Because he does.

As you can see, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on all the growing I’ve been doing. Maybe you got bored and skipped ahead or maybe you spent the whole time nodding in agreement. Maybe you’ve already learned all these lessons or maybe they’re on their way to you right now. Whatever boat you’re in, I challenge you to take a step back from life for a moment. Life is so crazy and we get so busy that we forget to consider this stuff. Hopefully you haven’t forgotten to consider God. But even if you have, it’s okay. He’s right there, waiting for you with open arms. And if you have been relying on him, take a moment to think about all he’s done for you lately. Reflect upon what you’ve learned. Sometimes we forget that the lessons that God sends our way are meant to help us grow into better people. And if we forget to work on these things, his lessons just go to waste. So again, I challenge you! What has God done for you lately? What have you learned from him, or from others? And finally, I encourage you, to never stop trusting in him. Never stop asking him for help or celebrating with him. And never ever stop learning from him. He’s a pretty awesome teacher to have.

The World and I

The world and I are not alike.

The world spins at the same pace, day after day after day. It never speeds up. It neither slows down. It remains constant, ever steady. I, on the other hand, am not constant. I can sit still no longer than a moment. I may run quickly but surely I will tire. I am fast and I am slow, but I am not steady.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is neatly divided. It has its Northern and Southern Hemispheres. It has its North and South Poles. It has an equator and lines of latitude and longitude that clearly separate and define. I, on the other hand, am not neatly divided. I am part boy and part man. I am one part strong and the other part weak. I am both proud and humble. I am one moment serious and the other giddy. But while the world is black and white, I am grey.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is dominated by the fittest. The weak are brushed aside to the fringes and stepped on while the strong succeed and survive. The world has no mercy on the lesser man. The world is unrelenting. I, on the other hand, am unfit. I would prefer not to step on the weak but rather to give them a hand. I would rather not be first, but actually last. Greed is something I try to avoid, and not collect. I am in favor of mercy, of forgiveness.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is a created place, a landscape. It is also a canvas, so to speak. The world is lived on by many people, and those creatures paint the earth, sometimes beautifully and sometimes with ugliness. I, on the other hand, am a created being, a person. I am also an artist, so to speak. Both the world and I are creations, but I am made in the image of the Creator. Therefore, I can also create. I am not painted on but I do the painting. I leave my mark on this world, in whichever way I choose to do so. It may be beautiful, and uplifting, and meaningful. Or it may not be. That is up to me.

The world and I are not alike.

The world is a temporary residence. It is finite. It will have an end. I, on the other hand, am not temporary. I have a soul, and that soul does not have an end. It is everlasting in its being. When the earth has long been dissolved, I will still be, in some other place. I will be alive and well, not because I deserve to be, but because it has been offered to me and I´ve accepted. The world ultimately ends in destruction, as will all who choose the world over their souls. The world, at its core, is wicked. But in my core, should you pry open my soul, dwells one we call the Holy Spirit. And he is the stamp of everlasting life, the seal of the Almighty God, and by his word I will not perish but have eternal life.

The world and I are not alike.

Are you?